Lessons Learned in a Lockdown
China was the first to experience lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was also one of the first to relax restrictions. As others across the globe begin their recovery efforts, I want to share my experiences of lessons learned and how we might use them in the future.
First, let me share some good news. Current China economic indicators show a rapid rebound of commercial activity, beginning late-March and gaining further traction into April. As such, AGS China is cautiously positive about the future for recruitment.
While many clients in China are getting ready to leap back into pre-COVID-19 momentum, we see a different economic story globally. This situation has hindered China’s rebound trajectory somewhat, but the consensus from conversations we have had with clients here is that China will lead the global recovery.
AGS China is now fully engaging our clients, designing optimal strategies to cope with the ongoing situation. Specifically, we are scoping services that help retain team resources and capabilities, or right-size resources to address short-term volatility.
Learning Through Lockdown
Looking back, we learned a great deal as we navigated our way through the early days of the pandemic. So, what worked for us?
As soon as the scale of the issue became apparent, AGS China, together with AGS APAC, immediately created a crisis management task force to manage the situation.
Daily meetings were held to ensure:
- There was a reliable and centralized resource to compile and disseminate critical news and information
- All employees’ health and travel policies and guidelines were compliant with local regulations arising from COVID-19
- The physical safety and well-being of employees, providing them with face masks, hand sanitizers, and thermometers
- Employees had access to sufficient resources and stable infrastructure to support remote working arrangements
A company-wide social media chat group was launched, so that all employees could communicate with us and, in turn, management could engage with affected employees. Team leaders kept individual members engaged with frequent one-to-one online sessions. Staff were encouraged to share both work and non-work-related updates, resulting in better opportunities for positive interaction. At the same time, chat-groups were set up to facilitate closer account-specific conversations.
Once we had established these protocols, AGS China could then focus on building and maintaining our client services under the new restrictions.
We began by adopting the business continuity planning approach to mitigate the risk of service disruptions. First, we divided our core delivery capabilities for each client account into two groups, with each group acting as a backup for the other group. Both groups contained all essential functions to operate by themselves fully but were physically separated – either working from home, at an AGS office, or onsite at the clients’ premises. The arrangement mitigated the risk of any team member falling ill, thereby safeguarding service delivery levels and maintaining the whole team’s operational capabilities.
To facilitate remote working, we arranged to set up desktop computers at our employees’ homes. AGS China made great efforts to transfer our shared documents onto a secure platform, so that employees could access files from home under safe data protection measures. We also collaborated with clients on facilitation, prevention, and mitigation actions to develop joint strategies and deployable action plans.
Importantly, we significantly increased the frequency of communication with clients beyond the scheduled weekly meetings, and clients greatly appreciated the additional active engagement.
Beyond emails, WeChat remains the best medium in China to communicate with clients, especially interactively, but other popular video conference platforms like WebEx and Microsoft Teams were widely used, too.
The impressive work ethic from this generation of professionals in China was exemplary during the lockdown. Both clients and our team members took to telecommuting very well, and we were proud there was no compromise in productivity nor quality of service. In fact, all business goals were achieved in February and March when the lockdown was at its most intense.
Some Friendly Advice
If I were to offer any tips to those still experiencing similar restrictions, I would say the following:
- Establish a dedicated “work” space, separate to living areas in your home. You need boundaries to maintain a routine and work-life balance.
- Make the daily effort to visually connect with friends, colleagues, and family members, especially if you’re living alone.
- Limit your intake of news and information about the pandemic. Set a fixed time for news updates and stick to it.
Finally, pat yourself on the back for staying home! Isolating yourself is not easy, and it’s a huge sacrifice. However, it is a tremendous contribution to the health and safety of your family, friends, and fellow countrymen.
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