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Ways companies cope with COVID-19 crisis

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While firms have designed their business continuity plans usually for natural disasters from which they could bounce back quite easily, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a very different kind of crisis. -- ART BY JOY D. DAGUN

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza
Special Features Writer, BusinessWorld

Execs from reputable brands share experiences of managing the effects of ECQ

Since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) forced organizations to shift into a work-from-home (WFH) setting and set skeletal workforces in their offices, companies have suddenly been working their way through the crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In the third episode of The Philippine STAR Career Guide’s “CGLive!”, the panel, consists of executives from some of the country’s reputable companies, shared how their organizations are coping with the ECQ.

Lucien C. Dy Tioco, executive vice president of PhilSTAR Media Group (PMG), has observed a lot of adjustments taking place as the media is expected to deliver information that is vital to the public.

“Operationally, it’s a major disruption for us since it’s the first time it really made us think of how seamlessly we can operate and deliver news,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jocel De Guzman, head of corporate communications at HGS Philippines, has noticed that many companies are having difficulty coping with the ECQ. While firms have designed their business continuity plans usually for natural disasters from which they could bounce back quite easily, the current pandemic is a very different kind of crisis.

He added that connectivity is a challenge for companies in activating remote work settings, noting that not all areas have ‘fiber optic footprints’ and that connections with cell sites are shared with multiple mobile users.

“We have to address the Internet gap. Now is the time… for the telcos and government agencies to basically fast track this,” Mr. De Guzman said.

Mitch Hernandez-Suarez, marketing and communications head of Stores Specialists Inc., shared that working on skeletal forces has been new to the company, but she observed that the transition has been fairly smooth and it brings new learnings for the group’s diverse departments.

“It’s very disruptive, but it has also provided us with learnings and an avenue to be more efficient at work,” Ms. Hernandez-Suarez said.

Checking up and reaching out

One of these learnings, she shared, is keeping open communication between colleagues, which she deems helpful to determine what aspects of work are effective during the present working situation as well as what needs to be improved.

The marketing and communications head also shared that checking up on co-workers is vital during these trying times.

“It’s also important to check that everyone is okay… because everyone is going through this traumatic experience,” she said.

Keeping a positive spirit, Ms. Hernandez-Suarez advised that it is also important to keep companies through the crisis, aside from keeping open communication within teams.

“With the right attitude and mindset, we would be able to apply the learnings to have a more productive and more efficient organization,” she said.

Mr. De Guzman also agreed on the value of checking on employees and staying connected with them, as implied by the Filipino word “kamustahan”.

Under HGS Philippines’ communications program during the crisis, he shared, WFH employees are informed on how to maximize their benefits, and they are also engaged to let the company know about their situation by participating in a TikTok video contest.

From this, he pointed out important factors in communicating with employees during this crisis. “You have to be transparent, honest, and empathic. After being emphatic, your content should be engaging to them,” he said.

He also advised companies to take care of their employees first before helping communities through corporate social responsibility efforts.

Mr. Dy Tioco, meanwhile, shared how PMG is heeding the call for companies to share their resources during the crisis, as many companies have done.

Tala Para sa Kapwa, the PMG EVP shared, is the group’s CSR initiative designed to help underserved communities, particularly in those areas where achieving social distancing and proper hygiene is difficult.

“It makes you shudder to think about how can you possibly achieve social distancing in such communities, and how can you keep them inside their homes. And the most possible way is to answer their needs,” he said.

The program also launched the COVID-19 WATCH page and microsite (www.bworldonline.com/covid19watch) on PMG’s diverse publications in an effort “to pacify the anxiety of the general public on what to know about the pandemic.”

Preparing for a ‘new normal’

The current crisis is perceived to alter the way work is done once the quarantine is lifted and the crisis ends.

Mr. De Guzman finds remote work to be further adapted and maximized in the future, hence it is essential to have a digital mindset.

“Companies should start doing or fast-tracking their digital transformation,” he said.

He also called for the government to take this mindset, and initiate further infrastructure that will enhance the country’s connectivity.

“I think this is a hard lesson for us to prioritize infrastructure, but I think this is the right time,” he said, telling those who oppose the construction of such infrastructure that they are depriving people of livelihood if they deprive them of Internet access in their areas.

Mr. Dy Tioco pointed out that employees should be further clarified on what WFH is, while HR departments should determine what kind of outputs should be expected from WFH employees.

Families should also be oriented about WFH, Ms. Hernandez-Suarez added, since it is not only employees that will be adjusting, but also their families.

Furthermore, Mr. Dy Tioco highlighted that an opportunity lies for companies to think about the learnings they can pick up from this health crisis.

“It’s putting everyone on a reset button, and that reset button is actually making us think how can we make this world a better place,” he said.





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