By Jose Manuel Enriquez Mora
A little over a year ago, no one imagined the reality we would have to live through. In the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, the author makes it clear that one of the constants in our lives is change. Those who adjust quickly, manage to overcome the challenges that such change entails, and even benefit from it; while those who resist change tend to suffer a lot and do not take advantage of the opportunities that a new environment might bring.
We were all forced to change our lifestyles almost instantly; however, as they say in the artistic world “The Show Must Go On”. Although many of us were fortunate enough to be able to stay at home, the doctors and nurses, policemen, firefighters, and other so-called “essential” workers had to continue going out to perform their job. These workers include many of our colleagues who allow us to go on with our lives – connected from home – with minimal disruption; such is the case of installation technicians, service centers’ staff, workers in factories, and logistics centers, among others.
Most companies had to adjust to this new reality, implementing the safety protocols recommended by agencies such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, as well as local health authorities (social distancing, monitoring the temperature of those who enter work centers, providing face masks and gel, etc.). Here we share some additional measures that some companies in the fiber optic telecommunications ecosystem have taken in different areas, with the intention of opening the dialogue to the exchange of ideas to protect the health of our customers and collaborators.
CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTERS
Most customer service centers have implemented the measures recommended by the health authorities; in addition to this, sanitary checkpoints have been installed at Total Play’s Service Centers; while at ICE in Costa Rica, immediately after the pandemic began, they decided to strengthen their digital platforms to be able to virtually serve more customers and implemented service centers with preferential hours for the elderly.
FACTORIES AND LOGISTICS CENTERS
In addition to the basic measures, at its factories in Asia, Senko makes use of a wellness application in which all employees and visitors must answer a series of questions about Covid-19 from their smart phones prior to entering its facilities. This also helps them keep a close eye on who enters and leaves their facilities in real time, and in the event of an outbreak they can quickly track down everyone who might be at risk of infection. If someone orders delivery food, it must be delivered without physical contact with the delivery person. Access to common areas (such as the kitchen) is limited and gatherings of people are prohibited.
TIC Colombia also makes use of technology through Kronos, an app that reports the health condition of their collaborators; and, in the case that someone shows any symptoms, the app automatically sends an alert to the health and safety manager, to take the necessary steps, as needed, in order to avoid the virus’ propagation.
Optronics in Mexico, on the other hand, has implemented areas for food consumption, sectioning the facility by zones, to avoid the concentration of staff from different areas/departments in the dining room and thereby minimize the possibility of cross-infection and mass spreading of the virus.
Most companies maintain a travel ban indefinitely for most of their staff, especially sales teams. At Senko they go a step further; if an employee travels for personal reasons outside of his/her state, upon returning he/she must be quarantined for 14 days.
WORK FROM HOME
There are companies—like Senko—that allow up to 85% of their workforce to work from home. At Optronics, 21% of their payroll works from home under a rotation model; plus, another 13% of the production team who, due to shift rotation or time off, stay at home, so that on a day-to-day basis 34% of their workforce is outside their facilities. For its part, at ICE their remote staff went from 2,400 to just over 7,000 employees during the first year of the pandemic (about 48% of the payroll), obtaining incredibly positive results in the productivity of the company and its workers. At Total Play, in the field operations area 5% work remotely —namely those collaborators who require isolation as they present a high risk (maternity, health preconditions, etc.); while in central areas, 41% of employees work from home.
Optronics, on the other hand, has implemented areas for food consumption, sectioning the facility by zones, to avoid the concentration of staff from different areas/departments in the dining room and thereby minimize the possibility of cross-infection and mass spread.
PLANS TO KEEP HOME OFFICE PERMANENT
Optronics has considered it but has yet to make a final decision; while at Senko it is expected that a percentage of the workforce will continue working under a hybrid system of work on site and work from home. ICE in Costa Rica expects that the same number of workers currently doing home office, will continue to do so indefinitely, if the nature of the job makes it possible. Total Play is also considering extending work from home indefinitely when feasible, as it has shown to be effective, and it helps improve the quality of life of its collaborators.
INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS ABOUT COVID-19
Optronics makes use of its intranet to keep its labor force informed; as well as through social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Total Play also keeps a dedicated page on its intranet to inform its crews on the latest news and protocols for Covid-19, fomenting and reinforcing through written & digital media permanent prevention campaigns.
During the early stage of the pandemic, ICE drafted a series of detailed protocols aligned with the health authorities’ recommendations and has also kept permanent communication campaigns to keep its workers up to date on the latest recommendations and protocols.
TECHNICIANS & INSTALLERS THAT HAVE TO ENTER CUSTOMERS’ HOMES
The basic protocols for installers & technicians that must enter customers’ homes include wearing a facemask, washing their hands (or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) before entering and upon leaving the customer’s home, as well as keeping at least a 6 ft distance from the customer.
Some of the more rigorous measurements include making sure that technicians use professionally cleaned uniforms every day, the use of show covers inside the premises, and, if a technician must step outside, he should leave the shoe covers at the entrance and put them back on before reentering. Other recommended protocols include making sure that no tools are placed directly on any tables, couches, or any other furniture at the customer’s home; tools & equipment should only be placed on top of a cloth brought in by the technician. It is also recommended that upon each visit, all tools be sanitized (check out the protocols of this company of plumbers, electricians, and other technicians).
Even if the technicians follow the proper protocols, the customers do not always follow them, many of them refuse to wear facemasks, and do not they keep their healthy distance while the technicians do their job; and, occasionally, they can even harass them. Total Play confirmed that they have had some cases of hostility towards their technicians; however, they were typically resolved once a field supervisor got involved.
This article barely scratches the surface of the challenges faced by the industry in the day-to-day operations during the pandemic, as well as the innovative solutions and protocols that some companies have implemented to ensure the safety of their customers and employees. We hope this Will serve to open up an exchange of ideas on how to deal with the challenges we face.