Starting after Covid 19
In December 2019 we first heard about this mysterious virus that was causing some concern to the world. Till February 2020 we in Bangladesh did not pay much heed to the problem thinking that it would somehow go away or we would miraculously evade the scourge. It was not until March that we understood the difference between the words epidemic and pandemic and generally started to refer to the morbid disease by the name of Covid-19. In just a few months more than 3 million people in the world have been infected and more than 200,000 people have lost their lives to this dreaded disease. The world as we know it has come to a complete standstill. More than 4 billion people around the world are in lockdown.
Striking a tradeoff between saving lives and livelihoods is the most difficult dilemma that leaders around the world are facing today. The lockdown will be over one day and time will come when we will rejoin our work and some semblance of normality will return to our lives but the world has woken up to a new insidious enemy which is an integral part of our ecosystem and it can strike us at any time without warning. The Coronavirus has many strains including the seasonal flu, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Avian flu and now the Covid-19. It can mutate and take up some other characteristic and therefore the vaccine does not offer a blanket immunity. Post Covid-19 the world will never be the same again. And this change will be most notable in our workplace. WFH (work from home) is an acronym which will soon become a part of everyone’s vocabulary.
It seems that we are slowly moving towards a gradual removal of the lockdown. Some of the garment industries have started operations and I am assuming that from now onwards the government will open up the economy in phases so that after Eid all establishments would be operational except perhaps the busses in the metropolitan cities which may continue in lockdown for a longer period of time.
Businesses will face a very big challenge in restarting the activities. It is important for the Administration and Human Resource departments in our corporate world to understand that a single case of Covid-19 infection detected in the corporate office can send the entire workforce of the office into quarantine or risk an organizational pandemic which could have a crippling long term effect on the company. We will have to get our businesses back on track with such severe constraints in place. It is going to be a long hard struggle.
Companies will have to redefine the work place. The seating arrangement in offices have to be in accordance with social distancing norms, ever more reliance on virtual meetings, sanitization, obsession with the cleaning protocol and reverting back to access cards instead of the biometric recognition system are some of the mandatory measures that need to be taken. All this will mean a much higher cost to the company which most companies can ill afford during these desperate times but I really do not think that it is optional. I think that this crisis provides us an important opportunity to deepen trust and commitment with employees in ways that will not only ensure the safety and well being of the employees but also build up the relationship equity which will position the company for greater success when the crisis is over. https://arshihaider.com/2020/04/09/relationship-equity/. During times of such crises it is important to keep sight of the human side of the company.
I was gradually transitioning into retirement and took up this blog as a pastime. I have not been involved with the operational functions of bti for several years but do take an active part in the strategic decision making of the company. This unexpected attack by the corona virus has forced me out of my limbo to get personally involved with details in redefining how we will be working. Here are the measures we have decided to take to protect our employees and safeguard our work premises. I have gone into details in case some other companies also find it useful.
Upon resumption of life after Covid-19 we will see people have changed. Employees will be concerned about their workplace safety. At least in the initial stages the customers and other external stakeholders will be reluctant to have physical meetings. Our sales teams will have to unlearn how they did things in the past and learn how to sell through virtual meetings and virtual tours. After struggling for 10 years Zoom is suddenly one of the hottest companies in the world signifying the dawn of the “virtual” age.
bti’s work space will be looking drastically different from the pre Covid era. We have always been a thrifty organization and therefore the workstations though comfortable were tightly packed where optimizing the use of space was essential. Now the 6ft social distancing has to be incorporated in our workspace. In order to facilitate social distancing and reducing the density of people in our offices, almost half of the employees will be working remotely from home. There will be restrictions on gathering in common areas and all meetings must be done on Zoom even though the concerned members may be present in the same office building. The use of mask is mandatory when attending any absolutely necessary meeting. Air conditioning will be switched off with windows opened to minimize the risk of pathogens floating in closed air conditioned spaces. We are trying to figure out how to send the message for washing hands in a a fun way so that it can be announced frequently without making it boring and ineffective. The messaging must be done in a way that also resonates with the support staff who may otherwise be less conscious about the importance of frequent hand washing and the seemingly unnecessary waste of soap.
