Wednesday morning, the World Health Organization formally announced that COVID 19 had reached levels that merit it the classification of a pandemic. The tactics for operating in the time of COVID 19 are covered here. As we face this new day, it’s clear that business, as usual, is going to be unusual.
As reports of COVID 19 cases spiking across the globe fill the headlines, it can be tempting to allow decision paralysis to set in.
You may think not rocking the boat is the best bet, or fear that it’s pointless to change.
Please take a deep breath, and let’s recap what we know.
COVID-19: Understanding chain of infection is crucial to stopping it
We’ll begin with the chain of infection, specifically the very cycle that recent travel bans and school closures aim to break. You can start to see how avoiding handshakes and limiting time in enclosed spaces with groups of five or more can have an impact, hence the push for remote work wherever possible.
Here are the core links in the chain of infection:
- Infection agent, in this case, COVID 19
- Reservoirs— individuals carrying COVID 19
- Portals of Exit—respiratory tract (mouth or nose)
- Means of transmission—cough or sneeze that is then inhaled by another person, cough or sneeze contaminates surface then touched by another person
- Portal of Entry – breathing in another person’s germ, self-transmitting by touching a contaminated surface and passing to mouth, nose, eyes
- Susceptible host – human beings
The chain links back with the infectious agent, and so goes the rapid spread of COVID 19.
Breaking the chain or flattening the curve is designed to minimize the number of people simultaneously infected. When there is more time between diagnoses, health care providers and outlets can prepare and treat symptomatic individuals. It does not mean we will achieve zero transmission. Instead, it is our collective best hope for minimizing loss of life.
Stepping up to lead: How businesses can help fight coronavirus
So, how do we employ what we know in ways that benefit ourselves, our communities, and our businesses? Immediately we see that we can tackle the day-to-day things: wash your hands, limit travel, replace the board room with online meetings, keep your hands away from your face.
The more significant challenge is how do we battle the perception that the nuisance of adjustment is not worth the benefit – or worse – that people not personally at risk defy the need to protect the community?
One thing to do is approach the way forward in a fashion similar to health care providers and infectious diseases. Their objective is to identify the virus, isolate the risk, and inform the public and other providers.
Identify how you can participate in minimizing the spread of COVID 19. Encourage the daily practice of preventative actions—stay home when sick, wash hands, cough and sneeze into your elbow, plan for absences, avoid unnecessary travel.
Isolate how your new behavior might cramp your typical approach to communication and sales. Will you be rescheduling meetings? Does this influence how you pitch? Is your ability to close deals impacted? What can you do to offset the changes?
Inform your team, partners, family, and vendors as to how the ways you’re altering your approach will or will not impact them.
Now is the time for leadership: Rise to the occasion
It’s ok to smile warmly instead of shaking hands.
It’s ok to adopt work from home options.
It’s ok to say to clients, “Given current conditions we are adhering to a no-travel, virtual-meetings-only methodology. Here is how this is going to impact you and how I intend to continue to serve you in ways that you have grown accustomed to.”
How long will this last?
That’s really up to us. The NBA has suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID 19, colleges are transitioning to distance learning, and the aftershocks of the pandemic will absolutely continue.
To believe that any of us can continue on a path without adapting, evolving, or altogether reconsidering how we operate is unrealistic at best. We have an opportunity to reassess many things about the way we do business. COVID 19 may eventually become something that is not as great a risk to portions of our society.
Still, our ability to respond to a crisis that threatens lives will always be valid, will always be valuable, and will always be necessary.
We are up to this challenge. Our global community needs us to show up for this fight. Ultimately, everything that each of us does to participate in breaking the chain of infection will make us stronger.