The digital transformation of the workplace, accelerated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, has brought about a significant shift in how businesses operate. Remote work, once a luxury or an occasional perk, has become a mainstay for many companies. This change has led to a ripple effect across various sectors, with business travel being one of the most impacted. But what does this mean for the future of corporate trips and how does it shape the way we forge business relationships?

The Rise of Remote Work

The pandemic led to an unprecedented surge in remote working practices, with companies worldwide quickly adapting to new ways of working in order to ensure the safety of their employees. Tools and platforms that facilitate virtual collaboration, such as Zoom, Webex and Airmeet, saw a massive uptick in usage, making it easier for teams to communicate and work together despite geographical barriers. Predictions about permanent changes in the world of work have been making headlines ever since, with some experts suggesting that business travel might see a significant decline.

The Changing Dynamics of Business Travel

While it’s true that the nature of business trips is evolving, it’s essential to understand that travel for work encompasses more than just flying to a different city for a meeting. In the age of remote work, business travel can include driving or catching a bus or train to a co-working space, attending hybrid events or even taking “workcations” where employees combine business and leisure, for so-called “bleisure” trips.

Moreover, as we’ve highlighted in the past, face-to-face meetings remain crucial for business growth. It’s estimated that over a quarter of current business would be lost without these in-person interactions. Companies are now more discerning about when and why employees should travel, focusing on deriving maximum value from each trip.

The Social Aspect of Business Travel

One of the downsides of remote work is the potential loss of the social aspects and organisational culture that come with in-person interactions. While virtual meetings can be efficient, they often lack the organic conversations that naturally occur during physical meetings or events. These interactions, as trivial as they might seem at the time, play a crucial role in building trust, transferring culture and fostering strong business relationships.

Not only are in-person events great for forging successful business relationships with customers and clients, they can support bonding and growth within your team and the wider organisation. As we grow more accustomed to remote working and online meetings and events, its never been more important to ensure colleagues feel valued and appreciated by enabling relaxed real world interactions as an antidote to all the business that’s conducted purely from behind a computer screen.

The Future of Business Travel in a Remote World

While remote work offers numerous benefits, including flexibility and potential cost savings, the need for business travel remains. The future might see more of a blend of virtual and physical meetings, with companies prioritising trips that offer the highest return on investment. For instance, sales visits, team-building exercises and high-stakes negotiations will likely continue to warrant in-person meetings.

Furthermore, as companies increasingly adopt a hybrid model, combining office-based work with remote work, there will likely be an increase in travel as employees commute between their homes and company headquarters or other office locations. This blend ensures that while employees enjoy the benefits of remote work, they also maintain the essential personal connections that only face-to-face interactions can offer. It’s precisely why some commentators have boldly claimed that remote work will mean more business travel, not less!

The Evergreen Importance of Business Travel

The world of work is undeniably changing, with remote work playing a significant role in this transformation. However, the importance of business travel remains as vital as ever. In the digital age, where emails and virtual meetings dominate, the value of a handshake, a shared meal or a casual coffee catchup cannot be underestimated. These interactions form the foundation of strong business relationships, ensuring that even as we embrace the virtual, the personal touch remains irreplaceable.

For more insights on the evolving landscape of business travel, check out the rest of our Traveltrust Journal posts, including Making the Most of Your Business Trip with Effective Networking.