Life is better for everyone when employees can book their own travel

Companies with frequent employee travel try to do the right thing by having either an office manager or a travel agent book travel plans for employees...

Yoav Rosenberg
December 12, 2019

For previous generations, being able to hire someone to do the tedious and annoying day-to-day tasks in your life was seen as a benchmark of success. Wealthy businessmen didn’t have to do their own cooking or laundry, because they could afford to support a stay at home partner. In the office, they didn’t have to do their own scheduling, because they were important enough to have a secretary. Systems were slower and more complicated, so higher up employees wanted to hand off as much work as possible. That way, they could spend their time doing more important things. 

Because everything is faster and easier now, millennials have a different attitude and approach towards doing things themselves. Remember, millennials are between 23-38 years old now, so chances are; a considerable number of employees in any office fall in this range. Millennials grew up using various technologies that make practically every process quicker, easier, and more streamlined. For them, this extra work is not framed as being bogged down with extra tedious labor; but rather being able to have more control over their lives and circumstance.

Ok, except for doing your own laundry, no one likes that.

Companies across every industry are trying to figure out how to keep up with this evolving outlook. However, there is still much room for improvement. For example, companies with frequent employee travel try to do the right thing by having either an office manager or a travel agent book travel plans for employees. Most of the time though, they are doing themselves a disservice. The gesture was meant to be in good faith, but in the end, it only adds to stress and frustration levels on all sides.

If you want it done right, do it yourself 

Having an office manager or a travel agent pick accommodation or flights for employees is doomed to at least a degree of failure.

Office managers try incredibly hard and want to pick the best possible bookings for employees. In the end though, they will never be able to do better than the employees could themselves. This is endlessly frustrating on both sides. Employees feel like they don’t have any autonomy over their travel options and have to go with whatever the other person decides. Office managers on the other hand, are frustrated because they try to do their best, but it’s still not enough or not appreciated. Nothing feels worse than really trying, and still feeling like you are coming up short. 


Employees can have it their way

We try to make good decisions and put ourselves in others' shoes, but empathy only goes so far. People have vastly different preferences regarding everything. Of course, this also includes travel preferences. 

One of the most common complaints for traveling employees is that they have to fly incredibly early in the morning the day of to get to a meeting. By the time they get there, they are already exhausted and aren’t at their best. Another common complaint though is from travelers who have to fly in the night before a big meeting. They feel they are forced to give up even more time at home with their families and that their companies are asking too much from them.

Unless the office manager or travel agent gets to know every employee’s preferences, they are bound to innocently make choices that don’t match up with the travelers’ desires. The slightest change can make employees either feel ready and excited, or drained and dragged around. 

Another benefit of letting employees choose their own travel plan, is that often travelers want to extend their business trip to enjoy some leisure travel time. The employee pays for their accommodation during the extra days, and the flight is more or less the same price. This way, there is no real cost to the company, and the employee feels they are getting this great perk from their employer. As soon as an employee feels like they are getting something special from their job, something they might not get somewhere else, performance noticeably increases. 


Not only better, but cheaper 

There is this idea that most employees want a fancy hotel, in the city center, with all of the add-ons. Components that always come with huge markups. 

While that might be what some employees are looking for, others would prefer renting a small apartment or Airbnb so they can cook and have some quiet downtime. And while some people may prefer to be downtown, others prefer to be closer to the meetings so they don’t have to waste time commuting. By making assumptions on what different employees prefer, the company is wasting vast amounts of money while still not making the employee happy.  


Office managers are wasting time 

Office managers are already running around the office, trying to plan/organize/fix every problem that comes up. Adding booking travel accommodations to the list is an incredible waste of time. 

First of all, the booking is going to take office managers much longer to book than it would the employee. The employee will be able to look at a list of possibilities and pick right away which they would prefer. An office manager, on the other hand, is probably going to go back and forth trying to find the best option.

Then, if for some reason the booking doesn’t work for the traveler, the office manager is going to have to waste even more time changing reservations. All of which could have easily been avoided by having the traveler book his or her own reservations in the first place. Office managers are essential throughout every aspect of a company, so if they are overworked, aggravated and annoyed, the company also suffers.

Make employee care a priority 

 In the last year, companies have started talking publically more and more about company care of employee mental health. Millennials may be the generation of doing it all themselves, but they are also the generation of burn out. They rarely stay for more than a few years at any company, and feeling like they aren’t getting enough from their workplace only intensifies the problem.

Some might chalk this up to the delicate millennial snowflake trope, but burnout has severe ramifications for companies. A company might think they have ways of monitoring or prohibiting websites like Facebook and YouTube, but any bored millennial who doesn’t want to work, knows exactly how to get around those. When employees feel appreciated and cared for though, productivity and work quality improves. While there have not been any formal studies done on the topic, these employees are probably more enjoyable to be around in the office as well.

Finally, business travel made comfortable.

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