Adapting to a New Normal

Boards and senior management must be open to radical ideas while ensuring business sustainability as well as the health of their employees.

We at InterSearch always feel a sort of obligation to work together with our partners worldwide and find solutions, best practices for such difficult situations. Below we collected some advice from our members on how to overcome the obstacles COVID-19 might have built.

The world is facing challenging times and this will have significant impacts on how we go about our daily activities. How we execute our roles and responsibilities will be guided by one crucial factor – public health. The phrase health and safety have at no time in recent memory been more important in the workplace as it is now. Ensuring our health and wellbeing has always been highlighted at home, schools, and workplaces what has changed is that we have been made to confront the realities of the consequences of poor implementation of safety guidelines. Good hygiene practices are taught to kids in schools, workplaces provide all necessary facilities to maintain hygiene and clean work environment and public places as much as possible did the same. Alas, all this was not enough to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.  Ramping up the campaign for good health and safety practices has been highlighted as an important factor in limiting the spread of the virus. With the number of infections and fatalities due to the coronavirus, the campaign is taken seriously.

As we eventually emerge from this public health crisis, we are going to have to confront a different world. In the absence of a vaccine or treatment for coronavirus, the question of how we prevent further infection and protect ourselves and the workforce from infections will be the challenge that Health and Safety Managers will have to address. How do we maintain a healthy space between employees, how do we ensure that people maintain personal distance from each other while working together? I guess the big question in this is how sustainable is social distancing in the public and the workplace. On the other hand, eventually, with the development of vaccine and new, approved treatments based on millions of patients’ data there will be new public health protocols for how to prevent another crisis of this scale.

The implications for company revenues and budget must be considered in restructuring the workplace given the current scenario. Based on reports from scientists, we do not know how long this virus will continue in its path of infection, however, at some stage, economies will have to reopen. Since countries began to shut down, remote working has been key to sustaining some business activities where possible, teleconferencing, virtual meetings, shared document preparations, and collaborations have been tools used to continue the activities of some businesses. As we emerge from this crisis, there will need to continue with this trend and possibly develop ways that companies can work leaner using remote working while reducing overheads and improving performance.

It will be important to understand the psychological impact of remote working on workers. Will some organisations keep this trend? Will this be a recommendation from health and safety specialists? Some managements who had been reluctant to have workers perform their duties remotely even where possible before this crisis are now shedding their inhibitions. Is this an opportunity for organisations to think outside the box and work more robustly with the technology available to them? How will this impact on travel? With the tools to collaborate and work in teams virtually across borders, will this cut down on the travel time of the globetrotting executive? Will health and safety be better served if an onsite presence is limited to workers who have to be physically present to carry out their roles? Will this make it possible to better manage the health and wellbeing of fewer employees on site? There are so many questions that have to be addressed in terms of environmental health and safety in the workplace. Boards and senior management must be open to radical ideas while ensuring business sustainability as well as the health of their employees.

“The normal work day has changed – Managers should facilitate a more flexible routine from staff working from home on an adhoc or full-time basis that incorporates the challenges of balancing family life, childcare and home schooling. Now more than ever there is merit in focusing on staff productivity not perceived activity. Some will thrive working from home, others will take time to adapt during this transition phase. Most will benefit from being given a clear set of work priorities, combined with regular communications. It is also important to use technology to deliver some of the interactions normally achieved in the office environment. Regular communication and Managers making themselves available for support and guidance is essential”. Duncan Gruselle, Senior Consultant, InterSearch Ireland.

There will be challenges in public places as most functions here do not lend themselves to remote working. There might be the need to improve and increase the scope for self-service facilities ensuring that there is a limited need for human interaction where possible.

How do companies in the hospitality and tourism sector manage health and safety in the post-COVID19 era? While all sectors of the world’s economy are affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the hotel, leisure, retail, and travel industries have been hit particularly hard.  According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs globally in the travel and tourism industry. There are going to be changes in crowd control, how are airports going to manage, security, departure times, traveller interactions, and so on? What are airlines going to do about health and safety in the aircraft? All of these are some of the challenges that they will have to confront in adapting to a new world.

