It was a calm Monday evening in late March. Simon Chu, the Travel Manager for a mid-sized investment company, was just about to go to bed, when his phone beeped – a news alert. It was early morning in Europe, and a bomb had just gone off in the Brussels airport.
For most Canadians, the Brussels airport bombings in 2016 were distressing news from across the world, but not much more. For Simon, it was a wake-up call.
“My team does a lot of travel to Europe, including Brussels,” he says, “and it’s my job to keep them safe.”
Fortunately, there was no one from Simon’s company in Brussels at the time of the bombing, but it got him considering how he could help if there had been. If there were a real crisis for one of his employees, would Simon be able to help?
Casting the Safety Net Wide
Thousands of Canadians travel for business every year, and the numbers are on the rise. With this growth in business travel, Canadian companies have found themselves considering more closely how to support their employees while they are abroad.
This is, in fact, the main reason for Simon’s position in his company.
“It’s not a vacation for them,” he says. “They’re still officially at work, and we need to recognize that by giving them extra help where we can.”
Canadian law agrees with him. The Canada Labour Code outlines the duty of care required by employers to provide a safe environment for its employees. When employees travel for work, their environment, while abroad, would still fall under the broad definition of a workplace.
Finding Support from Afar
To help him support his travelling employees more effectively, Simon turned to the Travel Navigator product included with the company’s employee benefits package. The web and mobile application provides employers and employees with information about their travel destination, including emergency safety alerts and access to health care facilities that accept their benefits program.
“You don’t always know where to go in an unknown city,” says Simon. “Even if it’s just a flu or something, it can be disorienting and frustrating – you feel really alone.”
Travel Navigator not only gives the travelling employee access to information, it also allows managers like Simon to access that information as well. “It’s nice to be able to help,” he laughs, “from my living room!”
A Point of Light in the Chaos
Simon’s biggest concern, however, was being able to communicate with his employees in a large crisis.
Corporate Travel Managers are the first port of call for employees when something goes wrong and need to be able to contact travelling employees efficiently and effectively. And yet, according to the Global Business Travel Association, less than 50% of Travel Managers are confident they could locate their employees within 2 hours.
And in a major crisis, like, say, an airport bombing, every minute counts.
Travel Navigator includes GPS capabilities to track the location of users, as well as a one-touch contact button that employees could use to communicate with someone back home – and vice versa.
“So if a member of my team is having an emergency, they don’t have to decide what to do to get in touch,” says Simon. “They just push a button and I’m there on the other end.” And if they don’t get in touch, Simon can track their location on the dashboard to check if they are safe.
More than Just a Box to Tick
Duty of Care may be a phrase in labour legislation and health and safety regulations, but there is a human element to it as well. For Simon, it’s the ability to be a beacon of safety in the chaos.
About 3 months after finding Travel Navigator, Simon once again received a news alert on his phone – a bombing in Istanbul airport. This time, a quick check of his Travel Navigator dashboard reassured him that none of his team happened to be flying through there.
“It’s not just about their peace of mind,” he says, “but mine as well.”
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