As the threat and reality of COVID-19 simultaneously sweep the earth, the only certainty is the uncertainty, which is the least favourable place for businesses and individuals. The complexities of this situation cannot be underplayed, with multiple layers to consider, from human health both physical and mental to world economies. Whilst COVID-19 may be a great equaliser in terms of its indiscriminate contagion, the response from governments has varied widely.

FUTURE Designs, gathered a group of experienced business leaders from two key regions – the UK and Middle East, to discuss how different sectors, governments and businesses were dealing with the management of their operations, as we all try to fathom the best way to deal with this extraordinary situation that we all find ourselves in.

As if you to remind us of just how fast governments are moving to deal and manage the threat, when this discussion took place construction sites in the UAE were still operating but with stringent health and safety guidelines being followed. Only four days later new restrictions were announced in Dubai, requiring movement permits to be obtained from Dubai Municipality and the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs by vital sectors, which includes construction.

What is very apparent is just how vital to the global economy the Construction sector (in its broadest term) is, not only as a huge employer across many social strata’s but also an indicator of the health of an economy, along with its close relative ‘manufacturing’. It is therefore not surprising that government, only with one or two exceptions, have been prepared to insist on a blanket shut down of either and leaving it to the discretion of the businesses.

This has been a huge dilemma for many organisations – the health of the business versus the health of people may on the face it appears very simple because every right-minded person would choose people surely? Except it is far more complex than that – company owners need to endure the long term health of a business to guarantee a future for its employees.

Cash flow concerns and business continuity are not minor issues, they are fundamental to the vigour of all business and never before have we had to deal with such a rude and indiscriminate disruptor.

Even with the incredibly generous support of the UK government to business, some level of commerce must take place balance with keeping employees safe.

In the absence of certainty, there must be balance.   Another important statistic to bear in mind is that a 6.4% drop in economy could cause more deaths than the virus.

So, whilst the vast majority of us are remote working what are the key things we can do to keep the wheels of commerce turning?

Are there any upsides?

Well yes, perhaps a few.

Like all terrible situations there are winners and losers. Congratulations to the cleaning companies, wine merchants (UK only), manufacturer of loo roll and hand sanitiser.

Closer to home in the construction sector, if the right teams can be mobilised this an ideal time to begin refurbishment works in the hospitality and education sectors

Many of us can work remotely and still be just as effective, certainly in the short term.

Diaries can keep their structure because there is less opportunity for ad-hoc encounters, the huge down of course is that the serendipitous water cooler moments that have become synonymous with great ideas, have all but disappeared.

There was unanimous agreement that social contact and relationships are vital, whilst we may all have become far more adept at using the various video conferencing apps, the need to meet face to face has never seemed more appealing.

Finding innovative way to mentor, maintain cultures and boost team spirit is very much a challenge of this time.

 

 

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