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PESA HR Townhall Discusses a Safe Return to Work

PESA’s HR Committee discussed the implications of the country moving towards ending quarantines and the strategies of OFS companies moving forward. PESA Advisory Board Member Bonnie Houston, Chief Administrative Officer, NOV, facilitated the town hall and began the meeting with a review of feedback from major companies on how they’re bringing their workforces back into the office.

Most companies returning to work were going along with local and state regulations based largely on Texas governor Abbott’s orders. Others are taking a slower approach because they see no need to rush back into the office. Most companies are using staggered approaches and rotations as well as maximum occupancy guidelines. Companies are also circulating internal guidelines for returning workers.

Internal Communications

Companies are at different points in the process of communicating reopening plans with their workforce. Half either had a communique in place for employees getting back into the office or were in the process of preparing one. The other half had not yet developed a formal communication for varying reasons.

Those who logged into the webinar were shown a sample memo used to welcome employees back into the office. Some companies said they used welcome back communications to provide sanitation and mitigation expectations. NOV had a tiered approach targeting the communication to the company statewide, tailored messages for managers, and then other messages for specific buildings and work sites. Companies said they were using apps they already had in place to provide alerts and updates directly to worker cell phones.

Testing and Temperatures

Representatives from all companies reported experiencing no problems obtaining the supplies and testing needed for their workforce. Few companies felt they needed wide scale testing but acknowledged testing may become a broader customer requirement in the future. Some companies have offshore locations that require testing to get onto the platform. All companies had varying protective measures in place for returning to the office.

Companies implemented procedures to check temperatures before employees entered facilities but had some difficulty maintaining social distancing when using forehead thermometers. One company is using thermal scans and have established a guideline of just three feet of social distancing when both parties are wearing masks. This company, which had those administering the tests in protective gowns, masks and gloves, also reported receiving positive feedback for the streamlined effect.

All companies are requiring masks in common areas, as well as in cases when social distancing is not possible. To avoid pushback, companies were advised to use the term “expected” rather than “required” in their guidelines for employees.

Summer Vacation

The group discussed issues around personal travel for summer vacations. Most companies communicated to employees at the beginning of the pandemic what coronavirus-related expenses they would cover financially and what they would not. If employees decide to travel for personal reasons and must self-quarantine upon return, the company will not pay for the quarantine period, but will consider remote work options on a case-by-case basis. Companies have communicated to their workforce the need to incorporate a quarantine period into any personal travel.

Remote working vs. Returning to work

Most facets of working have become remote and results are positive. The success has changed perceptions of remote working, and all companies are working on formalizing an actual remote working policy.

“If we want to remain competitive in any market, we have to stay current with the ability to work remotely,” said one company representative.

“Being forced into this situation has made people more resilient and agile in how they work,” said another.

Participants on the call said remote working has had a surprisingly positive impact on the industry’s culture. Colleagues are relating and connecting in a new way now that video conferences allow everyone to see people’s homes, pets, children and personal lives. Some companies have implemented fun activities to develop this new more personal culture and are looking at ways to keep the “all-in-this-together” sentiment moving forward. Companies also reported seeing an improvement in processes and financial gains due to reducing logistical issues and streamlining and automating various procedures.

The group discussed how to handle employees with special circumstances or who were fearful of a return to the office. Most companies would handle these situations on a case-by-case basis but expressed uncertainty about what route they would take and how they would address these employees.

Internal learning and development efforts have mostly been moved online. One company is looking to implement infectious disease training to bolster learning while addressing COVID-19 concerns.

PESA will continue to hold town halls and compile the various individual, local, state and federal resources for these HR discussions. For more information, contact Director Membership Services Carolynn Henriquez.

 

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