“Reasonable” is a relative concept. Something that seems reasonable to one person is absolutely unacceptable to another. “Reasonable accommodations” for an average mid-level traveling employee means a nice clean cool or warm and dry place to sleep at night, along with TV and Internet service; but they’ll probably fetch their own ice if they want some. “Reasonable accommodations” for Donald Trump means about 5,000 square feet of space, solid gold fixtures and an attractive staff to get the ice or anything else for that matter.
So how on earth do you set “standards for reason” when it comes to your travel policies?
Consider this: John Doe does technical presentations for the sales staff at a large company, and he’s paid by the hour. He works under a policy that states,“In order to save on overtime costs, employees are required to book direct flights whenever possible, under reasonable circumstances.”
The sales staff in Boston is awarded a last-minute opportunity to present to a local customer who’s been hard to reach. They want the demonstration to go as smoothly as possible; so they’ve asked John to come to Boston tomorrow to make the meeting. John finds a direct flight to Boston, but since it’s the week prior to the Boston Marathon, the price of the airline ticket exceeds $1,800. John sees another flight with a connection in Nashville that has a two-hour layover that is only $480. Does John consider a two-hour layover in Nashville a “reasonable” thing to incur to save the company $1,320? Is John able to calculate how much overtime the company will have to pay for the additional two hours plus extra flight time? John, like most travelers, hates layovers so he just books the direct flight and hopes that the policy will cover him if he’s ever questioned.
Managers need to stay “in the know” when it comes to this type of thing. Here’s another example: Sally is a member of the Marriott Rewards hotel rewards incentive program. She’s off to San Francisco to do her work this week. She earns extra reward points when she stays in a Marriott; so she books the J.W. Marriott hotel at a rate of $289 per night, even though $289 is on the high-side of her travel policy doctrine.
To Sally, this seems perfectly reasonable since she has paid similar rates in the past in expensive cities like San Francisco and Manhattan. Without checking for better rates or deals, she books the room at the J.W. Marriott, completely unaware that there is a Holiday Inn with available rooms for $129 only one block away. Even if she happen to have found the cheaper hotel during the booking process, would she have reserved it, or would she have assumed that since her manager couldn’t possibly be aware of current hotel rates in San Francisco, he’d never question her anyway?
In both of these examples the employee should have received some manager intervention during the booking process. The trouble is, few managers take that level of hands-on involvement in the booking process because it can feel a bit overbearing to the employee who does the booking.What the manager needs is a comparison chart of what the traveler booked vs. what was available to book!
Fortunately, most corporate travel tools (Carlson Wagonlit, etc) offer this functionality and all you need to do is enable the notification system. The management team sets the dollar limits for hotels in different cities, flights, flights with connections, etc. The travelers who book their trips with the tool will see a message that says, “The (flight/hotel/rental car, etc) falls outside the limits that have been set by your manager, and an e-mail will be sent to your manager with the options that you refused. Would you like to continue to book the trip?” If they continue, the manager receives an e-mail and knows what the employee turned down. If there’s not a solid reason for them to have turned it down, the manager can get in touch with them and advise them to rebook.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, the mere understanding that this sort of e-mail will be sent to management is enough to curtail any employee with the intention to overspend on what they consider to be “reasonable accommodations!”