COVID-19-Case study

How to protect your people and your business

As the intensity and volume of government warnings and actions started to grow exponentially in Europe and around the world mid of last week, we knew we had to push our thinking further in order to protect our people and to ensure the continuity of our business.

We would like to share with you the measures we implemented, thinking that maybe our action plan could trigger some thoughts and provide some ideas on how you could react in this exceptional situation and achieve the same level of protection for your people and your business. We are well aware that what we are doing will not be compatible with every business model, but if this note achieves some inspiration for your context, then we are more than glad to have contributed a small part to us all navigating through the time ahead. Our context is that of an advisory, project and outsourcing services provider to other businesses.

3 pillars of action

We have structured our reaction along 3 main pillars:

  • Minimise contact
  • Hygienic and behavioural precaution
  • Information exchange

Whilst we were initially afraid that the more we would do to protect our people, the more we would put at risk the continuity of our business, we quickly realised that by pushing a little further, we could actually achieve the opposite – even better protecting our people and securing our business. Here is how:

  1. Minimise contact

Minimising, or completely avoiding, contact obviously reduces substantially the risk of infection.

In the context of our activity, people are in contact at our office and at the premises of our customers – 2 areas of focus.

Regarding our offices, the decision was straight forward – home office for all except one. We are indeed in the fortunate situation that our IT setup permits us to do all we do onsite also off premises. By doing so, we achieved the following: no cross contamination amongst our people! So, even in the event of someone getting infected, the other team members won’t. This is both protecting our people and our business. It is highly unlikely that several people would be absent at the same time and hence we are ensuring continuity of service towards our customers.

Regarding our missions at customer premises, we have realised after some thought, that a large majority of tasks do actually not require to be onsite. There is so much we do onsite out of habit and convenience, but if you really think about it, little out of necessity. Yes, some digital solutions and remote accesses might need to be put in place, but most of these are already part of the IT setup and are just waiting to be used. Our goal here was hence to also apply, in agreement with our customers, teleworking wherever possible. We have already managed to reach such agreement with the majority of our customers by now, just over this first weekend. A big thank you to our customers for their support and flexibility!

Remain the, now very limited, occasions where visits to customer offices are necessary. That’s where the second pillar of our precautions comes into play.

We pushed the contact minimisation one little step further though for a big additional advantage. We commit to our customers, that if one of our people is currently working on a mission that does require onsite delivery, our consultant does not work on a second mission requiring such presence at another customer’s premises. As such our people are physically working either at their customer’s office or at home. Doing so required some shuffling around of resources, but leads to the fact that our people do not represent any different risk to our customer than any of their own employees working only in their own premises. By reaching this level of contact minimisation we achieved that we can continue delivering our services to our customers without them having to worry about a potential increased risk – their objectives for which they are working with us will be met!

Alternative considerations

You may in your organisation not be in a situation where you could have everyone working remotely, but maybe you can reach a degree of teleworking that enables increasing physical distance between your people performing onsite. You may also have the possibility to have half of your people working 6:00-14:00 and the other half 14:00-22:00. Any measure minimising contact and reducing the size of groups of people that could potentially infect themselves will benefit both your people and your business. Do you have some unused office space available? Maybe a more than one location? Split you teams up into as many and as small as possible units and make sure they do not get in contact with each other.

  1. Hygienic and behavioural precautions

When working in an office environment, it is important that everyone is well aware of the recommended precautions. We informed all our people about those precautions and ensured that our customers are applying the same standards. It’s of little value to list them all here – there is extensive information available wherever you look, but just to name a few less frequently mentioned in a general context:

  • Don’t let anyone use your and don’t use anyone else’s equipment (keyboards, mouse, phone, pens…)
  • A clean desk reduces the objects and enables more effective cleaning
  • No face-to-face meetings
  • Handwashing is especially important just after using common facilities such as office kitchen, coffee machine…
  • And do remind others of the precautions if you see them not complying
  1. Information exchange

Finally we agreed with our customers an immediate exchange of information and reporting of any situation of concern such as:

  • Our consultant or an employee of our customer develops symptoms
  • Our consultant or an employee of our customer has been in close contact with someone showing symptoms or being confirmed infected

This is particularly important to enable immediate further precautionary action and to identify all people potentially having been exposed. Continuing to exchange information on whether testing confirms infection and on insights of possible origin of infection will allow to take the most appropriate decisions to limit further harm.

Taking and communicating the appropriate measures and being a trustworthy partner to your customers will remove one of their concerns, of which we all have enough currently, and protect the continuity of your relationship with them.

Let’s hope we’ll be very soon able to declare being back to normal – we can all contribute to shorten the wait.

If you have any further recommendations to share with us, then please do not hesitate to do so.

Gérard Sinnes, CEO, VISTIM S.A.