Lessons taught by covid19 crisis


Apart from the fact that our people are capable of extraordinary acts of kindness and breathtaking acts of stupidity in equal measure, now is a good time to reflect on what lessons are of most value, even as we continue to be pressed in the vice of this pernicious contagion.

Yes, we (or some anyway) get the importance of social responsibility through social distancing, self-sequestration and standard hygiene practices. Hand washing has been popularised, it seems, by the unpopularity of untimely death.

As global markets buckle under this pandemic, businesses everywhere are taking a hit. Many are forced to adapt quickly. With walk-in business discouraged, particularly in the food, hospitality and entertainment industry, these operations have to parry the blow with some deft footwork.

Many did - offering curbside pick up and home delivery. Some food joints put out prominent signs cluing customers in on special collection arrangements. All great measures to avoid in-store dining and interaction with a side of airborne particulates.

Reading about remote work or teleworking in this country is refreshing, given our preference for having employees punch a clock like Fred Flintstone and those types. More progressive businesses favour task-based rather than time-based work.

Some companies already practising a measure of remote work among a few of their employees have allowed them to work from for an entire week in the first instance. For many of today's jobs, all you need is a computer and a decent internet connection. But what about meetings?

Throughout my professional life, I've attended countless meetings that, within the first five minutes, revealed themselves as overly ambitious emails. Some barely met the criteria for a Whatsapp message. At any rate, managers needing to meet can easily do so with video conferencing.

Zoom video conferencing is all the rage with professionals and entrepreneurs who, in some instances, must have regular face to face conversations with co-workers and employees or potential business partners in other countries. Video conferencing also makes lining up conflicting schedules much easier. The applications are limitless.

I have a friend who delivers private lessons through video conferencing. It saves him time and sanity that would otherwise be lost to traffic. There are other teachers who, as a result of school closures, are also turning to technology to keep their exam-bound students on track with their preparations.

So it's encouraging to see so many Trinis adapting to unprecedented circumstances by thinking on their feet and using technology to keep business and work moving. Is there resistance? Of course! There will always be business owners who will only ever know standing sentry over a resentful workforce. More than anything, that sweatshop business model tends to create a class of clockwatchers.

The sector where this sort of transformation is less prevalent is the public service. "We can't get them to work in the office, we will get them to work at home?" Well let's take a look at that, shall we? I've spent quite a bit of time visiting every ministry over the years. On most visits, I always marvelled at the desolation of government offices. Row after row of cubicles was empty. How could this be? 10 or 11 am and only the receptionist is accounted for.

A conversation some time ago with a former government minister shed some light on the mystery. One day, while doing an inspection of a floor in her ministry, she asked a staffer why so many cubicles were vacant. Well, this one was out on training, another was doing fieldwork, another was posted at a regional office, yet another is a district supervisor and so the explanations went.

So essentially, the government was (and likely still is) paying an eye-watering sum to maintain office space for people who are working remotely anyway! What covid19 has shown, is we can make the changes needed to be more efficient and effective at what we do.

A flexible business sector that adapts quickly, taking its cues from the needs of the customer is the kind of business that will endure and eventually thrive. More remote work means less traffic, fewer miserable employees, higher productivity, and cost savings.

By embracing technology to change the way we perceive work, it can have the knock-on effect of shifting the way we tackle growth and development. Now it's just a matter of spinning temporary teleworking adjustments into permanent policy. Finding a silver lining in times of crisis is always a challenge. Crisis, however, builds resilience if we're prepared to learn what it teaches.


"Lessons taught by covid19 crisis"

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