By Jeriann Watkins

Today, with technology allowing for faster communication over great distances, the dynamics of traveling for business have changed. On one hand, travel is less necessary because effective meetings can happen over great distances. On the other hand, personal contact is still important for networking and relationship building, as well as employee development. In fact, according to the Global Business Travel Association,  the number of people who traveled for business in 2016 was 488 million. Whether employees work remotely or travel for business, there are some steps businesses should take to minimize complications due to travel. Below are some of these areas of concern.

Data Access Complications

When people are working from multiple locations and possibly multiple devices, data access becomes a daily issue. The prevalence of cloud storage has helped combat some access troubles, as it allows people to access data from varying devices as long as they have a password. Companies should outline correct file storage protocols for all employees that can be utilized consistently for remote, traveling, and home-based workers.

Once data access issues are solved, there are still data security issues to be addressed. Companies should have clear policies on the use of public machines for work functions, keeping dedicated work devices private, and outlining rules for whether devices can be used for both personal and professional purposes. Outlining these policies will allow the company to identify security gaps and take the necessary steps to fill them.

General rule dictates that if devices are company-provided, they can only be utilized by employees, must be password protected, and can only be used for work purposes. If your employees use personal devices for work purposes, however, outlining security protocols becomes more complicated. In general, it is much easier to protect data when all work is completed on company-owned devices.

Communication Hurdles

When people travel, communication becomes messy. Time zones cause availability issues, and if employees are actively traveling, they likely experience time periods of unavailability. Luckily, the growth of in-flight wifi availability and the prevalence of publicly available free wifi help combat some of these issues. Still, your company should outline clear expectations for communications protocol during travel. Employees should have a time period requirement for responding to work communication, and protocols for letting people know when they will be unavailable, such as “away” email responses, updating company calendars, and giving direct coworkers advance notice of their absence.

Financial Ramifications

With communication technology continuously improving, many companies may question if the money required for employee travel is worth it. In some cases, travel may not be necessary. But when relationship building, or physical oversight is needed, penny pinching on travel is not a strong business move. Companies can manage traveling costs by making clear policies on what is covered and what costs employees are responsible for. Providing employees resources about what business-travel expenses they can write off on their taxes is a great way for both parties to benefit from these policies.

These are a few of the major concerns that companies with traveling employees need to address. Do you have other areas of concern? Share in the comments!

Jeriann Watkins Ireland is a blogger with years of experience bouncing in and out of middle management. You can see her other business articles at Idea Cafe and here on Small Biz Daily.