COVID-19 Response Best Practices

March 25, 2020
We acted early and learned a lot about how to prepare and respond to the pandemic. By: Valentina De Loof

 

As VP of Operations, my two biggest priorities are keeping our team healthy and happy and maintaining business continuity. Our employees are our most valuable resource. Protecting their health and the health of their families is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good business. That’s why our response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been so swift, comprehensive, and agile. Two weeks ago we were one of the first companies in Argentina to implement a Work From Home policy. We worried then about being too aggressive, but now believe our decision was prudent.

At the onset of the outbreak, we decided to create and implement a Pandemic Planning Protocol. To do so we created a cross-functional team and established the two principles that would guide our response: 

  1. Identify every risk and potential impact on the health of our employees, and assess them based on each specific office location. 

  2. Define action plans for every contingency and work with leadership to implement and reinforce policies.

The step-by-step pandemic readiness and response plan for COVID-19 positioned us to implement a work from home plan well ahead of the curve in virus spread. On Sunday, March 8th with only a few reported cases in Buenos Aires, our plan went into action and the decision was made to ask employees based in Buenos Aires to switch to a 100% remote work per the internal Protocol. Although there was no evidence of massive spread yet, we know that testing and reporting lags behind contraction, especially when symptoms often take many days to present and some carriers are asymptomatic. 

After the successful implementation of the plan in Buenos Aires we decided to activate work from home protocols in our two remaining offices, Tandil & Mar del Plata. A total of 260+ people have been since working from home. To many employees, it seemed like an early decision, but given how this virus had played out in every country so far, we firmly believered that it would help to minimize risks. 

We have faced different challenges to carry out the execution of our protocol - from logistics to providing support to many employees who have never experienced working from home for an extended period of time - but none we could not overcome. We strongly believe that proper planning is a key factor to prepare for situations like this. 

If you have not yet implemented a Pandemic Planning Protocol, here are some of the actions we took that made our plan implementation successful: 

  • Anticipation. Keeping all employees informed and planning ahead by taking early action in case a remote-working mandate is needed effective immediately (e.g. bringing their laptop and charger home every night, etc).

  • Cross-functional teams. Working with cross-functional areas in the company to document a Pandemic Planning Protocol.

  • Leadership involvement. Making sure that company leadership carries out continuity planning and knows next steps. A failure to do so can result in not having enough trained resources to carry out the plan. 

  • Internal Communications. Sharing information with staff about prevention, what to do if they have traveled to any of the COVID-19 hotspots and have been exposed to the virus. 

  • Logistics. Coordinating logistics in advance to ensure that all employees have what they need to work remotely (secure connection, access to a VPN if needed, testing devices, extra monitors, etc) 

  • Human Resources Presence. As employees continue to be inundated with news about the rapid spread of the COVID-19, it is natural for them to feel mounting anxiety. In cases like this, it is key that Human Resources helps them find counseling by reaching their specific healthcare provider. 

  • Flexibility. Offering support to those who are working from home while taking care of their kids by acknowledging the situation, sharing tips and letting them know that some impact is understandable and accepted. 

  • Engagement. Keeping employee morale up during the outbreak. Some of the concrete actions our Organizational Development area has taken to keep each other connected include: remote yoga classes, doing video meets or chatting about specific topics to bring people closer, setting up collaborative Spotify lists among many others!

  • Community involvement. In other moves to combat COVID-19, our Tandil-based Co-Founder, Francisco Amadeo has recently written policy guidelines for small municipalities to plan, prevent, contain and mitigate the impact of the virus. 

 
Over the past few weeks, I’m constantly reminded of all the people that have been working tirelessly to keep our employees and the broader community safe. I especially recognize the Operations and Facilities team led Spark Digital’s efforts to implement a robust plan in such a short period of time. They are staying in close contact with all our staff members to ensure we protect them. One thing I’m sure of is, that with the plan we already have, we’ll be able to evolve and adjust our protocol as necessary as new information emerges. 
 

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