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COVID-19: Repatriating and working with international staff

19th March, 2020 | Contributor: Jessica Petersen

As coronavirus cases surge around the globe, the Australian Government has increased restrictions for travellers entering Australia, either denying entry or mandating a 14-day self-isolation period. Additionally, the global travel advisory has been raised to level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ in the hopes of discouraging all international travel.

In an unprecedented action, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Marise Payne, has urged all Australians to come home amid the crisis, warning travel options may dwindle and consular assistance may become limited due to restrictions.

What does this mean for remote teams?

For organisations with staff travelling overseas or team members deployed abroad, it is strongly recommended to bring staff home immediately as international borders begin to close and airlines drastically reduce or suspend flight operations.

Both Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have suspended all international flights commencing on 30 March to at least mid-May.

“If organisations can’t get staff home by commercial means in the coming week, consider sheltering in place”, says RiskLogic Manager, Jessica Petersen. “In the event you are unable to bring staff back to Australia, organisations should review travel insurance provisions, particularly in the event of illness, and establish plans to support staff who may be stranded overseas for an extended period.”

We strongly advise all organisations to reconsider their need to travel overseas at this time. However, if essentially travel is required, carefully review and consider travel insurance policies as most do not cover level 4 “do not travel” locations and ensure appropriate measures and contingency plans should staff become isolated at their destination.

Communicating with remote teams

As panic and anxiety sets in, the amount of COVID-19 information being shared across traditional and social media can be overwhelming, with a high probability of inaccuracy and misinformation.

With staff geographically dispersed, technology is often the best source of effective communication, and there are accessible tools on the market that organisations can employ to stay connected to staff and stakeholders stuck overseas.

Many organisations have successfully embedded a COVID-19 pandemic response using social media and crisis response software, enabling them to stay in touch with two-way mass communications. Organisations are using these communication tools to deliver situation reports, share travel information and even poll to confirm the welfare of staff.

In a rapidly evolving pandemic, maintaining effective communication with your remote team is critical to keep them connected, informed and instil confidence that you will guide them on the best possible route home.

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