“From the middle east perspective, the region’s airlines could lose $24 billion of passenger revenue compared to 2019. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, 2020 traffic is expected to plummet by 51% compared to 2019. As air transport and travel confronts the challenges of the coming years, it is important to note that international travel will resume, tourism will again be a large contributor to GDP and employment in the travel and hospitality sector will see an upward trend. However, the skills set required in the industry will be significantly changed to adapt to the demands of new public health policies, international travel directives, and laws. Workers in this sector must begin to analyse the impact of the coronavirus on the travel and tourism industry and re-evaluate their skillsets to identify areas of opportunities for reskilling or upskilling”. Nick Harvey, Director, InterSearch Middle East.

The current public health crisis, does provide opportunities for career advancements or changes, remember that disruption also creates opportunity. It is important to take the initiative and begin to explore ways in which current skills can be applied in confronting your organisation’s challenges.

We must acknowledge new realities and understand careers that are thriving during the current public health crisis or as a result of it. Some roles have increased in value and job security in this time, they include; online sales and e-commerce, customer support, online education, digital marketing, teaching, writing, design, and coding. Middle and senior managers must evaluate and harness their current skills set and adapt these to drive changes in their organisations or to take up leadership roles in emerging growth areas. For example, the scope for workplace evolution will see an increase in demand for specialists in environmental health and safety. They will not only need to be heard but will have to devise and design ways of communicating the need for processes and actions in the workplace to management.

In the healthcare sector, artificial intelligence platforms have assisted in sending out alerts of the outbreak. Algorithms are used to help screen for those potentially affected. AI can be used by hospitals to manage their resources and speed up vaccine research processes. Drawing lessons from COVID-19 response and management, technology will play a significant role in preparedness for the next public health crisis. The use of technology such as AI are not solutions in themselves but important tools aiding professionals to perfect their response, development, and implementation of solutions to challenging situations. The importance of digital health solutions was made clear during these challenging times. There are options to bring healthcare to patients, rather than the other way round.  See our previous article: Technology & Career Trends in the Life Science Industry. Devices like digital stethoscopes, portable ECG monitors, and digital otoscopes can be used at home and the results shared remotely with doctors. These eliminate doctor-patient visits whenever it’s avoidable and also help reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Such devices should become commonplace, shifting the point-of-care to the patient.

“As countries around the world went into lockdown with limited movement, people increasingly became reliant on technology for maintaining connectedness. As hospitals, healthcare centres, and surgeries deal with patients and testing for the coronavirus, the general public stayed away. Suddenly the need for face to face interaction between patients and healthcare professionals was vastly reduced. Technology became the tool for communication, data were shared and analysed between patients, laboratories, surgeries, hospitals, care homes, and pharmacies. The availability of data and the ease of collation and collaboration have been central to how health services have continued to function and evolve at this time. As the world emerges from this pandemic, there will be significantly different interactions between patients and clinical teams. Patients and caregivers will become more involved in the testing and diagnostic process. They will not only be primary sources of data but will take more active roles in the collation and dissemination of their data to relevant healthcare providers.

Opportunities abound in the healthcare sector. The combination of technology and healthcare has changed healthcare delivery and will continue to do so and managers in this sector have to consider this. Professionals in the ICT and healthcare sector must look at how they leverage current skillsets and explore the opportunity for further upskilling. This will create career progression opportunities in areas such as academia, hospitals, public health agencies, ICT, medical devices, social care, and consultancy among others”. Alberto Abadías, Partner at Euromanager (InterSearch Spain), Head of InterSearch Technology Global Practice.

As businesses reopen, there will be a need for in-depth analysis and auditing of how they do business and what can be done differently. Strict conditions will need to be in place to ensure employees’ safety and the safety of others. Organisations will need to ensure that COVID-19 policies and procedures and risk assessments are robust before and after the resumption of work in the workplace to safeguard the safety of workers and others visiting the premises. This will need to have cross-functional collaboration from top to bottom and vice-versa. It will be interesting to understand the section of the organisation that will be required to drive the required changes. But suffice to say that these changes must have management buy-in. Environmental Health and Safety and Human Resources will probably have a much more proactive and interactive managing employees’ health and wellbeing going forward.