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How to Hire and Manage Employees Who Travel for Work

Understand what motivates traveling employees and the risks associated with work-related travel

It's not uncommon for today's employees to travel across state lines for work. In fact, more than half of U.S. employees do it on a regular basis. An independent survey recently conducted by TSheets found that 62 percent of American workers have traveled to another state for work within the past 12 months.1 And 38 percent of those travelers have spent more than 30 days working in another state.

Chances are, there are certain positions within your company that require employees to travel either near or far. As a business owner looking to fill those positions, it's important to understand what motivates mobile employees, the struggles they face, and the risks your company could encounter.

What motivates employees who travel for work?

Surprisingly, only 27 percent of mobile workers are in it for the money. The other 70 percent are motivated by personal or professional growth.

What motivates you to travel for work?

What motivates employees to travel for work? What motivates employees to travel for work?

What's more, employees who simply love to travel, or desire to further their career through travel, are more positive about the work-related travel experience. They are motivated to continue traveling for work in the future.

However, employees who travel for work simply as a means to make a paycheck are much less positive about the experience and less likely to keep up the jet-set lifestyle in the future.

In other words, a raise or a hefty paycheck isn't enough to motivate your employees to travel for work. The right employees have an innate sense of wanderlust from the start.

When hiring mobile employees, especially those who will be required to travel often, search for applicants who are driven by a desire to try new things and see new places.

What personal struggles do mobile workers face?

For the majority of mobile workers, spending time away from family is their No. 1 concern. Over 23 percent of survey respondents said they struggle with the fact that their job often keeps them away from their family.

Health issues are the second largest concern. Employees who travel often report trouble sleeping, weight gain, and a weak immune system. These employees admit traveling causes them to eat out more often than not, and they find it exceedingly hard to maintain a consistent exercise schedule.

What's the hardest thing about traveling for work?

What’s the hardest thing about traveling for work? What’s the hardest thing about traveling for work?

Additionally, many mobile workers admit that traveling disrupts their delicate work-life balance in a major way. Work-related travel often requires longer working hours to accommodate travel time and jam-packed days. On top of that, many employees are required to pay work-related expenses up front, which can cause personal financial stress.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to alleviate these struggles for your mobile employees.

  1. Send the right people
  2. » For positions requiring consistent or long-term travel, look for employees who aren't tied down by other obligations. Remember, employees who simply love to travel are more likely to love to travel for work!
  3. Book "healthy" hotels
  4. » When possible, book employees at hotels that offer 24-hour fitness centers and, at the very least, a continental breakfast.
  5. Simplify time tracking
  6. » Require employees to track their time while they travel for work (and, really, all the time!) and keep an eye on the number of hours they're spending on the clock. If that number shoots too high, encourage them to take a well-deserved break.
  7. Lift the financial burden
  8. » Use an expense reporting app like Expensify to reimburse your employees for travel-related expenses right away!
How do mobile employees prefer to travel?

Personal struggles aside, traveling can be a major hassle, especially for mobile workers. Living out of a suitcase, navigating a new city, and working all the while can take a major toll on traveling employees.

1 in 4 employee use personal electronic devices. 1 in 4 employee use personal electronic devices.

Over 10 percent of mobile employees say they spend the days and weeks before their trip stressing about flight delays and other travel-related catastrophes. Another 6 percent claim that the hassle of airport security is enough to put them off traveling entirely.

But traveling by car isn't much better. Employees aren't keen to rack up miles on their personal vehicles for work-related travel (even if it is tax deductible), and no one looks forward to standing in the rental car line.

Consider investing in a company vehicle (or two) for employees traveling across shorter distances — just make sure they're tracking travel time, as those hours can quickly add up! If ground transport isn't an option, encourage your employees to get TSA pre-checked to avoid long security lines in the future.

Finally, invest in a travel management software like Concur to quickly and easily handle last-minute flight changes and delays with ease.

Will advancing technology replace the need to travel for work?

In a word, no. Nearly all mobile workers (a whopping 93 percent) believe that webcams simply can't replace face-to-face interactions. And experts agree.

A UCLA study found that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues — making words only 7 percent effective.

