Survey: Business travel benefits are far from first-class

stressed traveler with head in hands outside at a train station
Employee benefits can help relieve some of the stress of business travel. (ake1150sb/Getty)

Business travel is anxiety-producing, according to Booking.com, a website that offers accommodation pricing and reviews. Indeed, a survey conducted by the site last year found that the challenges of booking travel, handling delays, managing expenses, navigating the destination, and coping with lack of sleep can leave employees reeling—and that’s even before the actual wheeling and dealing has begun.

How can business operators keep top talent happy when all of these stressors are part of the job description? Travel-related benefits are valued by both current and potential hires, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advised, based on results of a survey of mostly small and medium-sized members.

However, many companies are far from generous. According to SHRM, the most common travel benefits offered by U.S. businesses to their employees are reimbursements for taking a taxi to the airport, provided by 87% of companies; and paying the tab for parking at the airport, also at 87%, according to survey results released on July 11 by the group. Another 80% provide mileage reimbursement for the use of a personal car to travel to and from the airport.

But those represent just the bare minimum, according to results of the 2017 Employee Benefits Survey: Remaining Competitive in a Challenging Talent Marketplace (PDF), which found that allowing employees to keep hotel points (66%) and frequent flyer miles (65%) were popular perks.

Even more prized, but less frequently offered, are rental car upgrades (offered by 15% of companies), first-class or business-class seats on international flights (14%), and first-class or business-class seats on domestic flights (12%).

Three-quarters of employers (76%) provide per diem reimbursement for meals and snacks, up slightly from 70% in 2013. And 14% of employers continue to pay for dry cleaning.

However, fewer organizations today provide payback for personal telephone calls (36%) compared with 2013 (44%), perhaps because most employees have personal or business cell phones. Fewer still are paying spousal travel expenses, with just 2% of organizations offering to foot the bill, compared to 7% five years ago. And reimbursement for domestic partners—along with payment for childcare and eldercare expenses—remains static at 1% from the earlier study.

Finally, relocation benefits are increasingly rare in the current employment marketplace. In fact, housing and relocation benefits are the least commonly offered benefit category, with the top benefit—a relocation lump-sum payment—offered by a mere 29% of organizations.

Survey results show that temporary relocation benefits decreased 4 percentage points over the past year, with just 20% of businesses offering this benefit in 2017. Two related benefits have also decreased over the past five years: location visit assistance (down to 15% from 22%) and reimbursement of shipping fees (at 13% as opposed to 20%).

A comparison between the report’s sample of 3,227 HR professionals and the SHRM membership population of 285,000 indicated that the report’s sample had more HR professionals from smaller organizations, more respondents from privately owned for-profit organizations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, and fewer respondents from publicly owned for-profit organizations.

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