Staying at home during the pandemic was a fact of life for the majority of Americans during the height of the pandemic, but for some companies and their employees, staying put was not an option. Businesses that had to keep field personnel working and traveling during uncertain times faced distinctive logistical challenges- along with the added health, safety and travel concerns caused by federal, state and local mandates. But effectively navigating these challenges and pivoting quickly can lead to growth, even for small businesses.
These essential travelers set the standards for what may become essential new practices. It is probable that enhanced health and safety regulations are here to stay, and that the companies who implemented changes early are now ahead of the curve as the world moves forward. The well-being of employees is a key component, not only for staying competitive in uncertain times but also for continued success.
Charting a New Course
PMG is a firm that dispatches specialized-skill temporary workers to locations throughout the country to help manufacturers meet peak-season production goals or to respond to unique demand. The company experienced a business boom when manufacturers re-opened after pandemic driven closures. The nationwide ramp-up in production of disposable plastics, chemicals and personal protective gear coupled with pent up demand for other goods required a large force of temporary workers, and the need is ongoing. Amy Grussing, PMG’s president, notes that the future looks bright, in part because the company was able to recognize the need to respond quickly and meet the demands.
Grussing gives a nod to Wyndham Hotels & Resorts for implementing elevated health and safety protocols that gave their workforce peace of mind to get on the road while so many were in lockdown. And with 6,100 hotels in the United States, they could count on finding comfortable lodging for their crews nearby their job sites. PMG has ample logistical experience at moving people quickly to respond to unique demands, but COVID-19 altered their "book of business" substantially, she notes.
The same was true for other enterprising small and medium-size firms. Those companies with a business and growth plan that depends on keeping personnel in the field learned important lessons this past year. For PMG, cleanliness became one of the most important factors in selecting a hotel, in addition to comfort and the well-being of project crews on the road to help increase overall productivity. That well-being, in large part, is fostered by trustworthy and comfortable temporary lodging that is conveniently located close to jobsites.
Joe Rooney of Baker Industrial, a company that makes, sells, and installs racks for warehouse operators and retail businesses, echoes a similar sentiment. He notes that his company was able to expand its operational base during uncertain times. “We were able to really make hay during the pandemic because COVID was the catalyst in the conversation regarding supply chain,” he adds.
Flexibility and Adaptability to Meet Individual Needs
Companies with workers who were required to travel during the pandemic -- sometimes for unexpected extended stays necessitated by quarantine requirements -- faced unique demands. The importance of strategic planning was reinforced, even though plans frequently had to be changed at the last minute. Rooney explains, “Not only do you have to plan ahead, but you also have to plan for what might go wrong.” He added that having a designated “go-to” contact at Wyndham -- a dedicated account lead who provides personalized service, including flexibility and assistance with managing unexpected changes in their travel plans -- was crucial.
Baker Industrial was an early adopter of Wyndham Direct®, a program that was designed to simplify travel planning for corporate clients. With a centralized booking capability and the availability of a single-payment plan, Wyndham is high on convenience for small to medium businesses. The ability to track individual stays eliminates unnecessary paperwork, approvals and confirmations. As noted by Rooney, the streamlined procedures proved their worth during this time of uncertainty.
Looking Ahead in 2021
Logistical needs are paramount, but keeping employees happy during long stays, sometimes for a week or even months at a time, requires dedicated effort. Basic comforts include a comfortable bed, TV and Wi-Fi. But when costs spiral upward, as they did during the pandemic, PMG and Baker Industrial believe that additional amenities such as on-site laundry facilities, free on-site parking, and keeping their workers close to the jobsite, take on added importance when selecting a hotel.
Benefits accrue not only to the traveler -- in this case to the crews that are required to be on the road -- but also to the travel arrangers in fields like manufacturing and production, construction, transport and trucking, utilities and power-related commerce, communication, oil and gas maintenance and many others.
Moving ahead in the post-COVID world will undoubtedly require continued adjustments, but the best practices of the pandemic era and the lessons learned point to the promise of the future. More frequent cleaning and better sanitation are expected for the foreseeable future Hand sanitizer may become as ubiquitous as complimentary soap and shampoo. And contactless or automated check-in is likely to become commonplace.
Businesses like PMG and Baker Industrial believe that 2021 will continue to be a year of growth. Amy Grussing expressed it this way: “Some industries that were shut down or furloughed will come back; we expect to see new growth and a more diverse set of clients.”
It is almost inevitable that surviving the challenges of the pandemic leads to new optimism.