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Mars cuts travel by half as company demands trips have purpose, rather than presence

Mars is planning to cut corporate travel by half and book 145,000 fewer flights each year in one of the clearest signals yet from a big company about how they plan to change business trips after the pandemic.

The world’s largest confectioner and one of America’s biggest privately owned businesses has said it will tell staff to get on a plane for “purpose, rather than presence”.

Nici Bush, vice-president for workplace transformation at Mars, also said that the company wanted to rethink the “obsolete” approach to fixed office hours because the pandemic has led to “myth-busting” about productivity.

Mars employs 135,000 people globally, almost a quarter of whom are office-based. In the UK, Mars has 4,000 staff, including 1,900 in office-based roles.

The Virginia-based company is owned by its eponymous founding family and can trace its roots back over a century. It is behind dozens of leading confectionery brands, including Twix, Maltesers, and Wrigley’s chewing gum. It is also one of the world’s largest pet food manufacturers.

Mars employees will be “guided” to spend half their week at the office under a new hybrid strategy, Bush said. However, Mars will also reconsider “not just where people work, but how and when they work as well” and will encourage staff to conduct “focused work” at times that suit them.

“The idea of a rigid set of hours where people work, I think is stuff to become obsolete,” Bush said.

“Through the pandemic there’s been a lot of myth-busting for me as an associate but also as a person around what I can do and how I’m most productive. If you’re really sharp at 8am through 10am and you want to get your focus work done then, someone else is really sharp at 8pm through 10pm.”

Mars interviewed a thousand staff as it drew up its plan, said Bush, a company veteran who joined in Britain 29 years ago before relocating to the US.

Mars estimates that its plans for business travel will trim the company’s air miles by 144 million each year compared with 2019.

Businesses across the world are grappling with decisions over how staff who previously spent most of their time in the office could and should operate in the future. In blog published on the BT website today, Alison Wilcox, the group HR director, said the telecoms company sees “our shared workplaces as very much central to the company’s future” but also that it recognises there is “no one-size-fits-all answer on the future of work”.

She added: “We’re not prescribing a set number of days or a minimum requirement for people to be in an office or work from home. We’re empowering our teams to ensure that customers are at the centre of their decisions.”

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