The role of the support staff has also been redefined. They are no longer going to be serving tea/coffee/refreshments. There will now be a self service counter for employees. A team of support staff will be engaged in constantly sanitizing the entire office space.
All vendors and contractors and external stakeholders will be requested not to visit our offices till the situation normalizes. All transactions will be made by Electronic Fund Transfer. We are also requesting our customers to kindly not visit our offices for the sake of their and our safety. All interactions with customers are to be done virtually.
This crisis has also prompted us to accelerate our long planned transition to becoming a paperless organization. Now with the threat of contamination through paper we are consciously working towards that goal.
Our support staff live in dormitories and sometimes in unhygienic conditions where they may have a higher risk of infection. We have decided to accommodate them all in our under construction sites near the head office with strict rules to ensure controlled movement. We are making arrangements at the sites for their food to be cooked in a safe and hygienic way. When they come to the office they will be required to change into a fresh set of clothes to avoid any chance of contamination.
Some of our junior employees are also living in messes and dormitories where several people from different walks of life share a room. To safeguard the health of our junior employees we are looking to rent apartments in the neighbourhood of our head office so that our employees can be accommodated together and remain safe with movement control restrictions.
We have imposed social distancing on our staff busses where people must sit maintaining 6ft distance from each other. The first person who gets on the bus will be responsible to ensure that the bus is properly sanitized before proceeding on the journey and thereafter every employee that boards the bus along the way will sanitize the seat that s(he) sits on. The staff busses will once again be sanitized by our admin department staff before commencing the return journey at the end of the day.
We are investing in technology so that we can show a high quality virtual tour of our projects to our prospective customers thereby minimizing the need for our sales team members to arrange physical visits of our customers to the construction sites. All our sales and business development team members who need to visit customers will use the office pool cars which will be sanitized before and after every journey.
The temperature of anyone coming to the office will be checked. With the exception of those who may have some health issues all our employees are being urged to use the stairs instead of the elevators. Maximum 3 people will be allowed into the elevator at a time and wearing a mask is mandatory.
We have now been in lockdown for about a month. There is no business activity but the expenditure keeps adding up. For our industry I do not see a quick V shape bounce back. If we are lucky it will be a U shape recovery and if a deep recession sets in then we are looking at a long drawn L shape curve before we see better days. Since Bangladesh has relatively sound macro economic fundamentals I am optimistic about a quicker turnaround of our economy. Nevertheless we are bracing ourselves for the biggest fight for our survival since the inception of the company. My greatest hope comes from the people in bti. Together we have overcome many adversities and in sha Allah we will also overcome this one. And when this dark chapter in human history is over and we witness the dawn of a new era of prosperity, the indomitable human spirit will once again rise like a phoenix from the ashes as a testament to the glory of the Almighty Creator.
Aysha SiddiquaMay 2, 2020
During the pandemic this article may act as a ray at end of a tunnel for not only the realtors but also for all the corporates. It will definitely help the corporate bodies to fix up their own doings in near future when the lockdown is over and we get back to our workplace, by the blessings of Almighty.
Rafiqul IslamMay 2, 2020
Excellent ideas what can think only a master of the business. I think surely it will bring an important change in the traditional office environment concept.
Thinking, Work from home will make us more advance & smart to cope with the changed world In sha Allah.
I pray to Allah for giving a long healthy life to you so that we can learn a lot from you and the world get more & more new ideas to make the world easier & prosperous.
Best wishes for you, our beloved & respected business leader.
Sk. Johurul HaqueMay 3, 2020
Reading this article has given me a simple and clear picture of our future movement in our every day life. This is obviously a logical and inevitable change that is going to take places.
But to which extent these safety measures are going to be implemented depends on individual’s awareness and capability.
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful thoughts.
Iqbal HossainMay 3, 2020
Arshi, your thoughts on the post CoVid scenario sound very realistic and sustainable. Of course industry to industry will have different thresholds of sustainability. I appreciate your remarks on this, as it provides clarity to the future. We are all in dire straits now due to the standstill situation, but come out of it we must, and we will, InshaAllah. It is a great time to prepare for the future in order to run operations smoothly. More technology will have to be used and each industry has to redefine their operations. Even if a vaccine is discovered, we should actually try and implement these steps so that we are well prepared for similar episodes in the future. Great work and thanks for the shares.
