This article originally appeared in the M&E Journal: The Now What? Issue, Spring/Summer 2020.
Shelter in Place
Looking at how the current situation has altered public media and entertainment consumption can lead to new opportunities
By Ramón Bretón, Chief Technology Officer, 3rd i
Abstract: The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 presents complicated challenges to small-to-medium-sized companies whose primary business is traditionally conducted on-site. Moving forward requires balancing comprehensive preparation and strict responsibility to one’s workforce, while maintaining an attitude of flexibility and perseverance in the face of the enormous stress and logistical difficulties presented by this worldwide pandemic.
The beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic signaled changes both monumental and fast. Whereas at the start of 2020 one would not have hesitated to shake hands with a colleague (or even a stranger) at a conference, bumping fists became an acceptable alternative, followed immediately by touching elbows, tapping the sides of shoes, or, ultimately, a friendly wave or bow with no contact whatsoever.
In short order, all in-person industry gatherings converted to online affairs or were canceled outright. These shifts in attitude and behavior were a clear signal to any business with an on-site workforce that big changes were forthcoming.
The first consideration of any business is the health and well-being of its workforce and customers. A looming pandemic forces companies to evaluate their level of readiness and pushes them to make immediate additional preparations. Sanitation supplies need to be made available, even if their procurement comes at inflated costs. Communicating current recommended safety precautions to be taken both while at the office and away is equally important.
From an operational standpoint, it is critical to evaluate roles to determine how staff can work remotely and what logistical steps are necessary to enable this shift to work from home (WFH). When dealing with remote access, it is crucial to balance the shift to a WFH workforce while maintaining the company’s security posture. Security firms working specifically in the M&E industry play a key role in assisting with enabling WFH while maintaining Trusted Partner Network (TPN) guidelines.
It is neither quaint nor romantic to think of the workforce of an enterprise as a family. This is especially true in the case of small-to-medium-sized companies. Although ultimately individuals are responsible for their own actions, owners and management have a duty that goes beyond legal obligations to provide an environment that encourages the physical and emotional well-being of their staff and customers. In addition to pragmatic concerns of sanitation and hygiene, those in supervisorial roles often find themselves in the position of impromptu caretakers, with open-door policies to address concerns or provide general emotional support when needed.
Responsibility here has another implication: to fulfill the promise of uninterrupted service to one’s clients while protecting their content and intellectual property in a manner that also safeguards the health of the company’s staff. Once new policies regarding WFH workflows are established, it is vital to communicate these proactive changes to clients and partners impacted by these adjustments.
The goal of any enterprise is to be successful. Fiscal performance is only one way to measure success, but it is of course important. The notion of responsibility comes into play again here, but in a different way. With the uncertainty that comes along with a worldwide crisis forcing people into self-isolation, small-to-medium-sized companies must strive to survive, not only in their own self-interest, but as reassurance to their staff and partners that they will come out on the other side whole.
One way to make more money is to spend less money, and certainly efficiency needs to be optimized while balancing the financial needs of those who depend on the company for income — there is a place for ethics here. However, another way to make more money is to make more money.
Evaluating the talent of one’s staff while also looking at how the current situation has altered public media and entertainment consumption can lead to new opportunities in areas where a company’s strengths overlap with new consumer behavior. When developing new service offerings, cloud-based and otherwise remote workflows are given top priority in order to support WFH.
One of the advantages small-to-medium-sized companies possess over their larger counterparts is their ability to be nimble. Instead of being weighed down by the bureaucratic quagmire plaguing large enterprises, smaller companies can make creative decisions and implement new policies quickly. This is an opportune time to encourage blue-sky projects and out-of-the box thinking and develop any plans that are promising. A reshaping of company operations forced by the unusual safer-at-home conditions may end up being a silver lining in an otherwise unfortunate situation.
During a crisis it is key to adopt an attitude of commitment — to the health and safety of the corporate family, to continuing to provide the same level of service to one’s clients and partners, and to the survival of the enterprise by adapting in ways dictated by current conditions. The gift of time is perspective. When looking back at the COVID-19 pandemic in the first part of 2020 and evaluating corporate response and performance to the unforeseen challenges presented by the unprecedented nature of the worldwide quarantine, it is just as important to identify areas of improvement as it is to celebrate areas of success. Surviving economically while placing the highest value on the well-being of one’s staff and customers is a success by any measure.
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