August 4, 2021

How to… instil travel confidence

Knowing that much of its workforce would need to carry on travelling in the pandemic, Southampton-based Oil Spill Response Limited had to act quickly to make sure it had the right measures in place to instil confidence among its travelling employees and, crucially, among their loved ones back home.


Oil Spill Response Limited is an international industry-funded cooperative which responds to oil spills around the world. It has 12 global locations and employs around 270 people, 150 travelling regularly.

Alongside its emergency response teams, some employees travel regularly to undertake essential equipment maintenance. Although the company already had effective procedures in place to protect traveller safety, the outbreak of Covid-19 meant it had to add a whole new layer of support and reassurance.


The company’s work is deemed essential, so some employees have continued to travel, even at the peak of the pandemic. This has meant its travel organisers having to navigate complex and fast-changing border requirements, plus deal with air and hotel capacity constraints. “We’re nowhere near the previous levels of travel but as a travel manager it feels like more because it’s now so complicated,” said Travel Manager Alice Linley-Munro. “I only breathe out when travellers return home.” The company prides itself on supporting the mental wellbeing of its people and recognised that concerns over Covid-19 made this even more vital, particularly for those still travelling.


Within weeks of the coronavirus emerging, the company began putting together a comprehensive document, called the Human Factor, designed to allay as many fears as possible for its travellers. “It covers off everything,” explains Linley-Munro.  “It’s a 12-page document which runs through all the different scenarios, such as ‘what if I have to quarantine?’, ‘what if I catch Covid while I’m away?’ or ‘what if one of my family members catches it?’.

It’s a comprehensive checklist, down to tiniest of details. We wanted to cover off anything our people could potentially worry about.” Crucially, the company also distributed a leaflet for the families of travelling employees. “We made sure the leaflet was written in layman’s terms, with no jargon, explaining how we were going to keep our people safe at every step of the journey,” says Linley-Munro. Fridge magnets were sent to employees providing QR codes for essential Covid-related information and guidance. Meanwhile, HR teams sent online questionnaires asking employees to disclose whether they, or anyone close to them, was vulnerable. “Although confidentiality means these reports don’t tell us why, I can see if a person is categorised as vulnerable. This means that if there is an incident, they will not be sent in the first wave of responders,” says Linley-Munro.  


“There hasn’t been a lot of nervousness among our travellers, or their loved ones, because we’ve been so thorough in our procedures, constantly checking everything, and we’ve adjusted measures along the way,” says Linley-Munro.

For example, the company now looks to source hotel rooms with outside space, such as a balcony, in case travellers have to quarantine. Reliable WiFi access is also regarded vital, so anyone in self-isolation can keep in touch with those back home. “We’ve learnt things from the first lot of travellers and now have updated procedures in place. We’ve also realised how much we can do remotely, rather than getting on a plane.”