Uncertainty as Some Begin Traveling Again

July 9, 2020

COVID-19 Roundtable Discussions

This summary covers a recent iteration of Executive Networks’ COVID-19 virtual roundtable series. Thank you to the members who participated. This document summarizes a call from July 2nd. Some approaches may have since changed.

Uncertainty as Some Begin Traveling Again

  • Paying those who must quarantine: A member noted that some of his company’s employees have begun traveling to (or through) high-risk destinations on their personal time. Some of those have been exposed to COVID-19 and must quarantine upon their return. The company is still paying all employees who must quarantine, even if they cannot work from home, but is considering modifying the policy to exclude those who put themselves at heightened risk through personal travel. Two others on the call have seen similar challenges at their companies, but neither has restricted quarantine pay. “It’s not so simple,” one member explained. “For instance, I traveled to South Carolina on PTO a few weeks ago. It was low risk when I arrived, but had been changed to high risk by the time that I left.”
  • Still chartering flights: While commercial air traffic has recovered some from its nadir this Spring, most companies are continuing to avoid air travel as much as possible. One member shared that his company is continuing to use charter and company aircraft to deliver and extract essential workers from field locations in pandemic hotspots. “There is a 14-day quarantine upon landing,” he said. “This is the only way we can manage our supervision in some countries. No commercial flights—we’re flying in and out on our own.”

Apps and Tracking Software

  • Location tracking: Several member companies are employing location-tracking apps and software to monitor when employees are in high risk areas. One member said his company is using a third-party app called “Life Save,” which he described as “basically a location tracker.” Another company implemented a wristband tracking solution (Ottogee) to help social distancing and contact tracing efforts in two specific U.S. sites where community spread remains prevalent. Two European-based members said they had not followed suit because of privacy laws and employee concerns.
  • Site management apps: Requiring employees to pre-register before returning to an office site is a common practice, with some using in-house apps for this purpose. One member described the process he and his colleagues follow: “You log on and if we’ve hit capacity in the office for that day, the app will tell you there are no more passes available. For any day you can request a full day or half day pass.”

Some Changes to Performance Reviews

  • Less rigorous, given the circumstances: While most companies on the call are sticking to their general performance management framework, many have dialed back some of the requirements. One member reported that his company is keeping its year-end performance review, but dropped its midyear. Another said her company delayed the start of its normal performance review to get past a force reduction. As one member summed it up, “We do not want to demotivate. We’re trying to find the balancing act of recognizing performance and maintaining the costs to the business. It is a really difficult struggle.”
  • Positive gains from flexibility and peer recognition programs: One member in a less-impacted industry said his company has long emphasized flexible goal setting in its performance management process, and is now coming up with measures to ensure field sales staff can still earn some of their variable pay. Additionally, as the pandemic closed offices, the company was able to launch a global recognition campaign within days. “We would not have been able to it that way previously,” he explained. “We used to have localized recognition. We were able to design, budget, approve and launch within a week or so. We ran it for 8 weeks and got through 50% of the budget we had set aside for it. It has been working exceptionally well.”

Encouraging Paid Time Off Use

  • Modeling behavior: The majority of those on the call are encouraging employees to take PTO as they work from home, with leaders and managers being asked to loudly demonstrate that behavior. As one member put it, “We’re telling our managers to really encourage and monitor vacation use—just like they would normally insist people take their lunch breaks.”
  • Unique approaches: A few member companies are going further to reduce the number of PTO days their employees currently have on the books. Some have capped accruals. Two have established mandated PTO days around future holiday periods. One member company offered a “free extra day” in June for employees who took at least two PTO days. Another suspended all internal meetings on its ongoing transformation for two specific summer weeks to encourage PTO use. “We think people were worried about missing key meetings at an important time, so we suspended the meetings,” she explained.

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Uncertainty as Some Begin Traveling Again

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