88%

adopt work from home

68%

categorize themselves as “early followers”

27%

decisions made by their business continuity team

19%

will likely reduce targets

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) caught everyone by surprise, but our Coronavirus Response Survey shows that organizations in Hong Kong have responded rapidly despite the outbreak begin during the Chinese New Year holidays. The survey was conducted in early February, with more than 300 companies participating. The survey includes a breakdown of the findings by industry, including 128 participants with frontline employees.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that 88% of participants have adopted work–from-home arrangements. Other top workplace arrangements include postponing nonessential travel, requiring self-quarantine of staff who have recently traveled to Mainland China, and providing sanitizers and masks in the workplace. Many companies had begun looking into flexi-work solutions in mid-2019 during social disruption in the city. The coronavirus situation has jumpstarted many Hong Kong companies in terms of practicing flexi-work — in particular, work from home — on a larger scale and a more sustained basis.

However, of the 88% implementing work–from-home arrangements, only 24% make it mandatory for all employees company-wide, while 44% rely on discretionary arrangements determined by direct managers or department heads. The implication of making work-from-home discretionary is that offices are still open for those colleagues who choose to go in; thus, these companies are still responsible for keeping facilities operational and securing a safe workplace.

Most companies (68%) categorize themselves as “early followers” that rely on external information, including government guidelines, in formulating their response, resulting in less confusion for their employees. In addition to a solid foundation of technology and policy, how these decisions are made varies based on each organization’s maturity and level of infrastructure.

For about half of survey respondents, decisions rest on the shoulders of regular management committee members. Only 27% rely on decisions made by their business continuity teams; the top three industries in this category are consumer goods, energy and insurance.

For those with frontline employees, only 19% are likely to reduce individual, team and/or department targets, and 54% remain highly uncertain at this time. This fluctuates drastically by industry, with manufacturing most likely to retain the same target.

To overcome disruptions such as the outbreak of the coronavirus, companies need to consider broader critical success factors related to:

  1. Leadership
    Change management is key for companies to embrace the challenges arise from the uncertainties and rapidly changing situation during the period. There is a need for leadership team to adopt different management style and approach to outcome-driven rather than process-driven, and encourage employees having the self-discipline to regularly report to line managers about their progress and seek guidance.
  2. Policies & Infrastructure
    Policies on flexi work arrangements (e.g. work from home policy) have to be developed and implemented, and technical infrastructure has to be ready to support and ensure business continuity. Also a clear job structure and expectation is essential for employees to stay focused and be clear of their objectives and goals.
  3. Employee experience
    Employee experience is the intersection of an employee’s expectations, their environment within the organization, and the events that shape their journeys. Always put employee at the heart of the design of your initiatives, including but not limited to flexi-work arrangement, facilitates and hygiene equipment, monetary allowances and benefits, etc., would be effective to engage your workforce and remain productive, while retaining your top talents during turbulent times.

Employers need to develop and implement policies, job structure and technical infrastructure to ensure business continuity and keep employees engaged and productive while retaining key talent during turbulent times.

Industries represented in this survey include consumer goods, life sciences, chemicals, transportation equipment, manufacturing, high tech, energy, healthcare services, retail and wholesale, financial services, insurance, services (non-financial), logistics, and other nonmanufacturing.

 

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