Overnight stays and air travel are normal things for Field Service, but with the new normal how do we make our technicians comfortable with hitting the road again?
This is a very interesting question. Speaking from a European point of view, where in some countries the pandemic started earlier and we are in some countries now on our way to very low new cases: Some people are starting to fly on vacation inside Europe. There are some smaller conferences and events relaunching. Thinking about your question my impression is, that there are 4 things that need to come together to get buy in to travel: 1) the company need in general show strong health management and a good plan for your own offices. This gives confidence on employers side. 2) The destination need to be seriously safe, and also show the same rigour in health rules. 3) The employee must see that there is a need for the trip. 4) keep the flights as short as possible.
As mentioned in my introduction: I can see this behavious looking to tourists in Europe and also to smaller events starting again. Short travel seems to be key. Nobody wants to be too long in a plane at the moment. Strict rules around health also seem to play a role, and the reputation of the destination.
I suspect that the only way to do this is with clear protocols that are rigorously adhered to. I would suggest that the protocols be designed by a trusted third party. This third party would need to have expertise in epidemiology, public health and risk management. I don't know who this would be but there must be organizations that provide this service.
There are likely to be additional costs incurred in travelling and working safely, so the company will need to cover these as well.
Our air travel is for absolute essential customer activity only. Any requests for onsite support are vetted with the local team and the customer for employee (and customer) safety. Topics discussed are: technical problem severity/impact, facility cleanliness, customer employee health, and requirments to enter the customer premises. All of our Field Engineers are provided with PPE supplies or reimbursed for the cost of PPE supplies. Overnight stays are only permitted with reputable hotels (ex. Marriott) and inquiries are made to ensure health standards and guidelines are followed prior to making a reservation. Upon arrival if any employee feels guidelines are not followed, it will be reported to the hotel, our travel group, and the employee is free to source another hotel.
Right now, most Enterprise customers still have a WFH policy, so requests for face-to-face meetings are very few.
We've set a global policy for no in-person events or business travel through the end of the year. In addition, employees have the option to work remotely through June 2021. Any required and critical customer travel, such as for a technical integration that is unable to be done remotely, is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by HR and the managing director and is done only if the employees are able to accept the request based on local guidance and their own personal comfort with doing so.