'Everyone is confused, lost, worried and unsure about the future.'
'Regular communication from the owners or leaders will keep anxiety at bay for employees.'
Arvind Khinvesra, a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner with a certificate in personal counselling, has been coaching entrepreneurs and professionals for the last five years.
Before that, he spent 23 years working in the fields of information technology and manufacturing.
"As much as employees are scared, they will also be eager to get back to work. Creating a safe and clean environment, taking all necessary precautions within the office premises, will make them feel confident," Khinvesra tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com in the first of a two-part interview about how companies can function post the pandemic-provoked lockdown.
Apart from disinfecting office/business premises, making arrangements for people to wash their hands before entering and ensuring they wear masks, what other precautions would you suggest?
Opening of businesses after the lockdown does not mean life is normal. We will have to get used to the new normal.
Each person entering the premises would have travelled using different modes of transport, leading to exposure.
Therefore, only those employees who need to be in the office should be asked to come in; others can continue working from home.
Sanitise the premises regularly, including the equipment being used in the office, as multiple people could be using the same equipment -- for example, printers or shared computers.
Manage work with couriers, delivery boys, etc, outside the premises.
Avoid allowing unknown people inside the office.
No outside food, including tea, should be allowed inside the premises.
Be observant and if anyone feels unwell, take necessary action immediately.
Having infra-red thermometers to monitor employee temperatures could be one such step.
With the need for physical distancing and therefore lesser staff, how do you expect businesses to maintain their output?
First, maintain output according to demand and not as per capacity.
In case demand is less, it may be manageable with lesser staff.
It would be better not to block liquidity in unwanted inventory.
If the demand is high, an option, wherever feasible, could be working in shifts.
Second, looking at it from a different perspective, this situation will force us to remove the inefficiencies in our processes.
Identify unwanted tasks that no longer need to be done and figure out how the required tasks can be done more efficiently.
When you talk about change, are you suggesting moving most of the interaction over the internet or phone calls instead of direct contact?
This change has already begun.
People have started getting comfortable with meetings over the Internet.
Those who felt the need to meet personally are now getting used to face-to-face conversations over the Internet.
We have also started realising the benefits of having meetings over calls as it saves a lot of travel time and coordination and energy.
Having said this, with this new way of managing meetings, people will also have to enhance their online meeting etiquette skills like avoiding distractions during a call, for example.
How do you maintain a positive morale among employees during this period?
If there was any time where it is critical for the owner to communicate with their employees, it is now.
Everyone is confused, lost, worried and unsure about the future.
Regular communication from the owners or leaders will keep anxiety at bay for the employees.
In addition to the worries caused by the dreadful virus, people are also stressed about their survival and future.
Reaching out to employees, supporting them to the extent possible and giving them confidence about their employment in the times to come could act a great morale booster.
In addition, regular connects through meetings, chats or telephonic calls -- both formal and informal -- can go a long way in keeping employees excited.
Also, if employees are working from home, it is essential to consider their personal obligations in the current situation and not schedule calls, meetings, etc, at hours when they need to support their family.
The lockdown has been lifted in many places but employees are scared to step out of their homes. How do you give them confidence?
As much as employees are scared, they will also be eager to get back to work.
Following the protocols, creating a safe and clean environment, taking all necessary precautions within the office premises will make them feel confident.
What specific skill training would you suggest for employees now?
For employers, it is a good time to evaluate the skill development requirements of every employee and identify the technical or soft skill trainings that can be organised for them.
The sales team can be asked to prepare sales presentations for products and they can be trained in the product knowledge domain.
Interpersonal skills, excel, e-mail etiquette, telephone etiquette, presentation skills and managing stress are some kinds of training that can easily be done online.
Needless to say, the training will be dependent on the job profile and requirement of that role.
In this post-lockdown time, will checking the temperature of employees and customers become an everyday feature?
It appears so for some time at least, if not for a longer period.
It will have to be introduced for the safety of all concerned.
One must realise that these precautions are also for the benefit of the individual concerned.
It will be as common as security (baggage x-ray check) at major buildings; people will understand this and take it in their stride.