The newest member of our leadership team, Whitney Grande explains how Aera stepped up to COVID-19’s challenges
Whitney Grande arrived at Aera less than four months before COVID-19 control measures thrust the nation into recession and sent oil prices plunging. Here, he shares how Aera’s employees are meeting the demands of the pandemic’s unprecedented changes.
On March 13 – a week before California declared its stay-at-home order – Aera “stood up” our Incident Management Team and our Crisis Management Team. We made the decision to move to a remote-work strategy. Almost overnight, some 700 of Aera’s 1,100 employees transitioned to remote work settings.
Aera’s quick response to the crisis put us way out front in making sure our people were safe and cared for. Moreover, it assured Aera’s business continuity.
Although most of our employees are working from their homes – I’m working from my dining room table – we’re still upholding Aera’s imperative of “providing exceptional care for people and the environment.”
We’ve been very purposeful in communicating with our employees every two weeks via video calls to keep them informed on Aera’s status and respond to any questions they have.
Most employees have different ergonomic conditions at home than in Aera’s offices. We’ve provided stipends for them to purchase equipment or furniture that will make their remote working conditions more comfortable and ergonomically safe.
Essential workers deliver through the crisis
At the same time, Aera’s “essential” workers have remained working in the oilfields. From an EHS standpoint, COVID-19 presented new challenges in terms of how we execute work in a larger group setting, such as our pre-job safety meetings at field sites, while maintaining proactive measures like social distancing.
Our field employees and supplier partners have demonstrated true EHS leadership. They quickly adopted these changes and have kept our oilfield operations running smoothly and without incident. They have continued to safely deliver through this crisis. Our operations and EHS staff have worked tirelessly to identify new and innovative ways to work while limiting our exposure.
“Every day, everybody goes home alive and well – whether they’re working in our field operations or remotely.”
What won’t change
I’ve been asked what changes Aera can expect going forward. I prefer to look at what won’t change, and that’s our commitment to operate in a safe and environmentally responsible manner that supports our license to operate.
We will continue to function under Aera’s motto, “Every day, everybody goes home alive and well,” whether we are working in our field operations or remotely. Aera employees have a history of stepping up and meeting the challenges. The future will be no different.
This was the first time we encountered a crisis of this magnitude. The processes put into place by our Incident Management Team and our Crisis Management Team worked well and are still in play. We’re now looking at the next phase of returning employees to the office environment.
Our ability to stand up and work dynamically through the evolution of the COVID-19 measures was critical. The process confirms how effectively Aera can handle an enterprise-wide crisis.
And it reaffirms the thoughtful and pragmatic way we deal with change while continuing to produce the oil and gas that California needs. This experience will be viewed as a model of success.