Covid-19 has undeniably changed the way we live, work and communicate. For sales, field service and field application employees, travel restrictions have given an insight into a new way of working. As a result, we are seeing an increasing trend of people in these positions looking for a better balance of travel, office and home working, but is this something companies are willing to offer?

I recently surveyed my LinkedIn network and 64% said their company planned to reduce travel requirements whilst 36% planned to keep them the same. Whilst territory size differs from company-to-company, travel has always been a standard part of the role and as much as some individuals are looking for travel to be reduced, equally many love that part of the job – it is part of the reason they chose to do the role in the first place! So, should travel be reduced, how are companies planning to facilitate this and will this have an impact on candidate attraction and retention?

Remote working is only partly here to stay

Some customers have been reluctant to have site visits in the past 18 months and have enjoyed the quick response times afforded by video communication. According to Dr. Juri Kazakevych, Customer Support and Inside Sales specialist at Diagenode, “while face-to-face communication remains appreciated, most customers are very happy about the fast remote response via video call and I expect it to remain a major, if not the predominant way of communication after the pandemic, as well. National and international travel will increase again; however I do not expect it to get anywhere close to pre-Covid 19 levels. The remote communication channels proved strong and are soundly established now.” I also spoke to a sales professional based in Germany who works for a leading international bioprocess company who said, “Sometimes body language is missed in video calls. I definitely see a need for face-to-face meetings in many cases, but there is no sweeping conclusion about what customers would prefer. The new normal will be more online calls and meetings.” An Application Specialist based in Germany who works for a leading US flow cytometry company added, “spending time on site is very important for interacting with customers and understanding their needs better – so the balance between remote and onsite will be the best way.” Utilising a combination of remote and in-person support should also enable a reduction in travel requirements for those looking for that in their next role, whilst ensuring customers remain sufficiently supported.

Companies have the tools and setup needed to reduce travel and are using them!

For the 64% planning to reduce travel requirements, many have the tools in place already to facilitate this. Utilsing video calling software is one of the main ways companies plan to reduce travel in the long term. Dr. Juri Kazakevych said, “I greatly reduced my national and international trips last year and will keep this at a comparatively low level in the future as well. To compensate for this, I expanded customer support through video calls, which was received very positively. The advantages are obvious: time savings, cost savings, reduced CO2 footprint, higher flexibility and faster response times.” I spoke to an Application Specialist in Germany who said his company plans to reduce travel through “remote access to customer instruments to identify issues and offering more customer remote support with software like Bomgar, Help Lightning, MS Teams and Team Viewer. We also plan on reducing onsite business meetings… Although IT restrictions from both sides are sometimes ‘insurmountable’, webinars and remote training will continue and increase. The biggest challenges we face are IT restrictions and customers who are not used to remote services. Personal visits, of course, give the chance to interact, which is harder remotely, but I try to overcome these problems by setting up small meetings.” This company in particular has also invested in 3D software to be able to demonstrate their products remotely.

Creating a combination of remote and in-person work may help employee attraction and retention

Reducing the extensive travel for some roles and instead combining this with remote support may have a positive impact on attracting new people to sales and field-based roles. Companies who adapt and are willing to facilitate more remote working may also find they are better able to retain existing employees. An Application Specialist based in Germany who works for a leading US flow cytometry company said, “I think these changes will have a positive impact on attracting application specialists because the traffic associated with travel is stressful and the time onsite is limited due to that travel time.” Many feel some element of travel is really important to keep especially for new people joining the industry. A sales professional based in Germany who works for a leading international bioprocess company said, “I definitely miss travelling and I think the pandemic has shown a limit of how much home office is healthy and for many this limit is much lower than one could expect. I hope that junior sales professionals will travel. A very important feature of selling is empathy, which can only be practiced in face-to-face meetings.”

Salaries for sales and field-based roles are often higher to compensate for the extra time travelling as well as the inconvenience being away from home may cause to  social lives. I recently surveyed my LinkedIn network to get their perspective on if they would take a pay cut to reduce travel requirements and a massive 63% said no, 24% said it would depend on the pay cut and 12% said yes. The bigger question is should people be expected to be paid less if travel is reduced in their role? Some would argue that this part of the salary is to compensate for travel, however others argue that if you can do your job just as well remotely you should receive the same income and many companies will benefit financially from the reduction in travel too! Whilst I think each company will take their own approach to this, if you want to attract and retain the best talent and if your employees can do their job remotely with the same job performance and customer satisfaction, salaries should not be reduced.


In conclusion, we are seeing an increase in job searchers looking for a reduction in travel and equally, we are seeing more companies looking to accommodate this as well. Many of the tools and setups put in place during the pandemic are equally well placed to support this in the long term. For those who love the travel element, there are still plenty of opportunities out there. Whilst we have seen there is a place for remote support and sales, there is equally very much still a place for face-to-face interaction, and I don’t think that will ever go away!