I am lucky enough to have a job I really enjoy. As CEO of Aspira I get to meet with many different customers in a variety of sectors. I get to travel to different locations to work directly with colleagues. I get asked to speak at conventions and conferences all over the world. And then Covid-19 happens and suddenly I’m doing none of those things.
I realise that I am one of the fortunate people who has not been struck down by the virus and who still has a job. I have good internet allowing me to work remotely and have commandeered the room formerly used as the kids’ playroom. So in the greater scheme of things I am aware that my struggles with remote working are at the very minor end of the scale. I would categorize them under three headings:
My primary concern as CEO is the health and safety of our team. Because most of our roles can be done remotely, we made the decision early on to test our remote working capability, to ensure everyone could connect and work remotely, and then to execute that plan proactively. Because some of our clients provide essential services, we must also be ready to support those clients should they need on-site emergency work. We quickly put in place practices and policies to prioritise the safety of our team and the people we deal with, and we are monitoring this on a daily basis. We needed to setup regular communication with each employee to understand if they had any specific issues or concerns and to ensure we kept communication lines open. My monthly email to all staff became a weekly email to reflect the fast-pace of change going on around us and let people know how the company is responding to that change. We set up a weekly “pointless meeting” open to all staff at lunchtime on Fridays, with no agenda, and where no ‘work talk’ is allowed – the idea is to let people stay connected through regular informal chit-chat.
The next step was to do some contingency planning – for each key role, we needed to line up a backup person and a backup to that backup, and get those people trained up in the event that anyone should become unavailable to work. Our strategy has been that all our IT systems are based in the cloud, so that makes us very portable and not tied to our physical buildings. We diverted our office phones and ensured everybody could access their business phone via their laptop. We also had to look at our international operations and see how local authorities were responding to the pandemic, as each country is taking a subtly different approach.
Looking forward – surviving and sustaining
We are lucky in that Aspira delivers services across a broad range of industry sectors. Some of those have taken a big hit – for example our clients in the airline sector are obviously heavily impacted and that quickly feeds through to us. Clients in the banking, food production and medical device sectors are under extreme pressure and if anything, demand has increased. But overall we expect a significant hit on companies and economies over the next six months so we must be innovative in transforming our services and developing new services that will be of value to clients.
Through all this time the key thing is to communicate, communicate, communicate – to employees, to suppliers, to clients. Lack of communication causes anxiety and fear – by communicating honestly and regularly, people will know where they stand and what they can expect.
Here’s to collectively standing together and embracing whatever positives may come from our ‘new normal’.
Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.