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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Road warriors: Helping employees make the best of travel time

Experts say companies should look for ways to

Experts say companies should look for ways to alleviate the pressures of travel on their workers. May 15, 2012. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Traveling is required for many jobs and can be a welcome perk for some employees, but it also comes with its own set of pain points.

The top concerns revealed in a recent survey by TSheets are being away from family, having trouble sleeping, gaining weight and suffering a weakened immune system.

Because of this toll it’s important for employers to be clear about their policies and protocols, and to look for ways to help alleviate some of the pressures of traveling.

“Traveling for work can be really stressful,” says Patrick Adcock, an analyst at TSheets, an Eagle, Idaho-based provider of employee time-tracking software. “Communicating with your employees is key.”

First, he says, do your research on the particular employees you want to ask to travel to learn if travel is going to be a huge burden on them.

For those who find traveling for work stressful, generally the only real incentive for them would be money. In fact, 27 percent of workers who travel only do it for the money, according to TSheets’ survey.

These are probably not the best people for the travel scenario, Adcock says, because “eventually it will become too much for them.”

“It’s definitely not for everybody,” says Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer at business strategy consultants Talent Think Innovations in Port Jefferson Station.

You need to manage expectations, and the employees have to understand how travel will impact the company and their life.

Break it down to what the job looks like from a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year perspective, Truitt says.

If a concern is missing family, you might try to ease that issue by perhaps giving that person some buffer time with family before returning immediately to work, Truitt says.

Conversely, if the person is a road warrior and likes to travel, recognize that he will be an “autonomous” person, so micromanaging him likely won’t work, she says.

The company’s financial and legal obligations are also important considerations.

If you have a travel policy, it should follow both federal and state labor laws for nonexempt employees, says Jessica Moller, a labor and employment law attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Garden City.

This can get complex, and “there are a lot of nuances you have to be careful with,” she says.

For example, if a nonexempt employee is required to go on an overnight trip but isn’t offered the option of using public transportation, she must be compensated for the time it takes her to drive to the destination. (Moller offers more insights at bsk.com.)

Also keep in mind nonexempt employees are entitled to time-and-a-half pay for any hours over 40 in a workweek under the Fair Labor Standards Act, she says.

That’s why it’s critical that all of their work time while traveling be accurately reported on the time sheet or tracking mechanism the company utilizes, Moller says.

Exempt employees, who are not eligible for overtime, earn their regular salary regardless of how many hours they work on the road.

Employers also need to establish guidelines for reimbursement and define and communicate to employees what is actually eligible, says Tess Taylor, founder of HR Knows, a Binghamton human resources and career coaching firm.

It’s prudent to routinely review travel expenses and audit them for any abuses, she says.

“I’ve seen alcoholic beverages, movie rentals and cigarettes on employee travel expense reports,” Taylor says.

Also educate employees on ways to save money, such as encouraging them to ask for discounts or being aware of any hidden extra fees, she says.

Fast Fact:

62

Percentage of American workers who have traveled to another state for work within the past 12 months. About 38% of those travelers have spent more than 30 days working in another state.

Source: TSheets

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