1 THE BACKGROUND
Oil Spill Response Limited is an international industry-funded cooperative which responds to oil spills around the world. It has 12 global locations employing around 270 people – with 150 travelling regularly throughout the pandemic.
Since June, its emergency response teams have been assisting with a major environmental disaster in Sri Lanka after a container ship caught fire off Colombo’s port.
Alongside its emergency response teams, other 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.
2 THE CHALLENGE
With the company’s work deemed essential, some employees have continued to travel, even at the peak of the pandemic. Travel bookers have had to navigate complex and fastchanging border requirements, which are different for vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers, and also 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 the company’s Alice Linley-Munro. “We’ve been rushed off our feet and 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.
3 THE PROCESS
Within weeks of the coronavirus emerging, the company began putting together a 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. Travelling employees have also posted blogs about their journeys on the group’s intranet, sharing their personal experiences and tips, often in a light-hearted way. These posts have led to online conversations, creating a sense of community and alleviating concerns. “We have our documents and checklists but this is people living the documents, which really helps. It’s nice to see it taking shape.”
4 THE RESULT
“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 adjusting measures along the way,” says Linley-Munro. For example, employees who have had to isolate – either at home or in hotels – are now sent hampers with their favourite snacks and magazines, along with all the necessary IT equipment. “We’ve arranged the delivery of toasters, an afternoon tea, car magazines.” HR teams send fortnightly wellbeing questionnaires asking employees to score 1/10 on how they’re feeling. “It helps us to spot patterns,” says Linley-Munro. “We’ve learnt things from the first wave of travellers and we’ve updated the procedures in place.” There hasn’t been a lot of nervousness among our travellers, or their loved ones, because we’ve been so thorough in our procedures in place.”