8 tips for safe business travel during the pandemic
While domestic and international travel is off the table for most, business travel is permitted for jobs that qualify. In this post, we’ll share the most important safety precautions to take before, during, and after your business trip.
First things first, ask yourself: is the business trip critical?
In 2020 we learned that video conferences can successfully replace a variety of face-to-face business meetings. The transition hasn’t been flawless, sure. But it’s proved efficient and productive nonetheless.
So before you make any business travel arrangements, ask yourself if a video streaming meeting wouldn’t suffice. Keep in mind that officials urge even those who are legally permitted to travel to remain cautious and to avoid trips whenever possible.
If you’re uncomfortable travelling given the context, don’t be afraid to tell your employer. Chances are alternative arrangements can be made.
Decided that your business trip is essential and that you’re comfortable to fly? Then here are 8 tips to help keep you safe.
1. Assess the risk
No travel is risk-free, especially during a global pandemic. But understanding the potential dangers will help you prepare for — and eliminate — the most common threats.
First, assess the situation in your country of origin. If you live in the UK, go to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s website to learn more about the latest travel advice and regulations. Since there are different restrictions in place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, look for the ones that apply to you.
Secondly, check the restrictions, entry requirements, and travel warnings that apply at your destination. To make sure you’re reading the most up-to-date information, visit the UK Government’s foreign travel advice. You can always call the UK-based embassy of the country you’re travelling to, if you have any questions.
2. Check your airline’s policies and safety measures
Flying remains one of the safest ways to travel, coronavirus or not.
Why? Because an aircraft’s cabin air is completely refreshed every two to four minutes, minimising the spread of pathogens. Plus, most airlines ask passengers and crew members to wear face coverings, to stop droplets entering in the air.
That said, different airlines adopt different safety measures. So before you book your ticket, make sure to check what safety measures the airline reinforces and select a company you’re comfortable flying with.
Not all airlines have an “empty middle seat” policy, for example. But booking a window seat can potentially limit your exposure. Some flights have also discontinued their food service, meaning you might have to bring a homemade snack. You don’t want to get caught out there!
Lastly, remember that any business travel plans are subject to constant change in 2021. It’s wise to book refundable or flexible-dates tickets, wherever you can. And that leads us on to...
3. Check your business’s travel insurance
Travel insurance that guards your trip against pandemic-related risks could save you (and your company) a lot of trouble and money. If there’s someone who handles all your travel bookings in-house, ask them to double-check what you’re protected for.
Your plan should offer coverage for trip cancellations, medical expenses, and medical repatriation in case your health takes a turn for the worse. Bear in mind that if you need to self-quarantine at your destination, you might have to do so at your business’s expense, so find out if your insurance covers these extra costs.
Since the level of insurance benefits can make a big difference, it’s crucial to know what sums you’re covered for and what exceptions apply. Some travel insurance plans lose their validity if you prolong your stay abroad (if your flight gets cancelled at the last minute, for example) or if you go against the government’s recommendations, travelling when you shouldn’t.
4. Get tested prior to your trip and before you return
Chances are you will have to get tested before your business trip, no matter where you’re going. Most countries ask for a negative PCR test taken within 24-72 hours ahead of your arrival.
We recommend getting tested, even if your destination doesn’t mandate it. Knowing that you are healthy will take a big weight off your shoulders and help you keep your head in the business game.
Corona Test Centre has private testing clinics across London and in Watford, Birmingham and Manchester, too. We’ve conducted thousands of COVID-19 tests, providing secure, verifiable test results within one or two days. Remember: you cannot get an NHS test without COVID symptoms and NHS tests are not valid for international travel. To get your ‘Fit to Fly’ certification, you need to go private.
Testing is now also mandatory to return to the UK. As of 4am on 18 January 2021, travellers have to present a negative COVID test at UK borders — even if you are a UK citizen or you’re returning from one of the countries previously on the travel corridor. To prepare for all scenarios, book a test appointment at a verified test centre in the country you’re travelling to before you leave the UK.
5. Be honest with your team if you experience symptoms
Nobody likes to cancel plans, especially when they’re business-critical. But no matter how important your business trip is, remember that your health — and the health of those around you — always comes first.
Don’t put yourself at risk, and don’t endanger others, by brushing off COVID symptoms. Worse yet, don’t try to hide them from your colleagues. If you experience any symptoms before your travel, you must tell your team.
The same applies if you come into close contact with a confirmed COVID case. You’ll need to self-isolate, same as anyone else.
Going through with your business travel plans under these circumstances would not benefit anyone and could lead to complications you’d later regret.
6. Respect health recommendations at the airport, in transit, and abroad
The same basic health rules that we follow in the UK are also valid at the airport, on the airplane, and when you land abroad:
- Limit the number of people you come in close contact with.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands.
- Wear a mask in all public spaces (including the plane).
- Keep a safety distance of 2m from others whenever possible.
- When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue and then wash your hands before touching anything else.
- Politely refuse to shake hands and replace the custom with another welcoming gesture.
- Avoid touching public surfaces and immediately wash your hands if you do.
- If you develop symptoms, self-isolate and arrange for a test right away.
On top of these rules, there’s some travel-specific advice to follow to:
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol, plus disinfectant wipes.
- Check-in online to skip the queues.
- Where possible tag and drop check-in luggage yourself
- While waiting at the airport, stick to one seat and avoid switching seats too often.
- Wipe your airplane seat and tray table before sitting down.
- Wipe the frequently used surfaces in your hotel room.
- Flush the toilet before using it and keep the seat down the rest of the time.
7. Plan for a safe and comfortable return
When you return to the UK, you might have to show a completed locator form and present a negative COVID test. You’ll have to self isolate too unless you take a Test to Release test with a private provider, like Corona Test Centre.
To see which of these apply to you (if any), check the Foreign Office’s guidance lists with jobs that qualify for exemptions. To avoid mishaps, arrange in advance for a test appointment in the country you’re travelling to.
Discuss all scenarios with your manager(s) and see how they can simplify your return. And, just to be on the safe side, stock your pantry before you fly. You’ll thank yourself later.
8. Be prepared for changes and new restrictions
Measures and travel restrictions at your destination can change during your stay. If they do, follow the local authorities recommendations and keep a clear head. Contact your company or travel organiser, to see whether or not the changes affect your itinerary and do as advised.
You may have to prolong your trip. And if you do, trust that everything will be fine. Discuss the new arrangements with your team and explore all available options. Take care of your wellbeing and stay in contact with family and friends back home for support.
The Foreign Office has also prepared a list of useful tips and resources that will help you get back to the UK in the right frame of mind.
Needless to say, regulations back home can change unexpectedly as well! We recommend you avoid any nasty surprises by regularly checking the Foreign Ministry’s website for updates.
COVID tests for business travel
If you’ve decided that your business trip is a must, you need a COVID test from a private clinic.
At Corona Test Centre, our medical professionals are ready to help you with your Fit to Fly certificates. We offer speedy results for all the COVID-19 tests and full guidance to put you at ease.
Book your COVID-19 test with us today and fly safe.