At the moment, travel feels like a thing of the past. Most countries are currently experiencing a countrywide lockdown, with borders being closed, and most air traffic grounded. This does not mean that business and personal travel is impossible, but it does mean that regulations surrounding travel will continue to evolve, and travel will need more careful planning. In some countries, citizens must wear masks for simply walking to the grocery store, or self-quarantine for 14 days if they have to travel domestically for work. Travel risk management is no longer only concerned with the risk level of a country that an employee is visiting when it comes to political instability or crime, but rather the risk level itself of simply sitting in an airplane, and contracting COVID-19. Slowly, but surely travel will resume. Here are three key considerations for any travel risk management plan:
While working from home has now become the norm, there was a time not so long ago that employees would fly across the country and to foreign nations for business meetings, conferences, and site visits. When restrictions begin to lessen, and air travel becomes an option again, travel risk management plans will truly have to weigh the perceived benefits of in-person meetings and the risk of contracting COVID-19 along the way, versus the benefits of staying in-country and meeting virtually. It will be essential for certain employees to travel abroad, especially if a company has production lines that need to be inspected. However, it will be much more cost-effective and safer to send one or two employees rather than a whole team the way it was once done in the past.
Each employee that goes abroad will likely have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival home. The work-from-home model has shown that productivity levels and targets can still be met. This means that the 14-day self-quarantine can still have an employee participating in meetings, and completing tasks.
It may be some time before travel for vacations becomes normal again, but your employees may still need to engage in personal travel to tend to family matters. Travel risk management plans must also account for the employees who travel for personal reasons. Companies may require employees to submit a travel itinerary ahead of time. Those workers who must work on-site may have to enter self-quarantine for a 14-day period of time upon returning. Businesses, if they have not done so already, will likely need to adopt a mixed work model, in which working from home is encouraged where possible until a vaccine is produced.
Clearance and Surveillance
At present, there are certain countries that are experiencing higher incidence levels of COVID-19 than others. When it comes to providing travel clearance for employees who must travel for work, travel risk plans should assess each country’s capacity for COVID-19 treatment, as this could have direct consequences for an employee who contracts the virus while abroad. Travel clearance must be provided after a risk assessment has been done. For those returning from abroad, health surveillance must be performed to ensure that COVID-19 is not spread. This is especially true for employees who have had to take personal trips as well.
As companies assess what the new normal is, travel should only take place when it is deemed essential, and where countries have shown that they have the capacity to provide care should employees become ill. Self-quarantine procedures should be in place for all employees returning from travel, and that includes domestic travel. Right now, keeping your workforce safe and healthy is the most important thing.
For more information on helping your company navigate the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.