At Devon, we’ve done everything in our power to care for our people, at the same time carrying on with our work in our essential industry.
While the coronavirus pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges in all aspects of life and work, our planning, preparation and execution have helped us to sustain our business. We’ve been sharply focused at all times on our dual priorities of employee health and business continuity.
Facing the serious challenges of the pandemic itself, plus the related economic threats to our business, our management team moved decisively on both fronts. They communicated clearly and frequently with employees, affirming the company’s priority to safeguard their health and offering detailed assurance that the company’s financial strength and business strategy would carry us through. The company, like organizations of all kinds, made effective use of streaming video and live online meetings as never before.
Throughout, we have sought to understand and address our employees’ concerns. Everyone has personal situations in addition to their work, including health challenges, childcare, home schooling and care for elders, to name a few. Our approach has been flexible, working with each employee individually.
In our business, COVID-19’s impacts and uncertainties continue to unfold, but among the early shocks was the dramatic collapse in demand for oil and natural gas. Crude oil futures contracts plunged briefly below zero as a price war broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Our financial strength, liquidity and commodity hedging programs bought us time to assess the markets and formulate the details of our operational response.
Planning, preparation and execution
Among those advising our senior leaders was a COVID-19 Planning Team of Devon business and emergency management leaders, formed in January amid early reports of a possible pandemic in Asia. The team monitored and communicated the fast-moving news and safety guidance. They planned and prepared, starting with the procurement of supplies and equipment that would be needed for protecting people and sanitizing workplaces.
When the virus arrived in Devon’s operating areas, each location was ready with supplies on hand and cleaning staffs hired and trained. Field crews were outfitted with plans, procedures, supplies and protective gear to be used in the event of a COVID-positive test at a work site. Our legal team saw to it that our employees and contractors had written credentials verifying their status as essential workers in a critical industry.
Plans and arrangements also were made to ensure that Devon employees and contractors who could perform their work from remote locations were able to do so seamlessly. Devon’s technology team played a key role in ensuring business continuity, making the company’s data and networks accessible, reliable and secure as employees and their loved ones sheltered safely and worked from home.
In response to sharp declines in demand and prices in energy markets, Devon’s operating teams moved quickly to protect the company’s pre-pandemic financial strength by reducing capital spending and operating costs. They found even greater efficiencies across our asset portfolio to preserve operational continuity and position the business for recovery. This involved quick assessments and decisions on cutting drilling programs and curtailing production. Companies industrywide executed similar curtailments, slowing production as demand began to return, in turn supporting higher prices.
Among the many unprecedented steps Devon has taken was the company’s first-ever annual stockholders meeting that was not held in-person. This occurred in early June, just as communities were beginning to reopen after more than two months of safer-at-home directives. Devon’s board of directors, in the interest of health and safety while also ensuring proper corporate governance, decided to hold the meeting online and by all accounts, it was a success.
Clear and comprehensive employee communications have been vital in the company’s effective management of the pandemic response and ongoing business challenges. We have sought to instill calm and confidence, engaging in two-way dialog and laying out clear expectations in a period of fast-paced change and uncertainty. Employee feedback on the communications program has been strongly positive – in particular for the robust content published on Devon’s employee intranet site.
The content – written materials, info-graphics, videos and more – resulted from teamwork among Devon’s human resources, COVID-19 Planning and corporate communications teams. Synthesizing the myriad details and complexities of sustaining an energy company through parallel health and business crises – and then creating communications products to support the corporate priorities of employee health and business continuity – is a big challenge in its own right.
This work is ongoing. Devon has been planning and communicating the company’s plans and protocols as communities reopen and employees return to their offices. Foot-traffic patterns in common areas, timing of elevators, the ongoing need for social distancing and the question of face masks are among the many details considered, communicated and enacted as the company continues its efforts to successfully sustain its business, knowing this is not possible without strong protections for human health.