COVID-19 Coronavirus and the Workplace: Two Worker Case Studies Share:

Steve Williamson, Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.
Monday, March 16, 2020
COVID-19 Coronavirus and the Workplace: Two Worker Case Studies

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#covid19 #coronavirus #teleworking

We provide case studies of two individuals who must change the way they work because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

Bob is a software developer. His husband, Greg, is a pilot for an airline with international flights. Because of Greg's occupation and potential exposure to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Bob's supervisor asked him to self-quarantine and work from home for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Bob's employer provides laptops to all technical staff, and they are installed with chat and video conferencing software. Also, since Bob's code files are stored in the cloud, he can work from anywhere that has an internet connection.

Sue is a district manager for a chain of coffee shops. Her territory covers two states. Her primary responsibility is opening new stores and assisting individual store managers with hiring and other personnel matters. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, she has found herself in an unusual position. She needs to manage staff that must be physically present at their jobs — working from home is not an option — but she is very concerned that her travel and exposure to so many different people could make her a carrier for the virus.

Software Developer: Bob's Story

Because of the nature of Bob's work as a software developer, he has the advantage of being able to work anywhere that has an internet connection. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he spent five days a week at the office. Other than a Monday morning Scrum meeting with the rest of his development team, he spent most of his time quietly working at his desk.

The extent of Bob's personal interaction with co-workers and his supervisor was limited to occasional brain storming sessions around a white board or a group lunch at a local pod of food carts.

Other than the shared lunches, every function of Bob's work is easily shifted to remote work through the use of software and connectivity tools. He continues to use Slack to chat with other developers; that hasn't changed. Now that he has to work remotely, he uses desktop sharing tools like Zoom and RingCentral to replicate the white board experience with co-workers. Bob's supervisor uses these same tools when conducting weekly Scrum meetings, which are recorded for later reference by the entire team.

In some ways, Bob has become more productive now that he works from home. He used to leave the house at 7:15 each morning to get to the office at 8:00 AM. Now, instead of wasting 45 minutes each morning in the car, his work begins at 7:15. He has even found he has more time at home each afternoon to get things done around the house, improving his work-life balance.

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District Manager: Sue's Story

Sue faces a completely different challenge than Bob. The nature of her work is physical, not virtual. They haven't found a way to sell espresso digitally (yet). She helps open new coffee shops which entails in-person visits to the locations, speaking with vendors, orientating store managers, and assisting with the hiring of coffee shop staff.

The fundamental nature of a coffee shop involves real humans interacting with each other over a physical product. That is not something that can be done remotely. Sue's primary concern is ensuring staff and customers do not spread the COVID-19 virus to each other. Her secondary concern is becoming a carrier of the virus herself. Because she travels from store to store and interacts with dozens of people every week, she doesn't want to contribute to the spread of the disease.

After consulting with corporate leadership, Sue implemented three key initiatives. First, all stores within her district that don't have a drive-thru will begin offering deliveries of orders above a minimum price. On nice days, they also placed barista carts outside their locations using electronic payment no-touch kiosks.

The third initiative Sue implemented was the use of real-time smartphone video calls with vendors and store managers. This enables her to interact with people without the in-person risk of virus exposure and transmission. They also began using video to conduct job interviews with candidates.

In some cases, there can even be hidden benefits discovered once these new ways of operating are implemented.

Travel costs were practically eliminated. This savings helped reduce the financial impact of the outside barista carts. Second, it enabled Sue to meet with far more people in a short period of time. This meant that she could schedule job interviews and meetings with vendors and store managers with an hour's notice instead of 2-3 day delays. Sue starts her day at the same time as before the outbreak, but she is done much earlier in the afternoon and is now home every night with her family instead of being on the road most of the week.

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Responding to Changes

Whether it is an unexpected public health emergency like the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak or a significant weather event, organizations and individuals that are flexible and innovative can continue to operate with minimized disruption and inconvenience. Many off-the-shelf solutions can be used to find alternative ways of getting things done.

In some cases, there can even be hidden benefits discovered once these new ways of operating are implemented — some even become permanent. After discovering the benefits of remote working, Bob's supervisor gave him permission to continue working from home Tuesday through Friday after the outbreak subsides.

Corporate leadership found that Sue's implementation of smartphone video calls saved money and time. They decided to roll out similar programs in other sales districts. Customers appreciated the walk-up barista carts because it saved them time and was often a more pleasurable coffee-buying experience on nice weather days. Deliveries to office buildings and manufacturing facilities saved customers time and increased sales.

Those companies and individuals that adapt to the new reality of the COVID-19 outbreak can find new ways to thrive. It just takes a little creativity and flexibility.

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in information technology, software development, and project management spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (, and when he isn't writing he is an aspiring multi-instrumentalist and composer, a virtual pilot in a home-built flight simulator, and a cyclist.

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