How a TMC can help reduce traveller friction on short-term assignments abroad

A difficult global economic climate, combined with a growing awareness of traveller friction, has seen companies increasingly choose short-term international assignments, instead of sending their employees on long-term relocation programmes.

At first sight, short-term international assignments, which usually range from between three and six months, seem like a win-win situation. Companies don’t need to make large investments associated with fully fledged global assignments, and employees no longer need to uproot their families and lives for their career.

However, there are some pitfalls and challenges that come with sending employees on a short-term assignment abroad. Just because the assignment is shorter in duration, doesn’t mean it’s easier, especially taking into consideration that statistics show most employees only become fully effective during their second year abroad.

Short-term assignment employees are faced with a tight timeframe to ‘get the job done’ and are under pressure to hit the ground running. They don’t have the luxury of time to acclimatise to their new surroundings and get to know the work culture at their destination.

The result? Short-term assignees, with their challenging goals and deadlines, are more likely to suffer from traveller friction than their long-term counterparts. This is because they have had very little time to build up a support system and their family has likely stayed behind. They begin to feel isolated in a country where they might not even fully have mastered the language.

This is one area where a TMC, can step in to help.

Negotiate flexibility

A two-year research study conducted by the Brookline Massachusetts-based Interchange Institute and sponsored by the relocation firm Dwellworks, revealed employees on short-term assignments who feel in control are more positive about their jobs, their employers and the assignment. They are also less likely to suffer familial problems.

Employees are advised to negotiate flexibility with their company, especially when it comes to trips home and family visits to the country in which they are working. A TMC can help manage these travel requirements and provide expert advice on the best options that blend flexibility with cost effectiveness.

Ensure Duty of Care

It’s important for companies to perform a thorough risk assessment of the country to which the employee is travelling and to advise them on any special vaccinations that might be required or any precautions the traveller might need to take with regards to food and water.

In addition to warning employees about the inherent risks of travel and any specific risks associated with the travel destination, make sure your employee has access to the necessary contact information in case of emergencies.

Leasing a car

It’s unlikely employees are able to bring their own car on a six-month assignment abroad, but they might still crave the freedom a car offers at their destination. Although it might seem straightforward to simply rent a car, different insurances and conditions of car rental abroad can make this exercise a bit of a headache. Make sure you have a clear overview of the different prices and conditions between multiple suppliers. 

Find the best accommodation option

Finding the right accommodation can go a long way to minimising traveller friction. Instead of a sterile hotel room, look for a serviced apartment, which can serve as a home-away-from-home.

Serviced properties give a more homely feeling because of the space they offer with separate living and sleeping areas. These apartments allow ample space for both work and relaxation and offer fully

equipped kitchens, which can help significantly minimise traveller friction. The lone worker may tire quickly of eating out alone night after night for weeks on end in a busy restaurant.

Finally, the cost-effectiveness of serviced apartments makes them an attractive option for corporate clients and companies sending employees on short-term assignments abroad. Not only are serviced apartments more cost-effective than hotels for longer stays, business travellers can also keep their incidental expenses low.

With a proven track record in business management and finance, Oz Desai heads up Flight Centre Travel Group's dynamic Corporate Traveller brand in South Africa. Having worked in a retail travel, management and the finance environment within the Flight Centre group, Oz's first-hand experience brings great depth to the role of positioning Corporate Traveller as the preferred provider of travel solutions to corporate South Africa. Skilled in operations, sales, negotiations, budgeting and customer service, Oz holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Development from Stellenbosch University and a Bachelors in Business Management and Financial Management from UNISA. In his free time, Oz enjoys reading, running and snowboarding.

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