93% of mobile workers prefer face-to-face interaction over webcams. 93% of mobile workers prefer face-to-face interaction over webcams.

"The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that's only felt in face-to-face conversations," said Linking the World CEO Mina Chang in a Forbes article. "After all, it's easy to misinterpret a text or email ... having tone and body language for context makes a difference."

For Mina, traveling the world, meeting with her teams on the ground, and hosting those oh-so-important face-to-face meetings "build trust, understanding, and real sense of a shared mission, and this has made all the difference in the world."

"On top of that, meetings foster greater buy-in from staff and stakeholders ... When making any kind of request, the probability of getting your desired answer is greater when you have a face-to-face meeting."

But does advancing technology make work-related travel easier?

You betcha. Nearly all mobile employees carry a laptop or tablet (or both!) with them when they travel. Mobile technology allows them to work from virtually anywhere, and many mobile employees are taking advantage of new tech. However, 37 percent admit they still won't leave home without a pen and paper. Some habits die hard (and some laptops die at inopportune times).

Unsurprisingly, the majority of mobile employees also carry a smartphone on their travels — and nearly 60 percent admit they even pack a spare battery to charge their device on the go.

What must-have tech do you carry when you travel?

Graph of must-have tech mobile workers carry when they travel. Graph of must-have tech mobile workers carry when they travel.

But here's the kicker: 1 in 4 business travelers (who are not self-employed) still use their personal electronic devices when they travel for work. Unfortunately, this leaves them (and your company) vulnerable to major security risks.

If you require your employees to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), make sure you have a clearly defined BYOD policy that covers minimum security requirements and outlines the rules of engagement.

If your business falls under HIPAA or other compliance mandates, make sure your employees are following requirements — even on their personal computers. And, in the event an employee is let go, have a plan in place that allows you to retrieve or delete business data from a personal laptop or smartphone.

When in doubt, give your mobile employees a company-issued laptop, tablet, or smartphone to be used for work-related purposes. Bonus! This will prevent your employees from blurring the line between their work and personal life, offering them a healthier work-life balance — even out on the road.

Do you need to withhold state income taxes for your employees?

Many states have complex income tax laws that require non-resident workers to pay additional income taxes upon spending time, working, or earning money in that state.

However, this could soon change. Congress has recently been ruminating on the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act. If passed, the Act would prevent individual states from taxing non-resident mobile workers until those workers have spent more than 30 calendar days working in that state.

The Act could affect mobile employees in a major way. According to our survey, more than one-third of employees who worked out-of-state within the past 12 months spent more than 30 days in the state (or states) they worked in. These employees will still be required to abide by state income tax laws, but the remaining 62 percent of mobile employees can travel income tax free.2

Find out how your employees could be affected by the Tax Simplification Act. Check out the Complete Guide to State Taxes for Mobile Workers.

How can I ensure compliance with state income tax laws?

If the Tax Simplification Act passes, your employees will be responsible for tracking the number of hours and days they spend working in other states — that is, unless you, the employer, have a time and attendance system "that tracks where the employee performs duties on a daily basis."

Requiring your employees to track their own time using paper time cards or spreadsheets leaves your company and your employees vulnerable to inaccurate data and guesstimation. Those are two words you want to avoid when it comes to paying taxes.

Invest in an automated time tracking software (like TSheets) that allows your employees to quickly and easily track their hours worked in the office and out on the road. And with GPS location tracking built in, you can rest easy knowing you and your employees are covered come tax time.

TSheets makes it easy to manage mobile employees, free for 14 days.

No credit card required

Further Reading
Additional article #1
The Complete Guide to State Taxes for Mobile Workers
Additional article #2
Attract and Retain the Best-of-the-Best Employees
Additional article #3
8 Tips for Managing Employees in Multiple Locations

1Methodology: TSheets surveyed 811 U.S. workers on August 8, 2017, about their work-travel habits. The sample was selected by Pollfish. A quarter of the respondents were self-employed and the rest were employed for wages. Any respondents who had not traveled to another state for work in the previous 12 months were screened out after the first question. This left 502 people to complete the remaining 13 questions.

2TSheets does not recommend particular legal or financial practices and leaves those decisions to the discretion of your organization.