Friday, April 24, 2020

This Crisis Will Be With Us for Awhile -- What Can We Do to Help, Now?

This pandemic will be with us for awhile. Although studies are showing that quarantine and isolation methods are indeed “flattening the curve” and that we should all continue to keep our physical distance, it is hard not to grow impatient: how long this is likely to last?

IN an interview on with the BBC, Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, says, “Waiting for a vaccine should not be honored with the name ‘strategy;’ that is not a strategy.” Governments should not rely on the advent of vaccines to end the pandemic. Bottom line: a vaccine might be available in 12-18 months. The logistics of inoculating millions will be substantial, once such a solution is mass-produced.

A professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford in the U.K. and Head of the Department of Immunology at the University of Bern in Switzerland, Professor Martin Bachmann said, “The real question is, can you keep it down long enough to have a vaccine? Without a vaccine, we are maybe looking at something like a year. But this would mean that 60–70% of the population would have had exposure to the virus.”

So what should we do, as knowledge workers, for the foreseeable future? As management consultants, the team here at Bluedog recommends a few steps that can be undertaken now, to ease the burden. Start by enabling easy, yet secure, remote access for staff who can effectively work at home.

Many jobs can at least partly be done remotely. Staff who may contribute to a customer experience, for example, should be able to do so. Even back office staff can be part of a solution, even more so in times of crisis. We suggest investing in infrastructure and tools that your employees need to stay productive and in contact, even when they cannot come into the office.

From a human resources perspective, ensure the organization has relevant guidelines and procedures in place that help people to work remotely. This includes training on systems that people need to do their work via remote access. To minimize the disaster recovery challenges, run these systems in the cloud. An important aspect of this infrastructure is an appropriate set of productivity tools that facilitate people working collaboratively. There are a plethora of software suites available that allow this, starting with Microsoft’s Office365 along with Slack, Zoom, Google Hang Outs, and many more. Of course, with Workbench “Always on the Job!” an organization can manage teams and projects, in the cloud.

Automation can improve effectiveness and efficiency. For example, give sales representatives backup by building A.I.-like conversational technologies that take away some of the upfront workload. One way to achieve this is implementing a conversational A.I. that supports your business processes. Pre-screen inquiries with fast and efficient flows that get to the root question a customer contact has. Be sure to enable short implementation times to achieve value.

There are a number of techniques, tools, and technologies that can smooth over the radical changes we are all experiencing — remote work is just one aspect of the changing world, as we all work together to weather this crisis.

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