COVID-19 Roundtable Recap: Managing the Return

April 27, 2020

COVID-19 Roundtable Discussion

Thank you to the members who participated in this Virtual Roundtable Discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic. Members joined the roundtable from BASF, American Express, GSK, Prudential Financial, ENI, BP, Liberty Mutual, Colfax, KION, and RELX.

The recap below is from a call at 9:00am EDT on April 21. Some approaches discussed may have since changed. Marissa Schriefer, Senior Network Director of GTIN and GHRLN started the call off by sharing some learnings from the last APAC call on April 15. Members expressed that social distancing has been very challenging for them because of work environments, especially factories and call centers that are not equipped for the required distance between people. This has caused them to look at what worked effectively with remote work and what will need to need to go back to pre-COVID times. As an example, do call centers need to return or can the work continue to be done remotely?


  •  Hero/Hazard Pay: Most members shared that they are not providing special bonuses for employees required to be on-site. One member, however, shared that they are in the early stages of instituting “hero pay.” They plan to installl it at a lower level (below vice president) and are evaluating how frequently someone is in the office over a 2-month period to determine who is eligible for a bonus at the end of May.
  • Non-monetary recognition: A member who works for an organization that supplies hospitals and doctors shared that they give out a Gold Recognition Award to essential workers on site that ensure their supply of medication get to patients despite the lockdown. The award is held in high regard among employees and has significant cultural impact.

Returning to Work

  • Health and Safety Measures: Members are looking into what measures their organizations should take to ensure the health and safety of their employees in their return to the workplace. Questions remain on how quickly they should phase back, how often they will need to sanitize surfaces, how to maintain the social distancing protocols, if they should require employees to wear masks and get temperature checks, etc. Most members are looking to learn from their Asian locations and take a conservative approach. A member based in Milan shared that they are preparing to be back to work on May 4. They are still enacting social distancing measures in relation to the office space, elevator capacity, entrances and exits, conference rooms, and making sure all cooks in the cafeteria are completely covered when making and serving food. They are also making it mandatory to wear masks and get temperature checks. They plan on having 10-20% of the population in the office in the next 2-3 weeks and will make announcements and share information with the broader population gradually. Another member shared that they are looking to implement test stations and temperature checks in their offices. During the last APAC call (April 15), a member shared that in Singapore, they require masks and temperature checks for everyone at work and travel declarations are now mandatory company-wide. They also require employees working at home to check their temperatures and log them in.
  • Managing the Return: Members expressed that they are looking into how to manage employees who either do not want to come back to the office or cannot return due to childcare, underlying health conditions, or other justifiable reasons. A member shared that they are allowing their people to make their own decisions regarding their return at first but will encourage them to come back after a month if they have not yet.
  • Phased Approach: Most members are looking at integrating a phased approach and planning for best- and worst-case scenarios. A member shared that their planning is guided by advice from medical professionals based on office locations and will stagger their re-openings building by building. Another member shared that they are looking day to day on demand planning, shutdown, and illnesses. They have implemented short time work in Germany and the Netherlands and monitor this week by week. They are also looking into how much staff they need on location to return to operations, while also projecting demand.


  • Encourage Time Off: Several members expressed that they have a high percentage of unused vacation time for 2020 thus far. Some are encouraging employees to take time off, even if they are at home. One member shared that they are encouraging people to use their vacation for mental health purposes now—hoping to avoid a rush of vacation once social distancing measures have been lifted
  • PTO buybacks: One member shared that they are not entertaining buying backs. Another company is experimenting with carrying time over into 2021 in some European countries. A third said they are working with Works Councils on establishing programs that allow employees to give PTO to co-workers or “donate” the time to charities.

Feedback and Follow-up:

Topics where members agreed more insight and additional capabilities are needed:

  • Managing the government support globally—tracking information that differs by country
  • Operating assets without enough people to run them—handling and paying people with allowances to handle assets with a decline in business
  • Managing the return back to work and instilling to necessary guidelines
  • Planning and expectations for the end of the furlough window
  • Encouraging people to manage vacation time for 2020 while at home
  • Redeploying and repurposing sales teams

Thank You:

Thank you to all who participated for your energy and enthusiasm! We will have more of these Virtual Roundtable Discussions to continue the conversation and send out surveys and resources on specific topics concerning COVID-19.

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

COVID-19 Roundtable Recap: Managing the Return

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