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Employee travel: The new office perk?

Drinks fridges, foosball tables, flexitime, bonus holidays…perks are becoming the new norm for office environments, with managers citing improved staff morale and greater productivity as key pay-offs. And many companies are taking things a step further by offering paid-for trips abroad as well.

Once upon a time, businesses footing the bill for office-wide holidays overseas would make headline news, such was the rarity of such a generous offering. Now, scores of companies include an annual (or more frequent) trip abroad as part of their basic operational outgoings.

A chance to regroup

PR agency Liquid, for example, introduced team weekends away in 2013 to destinations around Europe, with an emphasis on work and play. “The trips have a great impact on staff morale,” says chief executive officer Elisabeth Lewis-Jones. “They’re a great way to spark creative thinking. A change of scene, different activities and yes, a few drinks, can get people thinking in a totally different way. During the trips, I often sit back and watch individuals chatting and coming up with great ideas. I’m not so sure if these conversations would happen if we didn’t make the time for them.”

Year-round benefits

Other companies, meanwhile, are happy to do away with the work element entirely, instead letting staff blow off steam and forge workplace friendships – factors that benefit the business before take-off and long after the suntans have faded. “Our annual incentive trip has a huge impact on motivating our team members in a really positive way,” says Henry O’Justus, talent manager at customer acquisition group MVF, which has flown the entire company to Ibiza three times so far. “The vision of cocktails, watersports and golden sandy beaches certainly helps to boost productivity when targets seem challenging. You’ll often hear people around the office talking about what new projects they are going to introduce or test to get the company closer to that trip away, which is really amazing.”

Fostering a positive workplace culture

Some companies are even picking up the tab for their employee’s private holidays. Amigo Loans, for example, has 5* properties in Cornwall, Amsterdam, France and America, which its staff (and their friends and family) can use as they wish, and the company rewards its top performers with all-inclusive trips to holiday hotspots such as Thailand and the Maldives. These perks let the team know they’re valued, says Kelly Davies, Amigo’s chief communications officer. “And believing you are valued has a very positive impact on your attitude. Our team is passionate, enthusiastic and happy.”

Managing logistics

There are some downsides to this kind of perk, of course. Logistics is one. “The challenges involved in flying 300 people from across the globe to an exotic location are huge,” says MVF’s Henry. “And there are always surprises to contend with, like the person who left their passport on the coach, or the time an airline ‘lost’ some of our bookings.”

Liquid’s Elisabeth agrees, and says the success of a trip away depends a great deal on the people arranging it. “Liquid is full of organised individuals who put a lot of time and effort into planning the trip, making sure everything runs smoothly. My top tip would be not to over plan and fill every minute. And start small – maybe a night away not too far from the office with some teambuilding activities. You can learn from this and build on it year on year.”

Of course, it’s not always straightforward taking the entire workforce out of the office, or having downtime while they get back into the swing of things after the trip. “But we feel the positives really outweigh any potential downsides, like a few days of slighter lower productivity,” says Henry. “The high levels of productivity we see year-round as a result of the trip more than make up for it.”

Make expenses easier for your workforce, so they can get on with their overseas trip. You can find out more about how FairFX Corporate Cards can help streamline your expenses experience here.

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Miles Hobson

Miles Hobson

Miles oversees marketing communications at FairFX. He has a passion for travel and loves to explore new cities on foot to find their hidden gems.

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