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How to revise your travel risk policy during unprecedented times

CWT

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all organizations to take a closer look at their travel risk policies. Protecting the health and safety of their travelers highlights the increasing importance of having a Duty of Care plan. Here are a few topics to consider when creating or revising your travel risk policies.

 

Vaccines

It is probable that there will not be a single Covid-19 vaccine winner, although recent trials have been extremely positive. Additionally, there will probably be insufficient supply, at least initially, of a single vaccine. However, collaboration and standardized approaches for assessing different efficacy endpoints will be important to allow meaningful comparison and ensure that the most effective candidates are deployed.

There are still many questions around a vaccine, which cannot be answered yet:

  1. What is the long-term baseline antibody test going to be?
  2. How long-lived will that be?
  3. How much antibody will you need to be protected from reinfection?
  4. How much antibody do you need to be protected from disease?


These are important questions, and we need to answer them with appropriate studies. Importantly, specific antibody tests that indicate protection (correlates of protection) have been established for influenza, measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B etc.

Travel managers will continue to have a Duty of Care to fully understand the risks inherent in the destination of their travelers, and to fully educate and prepare them to mitigate the risks associated with Covid-19.

Mental Health

A major side effect of the pandemic is a rise in mental health issues and challenges:

  • Increased workplace stress related to: working from home, work/life balance, fear of being laid off, loss of control over how work is done, fear of or getting infected with Covid-19.
  • Increase in substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

All of this increases with travel - add in usual components like jet lag, time zone changes, loss of support structure, increased stimuli, change in sleep and diet, alcohol, and exercise, etc.

Anxiety and depression are the two main symptoms of stress and they are exacerbated when employees travel for work. In fact, their likelihood can increase by 54% and 62% respectively (from base line) after 14 nights are spent traveling for business.

De-mystifying mental health issues and bringing them to the forefront of discussions inside and outside of the workplace is a fundamental step in addressing this epidemic. Organizations must build a culture of health for their employees, including mental health. Companies must destigmatize mental health issues to allow employees to feel safe and comfortable to come forward and ask for help.

Take care of your employees:

  • Provide psychological support for anxiety and depression. Provide resources to support (telephone, FaceTime, Skype, etc.).
  • Make sure everyone is aware of resources.
  • Have resources available 24/7.

Preparing for more ‘waves’

In many countries globally, we are seeing second waves, and realize there may be more following as responding to this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.

A few things employers can do to prepare for this:

  • Fully understand the travel destinations and their protocols for Covid-19.
  • Need to anticipate increase in cases, shut-downs of transport, lockdowns within cities.
  • Companies should be prepared and have a plan in place.
  • Prepare travelers to stay much longer than they initially plan—have ample medications, housing, food and supplies for an extended stay.
  •  If you will want to leave, then do so ASAP, while flights remain available

In closing, organizations must have constant access to reliable information and a means to get this intelligence to travelers before, during, and even after the trip. They need to be nimble to respond to a rapidly changing environment. It is necessary to be prepared to respond to significant changes if a situation arises, this includes changes in disease levels, health infrastructure, lockdowns, stay at home orders, public transport, regulations regarding social distancing and masks.

Written by: Dr William Hauptman, Medical Director Assistance, Americas, International SOS

 

Have a plan, and expect the unexpected

Listen to Dr. William Hauptman talk in depth around many of these topics in CWT’s webinar Managing Travel Risk During Unprecedented Times.

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