Time For Change

In late 2020, in between lockdowns, we were legally, logistically, and safely able to bring together eleven leading travel managers and industry experts to discuss the future of business travel in a 1.5 day event and process we called MACROSCOPE “Live”. The theme of the event, ‘Big Thinking to Create Next Generation Business Travel’, provided an opportunity for the first face-to-face meeting that many of us had had in many months, and ultimately acted as a foundation for the development of our Purposeful Travel Model, due for release shortly.

In order to prepare the attendees to think big, and to take them through the MACROSCOPE process, FESTIVE ROAD canvassed the views of several experts, most of whom sit outside of our business travel world, in a series of thought-provoking interviews, to build a set of external stimuli provided to attendees in advance. It would ultimately help us to think bigger and ensure everyone arrived with the same mind-set: curious, ambitious, and ready to challenge the status quo.

As a pre-read for industry stakeholders, in advance of the forthcoming release of the Purposeful Travel Model, we felt it was important to summarise the external stimuli which resulted in the big thinking by our event attendees.

Macroscope

[ mak-roh-skope ] – Noun

An imaginary instrument, antithetic to the microscope, which should bring vast regions of the universe within the range of vision.

A methodology created by FESTIVE ROAD to understand and apply the bigger picture to the travel and meetings sector.

In part one of this series of three blogs, we focus on the organisational and people drivers, which made the recent transformation in work practices possible.

We believe that the output of the MACROSCOPE “Live”, this ‘big-thinking for big-thinkers’ exercise, provides a broader view into the future of the workplace and therefore business travel. From the feedback of the delegates at MACROSCOPE “Live” the stimulus really got them thinking – but what do you think?  We look forward to hearing your reactions.

Organisational and People Drivers – The Context

In an interview with Eric Bailey, Head of Travel for Microsoft, regarding the return to travel, he shared that, ‘the COVID-19 pandemic advanced several years of progress in just a short 6 months.’ Indeed, according to a speech by the Bank of England[1] in October 2020, ‘this year may well have seen the largest shift in working practices ever seen, certainly the largest in modern times.’ However, the years leading up to 2020 were certainly preparing us for a revolution in the digitalisation of working. In the same speech the early part of 2020 was described as, ‘an overnight transformation and acceleration of existing trends.’ To understand where we landed, it makes sense to look back to 2019 and work out where we were.

Pre-2020, the move toward a hybrid working environment was slow but definitely growing. According to an Economist article[2], ‘a paper published in 2017 in the American Economic Review found that workers are willing to accept an 8% pay cut to work from home, suggesting it gives them non-monetary benefits.’ Further to this, a study from 2004 by Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that commuting was among the least enjoyable activities that people regularly did.

So, what was preventing a full-blown move to homeworking? Brent Neiman of the University of Chicago suggests[3] 3 factors prevented the growth in home-working before now:

1. Information, “bosses simply didn’t know whether clustering in an office was essential or not”
2. Coordination, “it may have been difficult for a single firm unilaterally to move to home-working, perhaps because its suppliers or clients would have found it strange”
3. Investment, “there was a huge, fixed cost in moving from office to home-based working”

During 2020, in an unanticipated turn of events, the blockers above were taken out of everyone’s hands.

In August 2020, the CIPD examined the trends and drivers likely to influence the world of work in the next ten years and beyond. The result was ‘People Profession 2030: A collective view of future trends[4]’, which highlighted 5 key trends influencing the people profession:

1. Internal change: evolving organisational models, structures, and processes
2. Digital and technological transformation
3. Changing demographics and D&I strategy
4. Diversifying employment relationships
5. Sustainability, purpose, and responsible business

Katie Jacobs, Senior Stakeholder Lead with the CIPD shared, in reference to the acceleration of some of these trends in response to COVID-19, that, ‘most organisations expect to move to a hybrid model for the office…the days of 9-5 in front of a desk in an office? You can’t really put that genie back in the bottle!

Jonti Dalal-Small, Behavioural Scientist with Capita Travel & Events turned to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in his quest to uncover the real value of business travel.

Pre-Covid, he believes that whilst safety was the main priority, the physical and psychological needs of the traveller (toward the bottom of the pyramid) were perhaps a ‘nice to have’. Health and wellbeing, minimising the health risks, stresses, and anxieties on the traveller, are now the primary factors when considering whether travel is permissible. Connection and recognition refer to understanding what the business trip really means to the organisation. Is it viewed as an important endeavour? How is this communicated back to the traveller? When it comes to purpose and pleasure, this relates more to the personal ‘why’. How does this trip enrich the traveller’s life?

According to Andy Haldane[5], there are two key factors which affect employee happiness: commuting and empowerment. Take away the former and increase the latter and surely, productivity, the long-standing economic measure of employee output, should increase.

As we have seen, decades of technological transformation and a global pandemic meant that barriers to virtual working on a large scale were taken away in 2020. Does this mean that the genie is now out of the bottle? Will we ever go back to a more traditional 9 to 5?

In part 2 of this blog series, we’ll talk about the future of work and how what we have learnt after almost 12 months of global home-working, will impact working lives, and business travel, in the future.

Produced by Louise Kilgannon, United Kingdom

To find out more about the Purposeful Travel Model click here
Go to Purposeful Travel - External Stimulus Part 2 of 3

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