Expert insight

Planes, Trains… and Teleconferences

7 December 2018 by Trevor Elswood

Travel and events should be an integral part of business strategy, says Capita Travel and Events CCO, Trevor Elswood.

Recently I asked one of my new starters for observations about our organisation. He remarked that we have a very modern and refreshing company culture, one that isn’t bound by old-fashioned presenteeism. He also told me it was the first time he’d used teleconferencing, and how it had saved him time in not going to a physical meeting.

He’s right (and, of course, it was good to hear). We do have an infrastructure and mindset that is very open to new, more effective ways of doing things. My team meetings are often by teleconferences, although I will bring everyone together in a room from time to time when the meeting objective best suits that collaborative engagement or if I feel the team needs it for camaraderie and better engagement. Much of that is about team dynamic, team maturity and a situational assessment of the task in hand.

I’m very comfortable in the use of team-meeting technology – it still allows us all to feel fully connected – but as meeting lead, I have to approach it slightly differently. I need to be equipped, prepared, confident and capable of running an effective virtual meeting, and that takes slightly different skills to a physical meeting. But the reward is big – we have now created a cultural environment in which people see virtual meetings as the norm rather than insisting on face-to-face meetings all the time. This releases time and cost and, importantly, drives a wellbeing focus by reducing unnecessary travel.

At Capita Travel and Events, our role isn’t just as a travel and meetings enabler – it’s far more than that. It’s helping businesses understand the behaviour and patterns of their people in regard to meetings and events, and then helping them work smarter. It’s not only about suggesting the scenarios where virtual meetings can be as effective as the physical face-to-face meetings, but also helping people have meetings that are a little kinder on budgets and individuals. Conscious decisions about start and end times of meetings, as well as the meeting’s location, means more off-peak travel, less rush hour travel, fewer early starts and late finishes, and, ultimately, less time spent travelling.

Considering people’s wellbeing and safety are all components of Smarter working – the essence of which is about how to remove unnecessary demand. To think consciously, ‘Do I need to cause people to travel?’ If I do, and I’m the meeting host, ‘What are my considerations now I’ve made the conscious decision to meet people face to face? What else should I be considering? Have I got the equipment facilities?’ It could be that you have the right space but the wrong meeting location.


Businesses have historically had a travel policy – for example, ‘everyone travels economy irrespective of role’ – but this can be a restrictive way of working. It makes sense to make travel a key part of strategy.

Let’s say some of your highest performers in sales are the people travelling. In that case, you would want to encourage more of it and make it comfortable for them. You would then need travel policies that reflect that and are more bespoke to their needs and wellbeing rather than covering all employees. It makes sense to let the person doing the million-pound deal travel in space and comfort, arriving fresh to do business. It’s all about working smarter and being considerate of everyone’s wellbeing.

Anyone can get fatigued and burnt out, which may not be just because of travel. But it’s worth considering the concentration of travel. I may only travel three times a month, but if those three trips are back to back or short-hop European trips three days on the trot, getting up at five and coming back at 11, then those three trips will be highly tiring. Most people wouldn’t consider getting behind the wheel of a car after a transatlantic flight, but how about the poor individual who did three days of 5am to 9pm travelling between Birmingham and Glasgow? This is a typical scenario where a chauffeur service door to door is a highly sensible safety step if that trip profile was necessary.

This is why, via our self-service suite, we’ll be showing customers how they’re performing and where their potential people risks are. We’ll then provide some answers, including behavioural science-led solutions, to educate travellers into doing the right thing. This may be behavioural influence – for example, showing new starters how their colleagues have been smart when booking travel – or we may look at a frequent traveller’s data and suggest where videoconferencing could be used instead –targeted and personalised so the right message is directed at the right person at the right time.

At Capita Travel and Events, we help businesses work smarter while reducing costs, increasing value and providing a duty of care towards the individual, promoting wellness and productivity, all of which reduce the probability of absenteeism.

Time is one of the most precious commodities we have. Let’s use it wisely.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.