When the pandemic first hit a year ago, very few people expected that the travel bans that were put in place would still be active one year later. It was justifiable to ask employees forego travel during the lockdown until things were under control, which most thought would be a few months. But here we are, one year later, and it is much more difficult to ask employees continue to forego travel when doing so might carry the same amount of risk of other activities that are not banned.
Employee travel situations present HR professionals with questions about how risky was the travel and whether the employee is increasing the risk of exposure within your facility. When trying to determine how to create policies and manage this issue, consider an important idea that underlies it – that HR professionals are being asked to take on issues that are the purview of doctors and scientists. Maybe someone, somewhere, is an HR professional that is also a doctor or epidemiologist, but other than that unique person, HR professionals should stop taking on problems that are outside of our abilities or expertise. The possible consequences of making an uninformed decision without proper support may be significant, and the stress that this adds for HR professionals is substantial.
Employees who do not travel can easily be equally or more risky in their exposure to the virus than those who do travel. HR is not in a position to make case-by-case judgment calls on every employee’s activity outside of work, and neither are the employees’ coworkers. Companies should create a policy and stick to it – whether it is to require quarantines after travel (as many did earlier in the pandemic), or acknowledge that travel is risky, recommend against it unless absolutely necessary, and then let it be. People are going to travel either way, and many will not disclose their travel so that they won’t have to quarantine and use PTO or lose wages. Because it is outside of HR’s abilities to monitor every employee’s conduct, don’t create a policy that is destined to fail.