Despite the advancements of online meetings and remote working, why are we still travelling for business meetings. In fact, with globalisation of business markets, we, as humans, are now travelling more than ever. With the clear impact of travel on climate change, why is there still this incessant need to meet in-person to make that human connection? Here’s an idea to change that.
4 Key Takeaways:
Business Travel is a habit which needs to be recognised as an unhealthy activity for staff, companies and the environment.
The tech is there today to effectively conduct most in-person meetings online but we need to change the way we use it and actively develop our own ‘onlineness’.
The required step change starts with a cultural change based on rewarding performance rather than presence.
Reap the benefits yourselves by moving to 100% remote working like companies such as Zapier, Shopify & CloudAssist. Go even further and set a ‘no visit’ rule.
About Sean Brady:
Sean is with CloudAssist, which as the name suggests, assists companies to get the best from their cloud services with a keen focus on supporting remote teams around the world. After qualifying as a finalist for the EU Climate LaunchPad competition to develop an intelligent business travel avoidance solution to assist enterprises in adopting cloud services to conduct more online meetings in preference to traveling to meet in-person to achieve their business objectives, CloudAssist is leading the way in technology adoption which is human centric in its approach with increased productivity and employee wellbeing as the key metrics for success. Today, CloudAssist is assisting enterprises to change their way of working and to leverage the potential of cloud services to alter the traditional office-bound scenario for increased scale and reach while providing a work environment which enables Remote Workers to feel more connected, effective and happy. Check out our website: www.cloudassist.co
Contacting Sean Brady
By Sean Brady
There can no doubt that our activity as a human species is having a direct effect on the environment. The need for change has never been more important so I want to share with you an interesting human behaviour that still persists today which we can address by asking ourselves a simple question, Can I work effectively with/for you if I never meet you or, more concisely, can you trust me if we never meet in person. This is a business challenge that faces all B2B businesses which is made worse by the globalisation of markets forcing more businesses to travel to form these relationships and for remote teams to work effectively together. It is the norm and it is on the increase.
We are creatures of habit and heuristic conformity, so this is the way business has been done in the past and looks like it set to continue with an annual increase 8% in business travel expected in the next 5 years. We need to press the flesh and look each other in the eye to really connect with someone. Maybe the gesture of making the effort to transport whole teams to different locations, which is wholly unproductive and costly on so many ways, is the method to demonstrate how serious we are about winning their business. This characteristic is also at the heart of the large campuses where enterprises are building amazing spaces for their employees to work and for their customers/suppliers to travel to so they can work together. All this means is that all this supposedly necessary travel is directly contributing to the carbon emission of doing business which is the 3rd biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world. Now, this GHG contribution of business travel also includes the transport of goods so I am not suggesting that all travel can be stopped. The opportunity is that we make a fundamental change the way in the way we work together which will make your staff more productive and healthier while giving the environment a well needed reduction in carbon emissions including commuting to your desk in an office that is miles from your home.
OK, that is rant over with, so what does the idea look like? It starts with the way your own business works. I am fortunate that I am part of a 100% remote working company which implemented a ‘no visit’ rule in 2017 after being selected to participate in the Climate LaunchPad bootcamp which is like the Eurovision for nerds to come up with idea that could benefit the environment and keep us from exceeding the 2 degree change in our global temperatures otherwise the price that we pay as a species could be catastrophic. Our simple idea was to predict meetings before they happen and assist the attendees to opt for an online meeting rather than arranging travel to meet in-person including rewarding them for their carbon savings. That simple idea proved harder that we thought due to this ingrained belief that people need to meet in order to conduct business despite the impact on climate change. At the Climate LaunchPad bootcamp, the instructors forced us to challenge our thinking to establish the business case which cannot be solely measured in carbon reduction terms but on a clear commercial basis while empathising with our own tribal nature to meet. This led us to work with psychologists to understand human behaviour and also with business analysts to establish the value of not traveling from a business perspective focusing on productive, cost savings and health while setting what would appear an impossible high standard for CloudAssist to see what the limits are to make this vision a reality for doing business without ever meeting. Here are some easy guidelines to help to justify the change:
1. For every tonne of CO2 saved, your business will benefit from a minimum of 3 days of productivity and the corresponding cost saving. This does not include the known reduction in sick days from avoiding travel or the techno-stress from attempting to work anywhere.
2. If you work remotely, you can save €12,000 per employee and eliminate all of the commuting time at the same time while benefiting from higher performance from more focused work. In the US, 40% of the workforce was identified as compatible to this way of working which would result in 10 million cars off the roads.
3. Make this part of your culture and promote this as a positive thing to your customers and suppliers. Encourage social events ( yes, this does involve travel ) to support relationships especially for teams but this is not the traditional business meeting but structured team building exercise which are way more effective that traveling for a 1 hour meeting.
So, reap the benefits for yourselves by doing the following:
1. Join Grow Remote which promotes remote working in Ireland for the benefit of rural society. Go to www.growremote.ie
2. Look at your own future travel and see what this means in terms of business opportunity for change. Go to www.futuremiles.com
3. Embed this idea “Travel is for Holidays not Business” into your culture today to assist your company’s ‘Onlineness’ and be part of the change. Go to www.onlineassist.eu
In our quest to better understand this anomaly, we spoke with large enterprises who recognise the undesirable trend and appear unable to change the trend using traditional travel budgetary policies. Even if they stop their own employees from travel by imposing tough restrictions on travel then they find that their customers and suppliers travel to them which in terms of overall saving under the Carbon Disclosure Project ( CDP ) does not translate into an overall reduction. We hear from other more enlightened organisation who now recognise Business travel as an unhealthy activity for their employees but there is still the drumbeat of business that demands this unproductive protocol to meet. The technology to connect and work together online is there, this will only continue to get better, so ask yourself why are we still addicted to travelling to meet for business today.
Here are some insights that we have learnt from our journey with this idea.
- Be the master of technology but not a slave. Avoid signing up for multiple platforms which will only distract you from the true goal of business travel avoidance. Pick your platform and make it part of your company’s DNA. Become experts in how this platform works, appreciate the change and learn from when things go wrong. This is a journey not a destination.
- When you get that 15 minute reminder to join an online meeting, don’t wait or snooze the reminder, join the meeting and continue working on what you were doing while others join. This avoids the last-minute panic when the tech gremlins mess up your online connection and, secondly, you also get to chat with your customer in a more social way before the meeting starts in earnest which are them important moments like what happens when you travel to meet someone and you walk from the lobby to the meeting room together.
- Plan where you invest your money and time to enhance your ‘onlineness’ with a laser-like focus on your customer experience. Onlineness is not just your ability about hosting a good online meeting instead of travelling to meet but connecting with your customer in such a way that they feel closer to your company than your competitors who travel to meet them face-to-face. This means exceling in customer service and making yourself ultra-available to clients as if you were actually working at their company.
- Explain to your customers why your company is avoiding travel and make it a positive aspect of your culture, and not a restriction, which offer lower operating costs, higher productivity and greater employee satisfaction makes you a better company to fulfil their needs.
- Educate your customer on their own ‘onlineness’. Give them the same assistance that you would give your own new employees when on-boarding them to your way of working.
- Allow for time for focused work and avoid back-to-back meetings as you need to do the work. Use calender booking apps like Calendly which will manage your bookings for you.