As the Travel department at OSRL, we had almost got it down to a fine art. Sure there were hiccups every now and then. Still, until March 2020, we hadn’t really found many things we couldn’t overcome with a bit of creative thinking and a sense of dogged determination. We had built up a wealth of practical information in our collective travel brain.
Then COVID-19 hit, and every single travel rule book was ripped up and thrown onto the pyre. Initially it was ‘simple’ as we talked in hypotheticals with nobody sure what was going to happen. The possibility of getting on a plane seemed like a distant memory. As a department, we had time to properly get on with strategic travel management work.
It lasted a good few months, but then the travel request forms started to trickle in, and we were back up and running. Well, a slow crawl at least.
"It is essential not to underestimate the levels of complexity COVID has added to everything we do."
Every single step of the way must be checked, double-checked, and checked again. The travel team chat has never been so lively with multiple people involved in getting a trip over the line. It can be a very complicated process!
We do of course take a pause every now and then and work through the checklist to make sure we’re not missing anything. Still, it is essential not to underestimate the levels of complexity COVID has added to everything we do.
As a travel department, we feel a little like we are standing on shifting sands. Unfortunately, global governments and airlines do not take our travel plans into account when changing their rules and regulations. We have already had two trips where we had an update to them when planning has been well underway which changed things considerably.
When our travellers are out, we are always on high alert, allowing ourselves a small exhale when our travellers reach their destination safely. And a proper relaxing breath out when they’re back on home soil.
Travel under COVID-19 remains a challenge but is by no means impossible. Staying updated with the latest information, along with the ability to be agile and sometimes adapt at the last minute, has never been more crucial.