Skift Take

Reinvention is the name of the game for 2022, and travel managers shouldn't underestimate the monumental efforts companies will have to take next year in reopening their offices effectively.

Series: Future of Work

Future of Work

As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. Read Skift’s ongoing coverage of this shift in business travel behavior through the lens of both brands and consumers.

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What does a company travel department do when faced with a 95 percent reduction in spending on business trips? Reinvent itself. Or at least, it can try, because the future of work may throw up complex challenges — and the billions in savings may help fund that reinvention.

International bans largely remain in place, with just 42 percent of companies allowing international travel, according to a recent Global Business Travel Association poll. But more than two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents said their offices had reopened.

The return to offices will be a pivotal moment. Many employees will not have seen each other for more than 18 months now, while most new recruits will have actually never met a colleague.

Consultancy EY, for example, currently has 312,250 staff and is pushing ahead with a “hub-and-spoke” model of offices. Its travel procurement team is a textbook example of how travel managers can evolve into new roles.

EY is using centrally located offices that connect to hundreds of satellite offices, and in some locations it's collaborating with co-working firms like IWG’s Spaces. Staff have an average age of 28, and its company-wide surveys reveal they want to head back to these kinds of places.

“We work closely with EY on their hybrid work solutions,” said a spokesperson for IWG. “In Norway their hub office is located within a Spaces Building, and all employees have access to the global network of IWG locations empowering them to work where is convenient and closer to home."

Offices Are Alive and Kicking. What Now?

It seems EY's travel procurement team is almost moving away from travel in order to focus on how its people can best navigate the new world of human interaction. First, it is switching an in-house social network that employees used on business trips to an office-based social network app.

"We have access to great people that know alternative technologies within EY, whether blockchain,