In the first part of our series on the new reality of expense management, we looked at eight ways companies can adapt to the new financial landscape COVID-19 left us with, including updating T&E policies to reflect remote and hybrid workers, paying more attention to duty of care, and preparing for less frequent, yet more strategic business trips.

In 2021, workplace expectations are shifting on both sides of the table. On one hand, businesses are looking for new ways to decrease operating expenses, increase operational efficiencies, and better manage T&E for traveling and remote workers. On the other hand, employees now expect more work-from-home days,the ability to work from anywhere and the technology to support them in doing so

With all this in mind, is now the right time to revisit your T&E management solution? Here are five trends to pay attention to:

Global workplaces are decentralizing

During the pandemic, many businesses began adopting unprecedented work-from-home policies because they had no other choice. Some enterprises, like Salesforce, even permanently switched to remote work.

In other words, what many of us first considered a temporary work-from-home model is fast becoming the expected norm for most workers. This isn’t too surprising. The benefits of remote work (time and money saved on commutes, more time with family, etc.) are hard to deny.

In 2018, just 3.6% of U.S. employees worked from home. Today it's estimated that 25–30% of the American workforce will be working remotely at least a few days a week by the end of 2021. 

Yet according to Emburse's 2021 Travel & Expense Management Report, over one-third (36%) of organizations surveyed are still using some form of manual expense reporting system. 

In this brave new hybrid work environment, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for companies to continue relying on outdated, paper-driven workflows and manual processes for expense management.

Virtual cards and online payments are increasingly popular

While businesses have traditionally issued physical credit cards to traveling employees, virtual and digital cards are beginning to replace plastic. Virtual cards are a great alternative because:

  • They can be issued/cancelled on-demand with configurable controls, including spending limits and acceptable merchants.
  • They're extremely secure, offer better transparency than plastic cards, and minimize fraud.
  • Spend can be tracked and analyzed in real-time to ensure compliance.
  • They eliminate the need for manual reconciliation intervention.

The precision and flexibility that virtual cards offer makes them an attractive replacement for physical cards and provide greater T&E management control, especially for companies with lots of business travelers.

"Corporate nomads” and freelancers are much more common

While not as popular as it is today, work-from-home was a thing way before the coronavirus forced everyone try it out. At tech companies, some employees have been working remotely since the early 2000s.

But in our pandemic-driven world, “work-from-home” has already evolved into “work-from-anywhere.” Many remote workers are becoming "corporate nomads" who prefer to work wherever they find themselves. This type of freedom can’t easily be rescinded.

What does this mean for business leaders? Transparency and spend control are critical to proper T&E management. Without a centralized, cloud-based system with a high degree of visibility, employers have few (if any) ways to accurately keep tabs on personal vs. company transactions.

By centralizing payments with a virtual, no-contact system, finance leaders can not only meet employees where they are, but appeal to their payment preferences.

T&E managers have to stay ahead of the curve

With the rise of new COVID-19 variants, businesses around the world are becoming concerned about costs all over again. But while the short-term future of business travel remains uncertain, that doesn’t change the fact that remote work is certainly here to stay.

That’s why businesses that haven’t already done so should consider transitioning to an integrated T&E management solution while business travel remains below pre-pandemic levels. Upgrading your current systems can help improve business outcomes in three critical ways:

Better compliance controls: An integrated, cloud-based T&E management solution gives you complete control over permissions, privileges, and payment policies. Set parameters on activation dates and merchant category codes and reduce fraud with robust spend controls and customizable system alerts.

Accurate, real-time data: Gather spending insights 24/7 across myriad metrics, such as region, category, and supplier. Access and analyze real-time data that your organization can use to make more informed decisions that increase operational efficiencies and reduce operating costs.

Optimized, automated workflows: One of the most compelling features of a modern T&E management solution is process automation. Capture receipts at the moment of each and every transaction and automatically reconcile expenses. Let your finance teams set business rules with workflow approvals that are automatically routed to managers. Automate expense reconciliation and reporting and save countless hours while doing so.

Learn more in Part 3 of this series, where we’ll go over five questions you can ask your Finance  and T&E teams to see if things are working the way they should.


Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic. Ben Zastrow Zelle