405.627.6326 matt@whyhr.guru

Many companies send employees to work-related conferences. Whether it be with the hopes of networking and building clientele or learning at a purely educational conference, managers need to approach these travel plans with eyes wide open.

Though conferences and travel can be mutually beneficial for the employer and the employee, travel puts employees in a unique position of representing the company both on and off the clock. At the same time, those employees are away from home and the daily responsibilities of life. Many events include social hours, dinners out with clients, and plenty of time for drinking and potential bad behavior. Even the most responsible, best-performing employees may act differently when off duty and away from home.

Misconduct could include harassment or hostility in the presence of or directed toward colleagues, clients, competitors, or hotel and event staff. Any of these behaviors reflect poorly on the company and can result in loss of business, a lawsuit, or having to take disciplinary action or even terminate your best employees.

Managers need to address these issues head on and in advance by setting expectations for all employees who are traveling for work. The goal is to send your best employees to the conference and get them back without having to worry about potential consequences of bad behavior. There are two key points to cover in addressing the situation.

The first key should already be in place: a written policy. A code of conduct should already exist in the employee handbook. Much of a general code of conduct will apply during a conference; however, it may be necessary to add some explicit language surrounding travel for work. Specifically, you may need to add verbiage that off-the-clock travel time still counts as part of representing the company and that the company code of conduct still applies. Given the nature of events that include drinking, some clear-cut rules may need to be added as well.

With a written policy in place, it’s then time to have a conversation with employees who will be traveling. Impress upon them that the entirety of their time spent at the conference, after hours included, represents the company. Misconduct during that time will be handled accordingly and can result in disciplinary action or termination, depending on the severity.

In most cases, a conversation setting expectations and pointing the employee to the code of conduct will be sufficient to remind the employee that even off-the-clock time at a conference still reflects on the company. Conference travel is different than when you are off duty and at home, where you are truly on your personal time. By setting those expectations in advance, you can help avoid many issues and have a clear path of consequences if an issue does arise.

As you send employees off to conferences or other travel opportunities, it’s important to understand the potential pitfalls. Don’t be naive in thinking that all your employees will be on their best behavior the entire time. Instead, take the time to have conversation to remind them that they still represent the company, despite being out of town and off the clock.

If you need help developing policies or setting expectations with employees, reach out to the WhyHR team for support.

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