The hidden costs of business travel

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How much did your company spend on business travel last year?

It should be fairly straightforward to establish a figure, but that’s not always the case. Because before the actual cost of flights, trains, taxis and everything else can be totted up, a substantial sunk cost must be borne – and it’s often more than you’d expect.

Gett’s own calculations put the cost of processing the expenses accrued from four taxi rides per month for the average UK employee at £29.03. With 12 months in a year and potentially thousands of employees in an organisation, it’s easy to see how that cost can mount up. Some estimates are even higher. Research carried out by the Global Business Travel Association puts the average cost of processing a single expense report at a staggering £48.601. Taking a medium-sized business with 300 employees as an example, the annual staff cost of this could total well over £174,960 – just through operating an inefficient taxi expense system.

The tip of the iceberg

But the time lost when employees, managers and finance teams record, submit, check and process expense claims is not the only drain on a business. The process also increases what psychologists describe as the ‘cognitive load’ that’s placed on workers.

This is nothing new. Human beings have been concerned about suffering from information overload for centuries. As early as the 1st century AD, the Roman rhetorician Seneca noted that ‘the abundance of books is a distraction’. In 1453 (or thereabouts) Gutenplan invented his printing press and, by the 17th and 18th centuries, the proliferation of books and pamphlets had begun to worry some of the leading thinkers of the Renaissance.

In 1755, Denis Diderot predicted that the growth in the number of books would make it difficult to learn anything from them at all. ‘It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes,’ he wrote.

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An iceberg

The cause of, and solution to, all life’s problems?

Fortunately, just as the amount of information that we are exposed to has grown, the technological solutions to deal with it have become more sophisticated. Google’s search engine has largely solved the problem that Diderot feared, and has been improving steadily ever since it was launched back in 1998. Today, contextual search tools make it easier than ever to find the information we need when we need it.

But, at the same time, the digital technology of the fourth industrial revolution has also created more demands on our attention and our capacity to process stimuli. A 2009 study by scientists at the University of San Diego, California, estimated that the total number of words ‘consumed’ in the United States more than doubled from 4,500 trillion in 1980 to 10,845 trillion in 2008 as the internet, email and mobile phones transformed the way we lived and worked.

Commenting on the study, Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist specialising in attention deficit disorder, said: ‘Never before in human history have our brains had to process as much information as they do today.’

Things are getting worse

A decade on, things seem to be getting worse. The amount of time we spend looking at screens has sky-rocketed as social media, computer games and on-demand everything pervade more and more areas of our lives. According to the neuroscientist and author Daniel J. Levitin, this is a problem. The digital multi-tasking that has come to characterise modern work makes us ‘demonstrably less efficient.’

In his book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Levitin notes that ‘we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence.’

When companies leave their staff to make their own travel arrangements, not only do they create work in the form of expenses processes and run the risk that employees will choose inefficient options, they can also contribute to the problems that are affecting people’s ability to focus in both their professional and personal lives. According to research conducted in 20172, 60% of travellers fill out expense forms during work time, and it takes them on average 10 minutes to complete each claim. What’s more, when paying on an ad hoc individual basis, travellers tip 13% on average – meaning that the claimed figure is inflated in the first place – and rarely pay attention to surge prices if travelling using an on-demand app. All round, it’s an inefficient process that takes up a shocking amount of valuable staff time on painstaking admin; if you’re running a business, isn’t the objective to do the opposite? To unburden employees so that they can focus on being creative, driving results and doing their jobs to the very best of their ability.

Taking a load off

So what’s the solution? There is no silver bullet. But the burden on businesses and individuals can be lessened by streamlining the expense-reporting process. In some organisations, it may be possible to introduce automated systems that totally transform the old-fashioned way of doing things.

But the introduction of such a system is a daunting task in itself. It can often be easier to simply work with partners who recognise the problem and have designed their own processes with this in mind.

At Gett, we’re doing just that. The Gett Business Solutions all-in-one booking platform collates and manages expenses that would otherwise have to be filed separately It simplifies everything from booking through to reporting, radically reducing the time it takes to process expenses and easing the cognitive load on staff.

That not only saves money. It also allows employees to focus on what they do best: making your business a success.

Request a demo at  or visit our Gett Business Solutions  website  for more details.

Image credits: iStock