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  • Donald Plumley

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

tl;dr: Flying and eating out. Concern about the Delta variant, states with low vaccination rates, and implications for the fall. The Board's role thinking about these things. With thanks to Dr. Bob Wachter.

Most if not all of us badly want to see Covid in the rear-view mirror. We're Vaxx'd, infection rates are plummeting, even California is dropping the mask mandate.

Yet I've been hesitant about eating indoors with the general population. It's been hard to articulate why - other than my brain trying to rationalize a year of being told, "people are dangerous, stay away from them" with "you are vaccinated, so it's okay to meet with people now."

Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

Dr. Bob Wachter of UCSF in his remarkable daily Twitter feed explained it for me:

"I still don’t want to get Covid if I can avoid it. This means that I still weigh my risk of being exposed to Covid when I make “safer/not safe?” choices. I completely understand why some people would take a different view: “I’m vaccinated & I don't want to think about risk anymore.” That position will likely work out fine. But for me, while I mostly feel liberated after vaccination, when there’s a somewhat risky situation that I have control over – particularly if it's an activity that isn’t all that important to me – I may make a different choice. Which gets us back to flying & restaurants."

Dr. Wachter writes that he's comfortable flying for family and important business reasons. But he's thinking carefully about his behaviors when making those choices. He shares my deep personal concern about long Covid. As it relates to the Delta variant and the uptick in infections and hospitalizations, it turns out sticking to our original second dose strategy was wise. You aren't well protected against Delta until you are two weeks past the 2nd dose. So he is raising alarm about the fall,

"For me, Delta adds to my resolve to keep mask on indoors when unvaxxed/unmasked people may be around. And I'm getting psychologically prepped for some restrictions to return in fall (tho highly vaxxed places like SF will likely do fine). Nobody wants that, but the virus doesn’t care what we want."

The virus does not care what we want.

On a Board I serve we are musing about business travel, can we ask our employee's vaccination status (yes, but carefully), and how do we prepare for the inevitable 'bumps in the road' as we review the Q3/Q4 forecast, manage investor expectations, et al. We are in a remarkably better place than we were a year ago, but you can never drop the guard. To the opposite, as Tom Doorley says, the "Decision Ready Board" needs to be prepared to act. That also means taking advantage of opportunities to move aggressively where others are still peering out of the foxhole. [Ref: (re)Ignite Growth]

The role of the Board is to be informed, evaluate risks, and create an environment that adroitly navigates desire to drive the business forward while respecting each employee's level of comfort/concern. In particular, peer pressure is a subtle but important part of this equation. In a room of competitive salespeople with a hyper-competitive sales manager, there's going to be momentum to "get out in front of customers." Nobody wants to put their hand up in that environment and say, "I'm uncomfortable hosting a customer dinner inside a restaurant" or "Do I really need to fly to Waukegan again next week?"

This relates to risk management. Does the company share responsibility if an employee develops long-haul Covid after feeling pressure to entertain, travel, or otherwise engage in behaviors that left to their own, they would choose differently? That's why I think it is important to foster an environment that allows open communication and discussion of risks and choices. This starts with the Board.

mask hanging from mirror
Photo by Talia on Unsplash

With Apologies to The Clash.

Sage Partner Donald Plumley contributed this Sage Advice.

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