Tahera RashidMay 3, 2020
Technology will be applicable to people who are at least middle class. Housing of junior staff will be a big challenge.
AnikaMay 3, 2020
Excellent. This is the high time to think about all these solutions.
Md. Mahbubul HaqueMay 3, 2020
It’s my great opportunity to update myself with the followup valuable write-up and very much surprised with the in depth knowledge about fellow colleagues and their living. Much analytical knowledge though he is not an expert in this arena. Hope Sir will continue his valuable opinion with the contemporary as well as vulnerable issues.
Kamrul Ahsan RubelMay 3, 2020
Sir, you have beautifully outlined what needs to be done and how to survive the epidemic for the officers and employees involved in the real estate company.If you could tell me how to work or how to monitor the workers during this epidemic.
Md Mansur Alam ParvezMay 3, 2020
Thanks everybody about their advices and knowledge. But as my assumptions is, who we are alive after normalis Covid 19 situation. It’s a great gift for us. So now try to alive first and its confirm after Covid 19 we will recover a new world and new environments. So then time will say how we Started.
Kazi Rajibul HaqueMay 3, 2020
Excellent notion and assumption for post Covid situation. We need to research and brain storm enough to overcome the situation in every segments of development. Inshallah we will overcome it.
Sk. Alamgir HossainMay 3, 2020
This is exactly what is supposed to be maintained after resuming of office and this will be applicable for all corporate bodies. This is obvious that today or tomorrow we will have to start full fledged working, only way of working is to be changed. We must have a positive mind set up to accept and welcome the changes. And the most important thing is that how fast we can cope ourselves up with the changes.
Syed Moshkoor AliMay 3, 2020
Dear Mr. Arshi ,
Appreciated your thoughts and the plan of actions that you are going to implement into your company , it would be the best ideas , if everyone in out country could have done . First problem is the mind setup of the owners and employees and secondly if they would have the positive thinking , at this moment ! yes you are right tough to accommodate . But in a long term and to keep ourselves safe , we have to do implement your guidelines ..
Tajul IslamMay 3, 2020
All the leaders in private sector must come together to respond to the immediate threats to health systems and the long-term effects to the country’s economy.
Brig Gen Mohammad Ayub Ansary, Psc (Retd)May 3, 2020
The article presents the whole gamut of the Corona Pandemic, Covid-19. It reveals ‘CORONA Family’, begging of present onslaught in Bangladesh, where we remained almost inert and then reacted much later than needed.
The write-up is the “Magna Carta” for us that; 1) we all are subject to take credible measures to prevent virus spreading, 2) we are subject to work and live amid ‘Corona Regime’, 3) we are subject to WFH/ remote from office, 4) we are subj to work in a changed environment certainly different than the post Covid era, 5) we are subject to face inevitable recession and recovery.
The note is a precious direction for the Real Estate Developers in particular and for other corporate bodies in general as to how they operate in present scenario. It delineates point by point the action plan for the Admin and HRD of the companies to combat the situation to sustain and then restart fully equipped.
The paper highlights the need for everyone to remain watchful and free from the virus saying if one is infected then it leads to eventual closure of the whole organization. It is like ‘one drop of poison in a bucket turns the whole water into poison’.
From this write up we learn, surely new for me, the ‘Relationship Equity (RE)’ involving customers, employees and the external stake holders and their prioritization for the business to continue and grow.
Finally, the note provides a radiant checklist for the employees of bti to prepare thoroughly to restart vibrantly.
IFTY iSLAMMay 4, 2020
Thanks Arshi Bhai for sharing. The Global economy is set to contract by 3% in 2020 according to the IMF. even that may be overoptimistic. Euroland will contract 11%, the US 7% and UK 13%. Bangladesh will see negative growth and all sectors will be affected. I share some thoughts on a blog at globalmacro.site as well as a global macro weekly. I’ll also add you to the distribution list. Regards Ifty
KHONDAKER LUTFUL KABIRMay 9, 2020
NOW WE ARE PASSING A HIGH TIME.PRAY TO ALLAH FOR OUR SAFETY.WE SHOULD PRAY EVERY ONE TO ALLAH FOR OUR BETTERMENT.
Mahbubur RahmanMay 14, 2020
Positive thinking and appropriate strategies. We all should think this way. Best wishes