COVID-19: Survival Kit For Organisations And Employees, By Bukonla Adebakin

As the Group COO, RED | For Africa & Team Lead, The Future Project, this unprecedented time has shaken the core of our activities and taken a toll on some of our plans, however, one thing that it hasn’t done, dampens our spirit.

We are currently experiencing a global pandemic—countries are shutting borders, and social distancing is becoming our daily norm. Did we ever think we would be here less than three months into this new decade that promised so much? The most important thing right now is that we all stay safe and do our part to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, one thing is certain—the effect of the pandemic on the operations and bottom-line of organisations, and on the work habit of employees.

I decided to share some of the strategies from our survival kit at RED | For Africa, which is essentially focused on both Organisations & their employees. In it are strategies that organisations & employees can employ, which are:

  • Open & Transparent two-way Communication: Organisations should communicate openly and transparently about the situation and how it affects them. The communication must be two-way such that the organisation is frank about the challenges it is facing, and employees are truthful about how the situation affects them.
  • Reassure your team: You can’t predict the future, but you must do what you can to provide calm, steady leadership by renewing your commitment to the people who work for you. Set the tone, and everyone else will follow.
  • Show Empathy: When an organisation and its employees demonstrate empathy, they both know what the other is going through. They know it is not business as usual, and they both want to ensure that each stay afloat for their future survival.
  • Build Trust: This guarantees the desire of the organisation and employees to collaborate to resolve challenges. It arises from open and transparent communication and empathy. It is very important in periods of uncertainty in business environments. Trust generates common desire; the desire to work for the survival of the organisation and the employees.
  • Invest in work-from-home solutions if you haven’t: I know the temptation right now is to preserve cash. But you need to keep your business running, and that’s not going to happen with half-measures or workarounds. Productivity is already struggling right now, don’t let inadequate  tools make it worse. Find a solution that fits your business and make it work.
  • Reevaluate your finances: These are going to be lean times the likes of which Nigeria hasn’t faced in quite a while. Cut where you can. For instance, if you are in a position to get out of a lease on office space, well, your team is already working from home anyway, and if otherwise, give this a thought. Let space go, and get that cash back. Do whatever you can to preserve cash flow without cutting people.
  • An environment of Collaboration and Cooperation: This creates a desire to find a win-win solution that is acceptable to both parties. Both the organisation and employees have the justification to work collaboratively to ensure that synergy is created. You don’t have to solve this crisis at once, and luckily, it’s not your responsibility to do it by yourself. You’ve hired a team you trust and believe in. Now is the time to lean on their collective experience, intelligence, and wisdom to help make the right decisions.
  • ABC – Always be closing: You need to hustle as you’ve never hustled before. There will be a strong tendency for potential clients to grow timid in these uncertain times, but the same goes for your competition. Be forthright, be out there and offer solutions to the problems of this strange new world we’re suddenly in. Don’t retrench. Don’t retreat.
  • Have backup plans for your backup plans: Much of the world is lurching suddenly over to primarily work-from-home arrangements, which comes with its own set of problems. Tools like conference call systems are already being overwhelmed by volume beyond capacity, so you need to know what you’re going to do when your plans fall through. The whole world is rushing to find technological solutions, and that’s going to take time. Plan accordingly.

At RED | For Africa we work with a schedule, a clear timeline, and regular check-ins on everyone working from home, and have honest conversations for both management & employees. What makes this easy is creating an environment that is open to brutal and honest conversations — a workplace where we enjoin everyone to speak up.

Long before the pandemic, RED | For Africa has been running a work-from-home policy to create a convenient work-life balance, hence, it was not difficult to continue.

To create balance, we created a virtual bonding activity called The Huddle. This involves all teammates using a virtual conferencing platform  (in this case, Microsoft Teams) to engage and share stories about what they are grateful for during this period. We also started a virtual book club to facilitate the development of the mind. Organisations must realise that the COVID-19 crisis will end no matter how uncertain we are of when this will happen. They should therefore not destroy the foundation that will make bouncing back post-pandemic possible. Otherwise, they would be forced to build another foundation after the virus, while others who planned properly will take advantage of the ensuing favourable business environment.