It’s no secret that 2020 presented businesses and individuals with an unprecedented set of challenges. Although many companies got battered or swept away by the coronavirus-induced storm, we are among the fortunate ones that were able to continue operating by taking the necessary precautions.
When my team and I sat down together and reflected on the past year, we aimed to find the silver linings amongst the anxiety and heartache that so many of us experienced. There were 3 areas that we felt would have a positive impact on our team members, our customers, and our organization moving forward: healthcare, production and business development.
• Preventive Health Care: We have been requiring team members to obtain regular COVID-19 screenings for almost a year. During this process, it was necessary for them to see primary care physicians (PCPs) on a regular basis. We were surprised to learn that many team members did not have a previously established relationship with a PCP, but began to develop these relationships throughout the Covid pandemic. As a result of regular visits to PCPs going forward, team members will be encouraged to receive more preventive care than ever. Preventive care, much like preventive maintenance on our manufacturing equipment, is essential for long term health and controlling health care costs. Every good organization should encourage its team members to become educated healthcare consumers to reduce the costs to the individual and the group plan that they are a part of. It’s a trend that I hope will continue for many years to come.
Although this example is anecdotal, it underscores what many healthcare experts have been saying based on decades worth of data: Prevention is more economical than treatment and should therefore become the emphasis of our healthcare system.
• Stay Home When You’re Sick: Another important healthcare lesson that became clearer than ever from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for encouraging sick employees to stay home.
From the time you’re in elementary school, perfect attendance is rewarded. After years of reinforcement, this mindset tends to permeate our culture. It’s not uncommon for employees to feel guilty for taking time off – neglecting their own health in the name of productivity…or so they think. Employees may “power through” an illness by coming into the office because they feel that missing work will be viewed as a strain on the company, when really, it’s quite the opposite. The potential risk of bringing a contagious illness to work can actually do much more harm than missing a day or two of work to recover.
We were able to see first-hand how a 10-day “quarantine” of employees with COVID-19 was able to greatly slow down the spread of this disease. Encouraging sick employees to stay home may require a short-term productivity sacrifice, but in the long run, there’s likely to be a reduction in overall absenteeism. When contagious employees come to work, the problem of absenteeism can potentially multiply as their illness spreads around the shop, creating the need for even more employees to be out.
In addition, you may also have employees who are at a higher risk of having complications from COVID-19 or other contagious illnesses. What may feel like a minor illness to one employee could be much more detrimental to another, or to a family member at home. The COVID pandemic has definitely renewed our commitment to encouraging sick employees to stay home, and hopefully shifted the mindset of employees to use their PTO time to take care of themselves when necessary.
• Business Continuity Planning: In the production area, we developed and successfully deployed an Emergency Management Team charged with helping us adapt to COVID-related changes such as reconfiguring our production areas, developing new policies, adopting flexible work schedules, staggering shifts, among other things to maintain safe and efficient operations while following the best social distancing practices. We established new protocols that will be added to our Business Continuity Plan in the event something like this should ever occur again.
The Emergency Management Team also prepared us to respond to instances in which team members were unable to work due to coronavirus or other illnesses by cross-training individuals to perform multiple job functions.
The Team’s diligence and flexibility, along with everyone’s can-do attitude, continue to be most impressive. Those attitudes are also responsible for keeping our doors open at a time when we could have been forced to close.
• Normalizing Virtual Meetings: When it comes to business development, 2020 will always be the year in which we learned to work online with our customers. Because social distancing requirements and travel restrictions prevented us from meeting face-to-face, we conducted a lot of business virtually on Zoom and Microsoft Teams. What’s more, we did so at a fraction of the cost of doing things the usual way – driving or flying, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.
Although there’s value in meeting face-to-face, I foresee doing a mix of in-person and virtual meetings after the pandemic ends because one thing we’ve learned over this past year is that, thanks to technology, many trips are optional rather than essential.
As you’ve probably read or heard elsewhere, COVID-19 has accelerated many trends that were already taking root among businesses and consumers alike. Virtual meetings are one of those practices that will remain with us far into the future because of economics and efficiency.
• Something else we did out of necessity last year is create a 360° virtual tour using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to give customers and prospects a close-up view of our operations from a multitude of perspectives when onsite visits were ill advised or not allowed. Can’t make it to C&M? We will bring C&M to you!
As with virtual meetings, I foresee this practice remaining intact post-COVID because it’s much less expensive and time-consuming than the alternative and helps everyone control costs at a time when doing so is more critical than ever.
Although skies remain overcast, sunnier conditions appear to be on the horizon as the psychology of waiting for a better tomorrow is replaced by the notion that “tomorrow” is here as more people are vaccinated and herd immunity develops.
Since we went into business more than 40 years ago, we’ve always believed that the future will be better than the past. It’s an attitude that has served us well, and it’s why we’re planning to grow this year. It’s also why you should know that we’re here to support you in our shared quest to change the world one part at a time.
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