Track the money: Employee spending data details pandemic outings, office overhauls and rise in business travel

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Companies use a number of covid-friendly team outings like mini-golf, amusement parks and even ax throwing, according to TripActions. But what will happen if the temperatures drop?

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The onset of COVID-19 has transformed business operations virtually overnight, and although some semblance of normalcy has returned in recent months, the standard workday remains anything but normal. Last week, TripActions published results highlighting quarterly spending trends related to corporate outings, business travel, remote work spending, and office redevelopment efforts. According to the data, organizations are investing in some office renovations and COVID-friendly corporate outings are planned, but what might the offsite team look like during the colder months in the midst of the Delta variant?

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Business travel on the rise

During the coronavirus pandemic, virtual collaboration at Zoom largely replaced in-person business travel for many companies. TripActions’ results, based on data from the company’s online payment and expense tracking solution system, TripActions Liquid, show a slight increase in business travel. In the second quarter, spending on airline tickets ranked fifth among spending categories, jumping nine places quarter-over-quarter. In order, accommodation, car rental companies, restaurants and gas stations were the top four spending categories in the first and second quarters.

“There is pent-up demand for travel, especially from commercial services, which make up the majority of recent bookings on TripActions (as before the pandemic),” said Michael Sindicich, CEO of TripActions Liquid. “Software, business services and some manufacturing industries are among the top industries to come back. ”

After the August travel bookings cap, Sindicich said September travel bookings increased; 57% increase over the past three weeks.

“The cancellation rate for flights from the United States for the month of August was 15.06% but has since fallen to 9%,” he said. “However, fears about the Delta variants are not the only cause of the cancellations. Multiple factors play a role in the cancellations, such as weather and airline personnel.”

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Over the past year, many people have tinkered with hobbies and crafts amid closures and social distancing recommendations. An April loan tree report found reading, baking / cooking, and gardening some of the most popular pastimes during a pandemic. Traditional travel spending has also transformed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the results of TripActions. Sindicich noted an “increase in unusual, leisure-based spending under approval” in March, including “sewing and gardening supplies as well as dry goods,” citing previous TripActions Liquid Spending Data.

“Over a year later, we’re seeing less miscellaneous expenses – or expenses that employees didn’t know how to categorize,” he said.

New offices to renovate?

In recent months, a number of companies have started to bring workers back to the traditional office, but the Delta variant has complicated those return-to-work delays. Part of TripActions’ findings focus on “improving office space and cosmetic upgrades,” with “electrical parts / equipment” surging 742% in the second quarter; other major expenses included electronics repair stores, furniture repair and soldering. So, are companies relaunching office reintegration plans or investing in those upgrades prior to office reinstatement?

“While it’s not clear from the data when employees for a given company will return to the office, what we do know is that employers try to make sure they’re ready for when they will. “Sindicich said. “These changes may also reflect a shift towards a hybrid work model as they seek to support a transitional workforce.”

While workplace reinstatement may be on hold in the interim, data from TripActions Liquid lifts a bit of the veil on types of office upgrades and potential on-site investments. In general, Sindicich said the data indicates that “bigger projects” are underway, citing an increase in the size of hardware store buying transactions, adding that these upgrades could include floor plans of expanded offices or “create more divided areas for videoconferencing”.

Home office spending trends

When switching to remote work, employees had to design functional home workspaces with varying degrees of success. As these temporary workspaces at least became short-term solutions, some companies provided allowances to help employees decorate their home workspaces. Part of the TripActions report highlights the evolution of the company’s home office expenses. Overall, telecommunications services, telecommunications equipment and furniture all experienced sharp declines in the second quarter.

“Miscellaneous expenses declined in the second quarter, as did smaller one-off transactions for furniture, which may reflect personal office equipment rather than a business purchase,” Sindicich said.

The data appears to show “seemingly higher cost office furniture purchases,” Sindicich explained, indicating that companies “are buying new furniture rather than continuing to cover FMH equipment, which most employees bought last year “.

Team outings make a “comeback” for COVID-19

In the past, companies have used employee outings as team building opportunities. Amid a modern plague and social distancing guidelines, companies have taken a creative approach to outdoor activities, based on the findings of TripActions.

In the second quarter, spending on recreational services, which the publication says includes miniature golf and table tennis, increased 107% and spending on movie theaters and “drinking places” increased by 89% respectively. and 75%. Amusement park spending rose 1.178% in the second quarter, a figure that Sindicich said made sense given that “the vast majority of parks remained closed” in the first quarter.

“It’s clear that the employees craved face-to-face and activity-based facetime,” Sindicich said. “Mini-golf appears to be a prominent team bonding activity, with group bike rentals and ax throwing also of note.”

Additionally, Sindicich said sporting event tickets, an expense he described as a “joint business purchase before the pandemic,” declined in the first quarter but started making a “comeback” in the second. quarter “as more fields and stadiums reopen”. Apart from earnings and returns, these expenses could change in the coming months. As temperatures drop, Sindicich predicts that snow sports or indoor activities will replace activities such as golf, “with proof of vaccination requirements and on-site testing.

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