We will never forget these times, most of us, the regular, morning-news addicts, switch on our TVs, hoping to see declining numbers in the coronavirus infected list. Country to country, we go feverishly through the good news that we are finally seeing, with the curve flattening. There is a lot of fear and trepidation as to how we will pick up and reintroduce our ways of living and working. Even as we are experiencing just how effective it is to be working from home, it is but natural that companies will resume regular ways of working – back to the office (do we really need to continue paying the real-estate gods as much?), resume travel (do we need to, when virtual meetings were working so perfect?) as soon as the travel embargoes are lifted, it would soon be back to business, all of us more determined than ever, the whole world is raring to go.
Clear communication, as often as it takes, would be the backbone of the new disruptive work practices as these practices will leave employees with some degree of confusion/unrest, particularly in the threat of the current recession. Our lives have been disrupted in every way under the COVID 19 threat, and it is very important that employee morale is high. It is important for Managers to address employee concerns with sensitivity, everyone is going to have questions on the future of the company, the business, and if their roles are going to be seeing changes. Employees must be told about the changes that are going to be affected, the precautions that are being taken, and also taught/ guided how to function best under these circumstances. If someone has recovered from COVID 19, support him/her without stigma and discrimination. Maintaining employee morale through various activities during these times will bring the much-required boost – plan on virtual awards and recognitions, do as much online as possibly can. And let the communication and interaction be two way – find out the office sentiment, how employees are feeling and make adjustments and improvements accordingly, and communicate constantly.
Going back to our offices after this crisis requires renewed vigilance, given the nature of the coronavirus. Resuming work at the office premises would mean having the whole bunch of employees back, which in itself is a very tricky situation – from social distancing back to human density – it is very important that workplaces are maintained in high levels of hygiene. COVID 19 established the fact that there is definite risk in crowds, and for companies to plan to have employees back at their premises imply a deeper than ever responsibility to workplace hygiene and health. Managing the numbers at our workplace is going to be critical if we are to keep safe from the threat of another attack by COVID 19. Hygiene and cleaning processes need to be increased to its maximum capacity across the workplaces and common areas. Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. Alcohol based hand rub dispensers should be maintained at prominent places across the facility. Keep promoting hand-washing through posters and monitors across the facility so that it is a constant reminder for employees to take precautions.
Having to be careful with numbers would require companies to redesign workplaces to have employees coming back. Even though it might not be entirely viable, it can be a mix of having employees continue work from home in rotation, perhaps every week, or whatever works best for the functions, while others work out of the office in redesigned (read larger, increased physical distances) workspaces. Allocating more space to employees can be achieved only through rotation shifts in order to support social distancing for the rest of the required period as per WHO / local health authority guidelines. Plan work schedule charts for the various functions to work out of their offices, and maintaining strict schedules will not only decrease the risk of infection but also help employees to plan better, as well as ease anxieties and confusion.
To make the best out of the situation, let’s take the opportunity to accept this as a huge learning time – rethink on travel, travel only if it is really necessary and save money, it can be diverted into more important areas. Promote collaboration across geos, virtual meetings have been a big success during this time, and lets continue to collaborate not just for work and meetings but also to have online employee events across geos. If anything, using more online meetings due to the situation has only brought about an increased sense of camaraderie. We have seen our colleagues in New York city working at the BronxCare, helping patients in ICU, working alongside the medical staff, and it has been a proud moment for every GAVSian across the world to celebrate them, GAVS’ heroes.
And lastly, as we leave this traumatic time behind us, let’s be careful to ensure that we don’t have to go through the situation again. Follow WHO guidelines to take control measures that focus on prevention and on active surveillance for early detection and treatment. The opportunities that this pandemic has shown us are multitude – Newspapers report “our planet is detoxing as humans stay lockdown” – Lower carbon emissions are reported. Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Standford University says that carbon output could fall by more than 5% this year, the first dip since a 1.4% reduction after the 2008 financial crisis. The air is cleaner and it is quieter too. Decibel readings at a busy intersection in India were 90 pre-pandemic but it recently measured at just 68, reports Boston University. Water quality is reported to have improved across the globe – from Venice, famous for its canals, its waterways are benefiting from the lack of usual boat traffic brought on by thousands of visitors. The wildlife that usually shies away from humans is seen in abundance, be it the Ridley turtles in the beaches of Orissa, India, to the otters in Singapore, to the whales and deer in Japan, to the orcas in North America. There is so much of the natural world that is suddenly thriving when we gave it a little space….
This has been a time of unprecedented learning opportunities even as our lives got turned upside down. But true as human spirits go, here is something remarkable I read on Linkedin; it reflects hope, positivity, and genuine empathy – here is an excerpt from a post by Dr. Joerg Storm “Next year, I don’t want to hear about the Oscars, Grammys, Tonys or Golden Globes….. I want to see nurses, doctors, ambulance crews, firefighters, healthcare support workers, delivery guys, shop workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, and all other essential workers get free red carpet parties with awards and expensive goodie bags. “