Beaven Dhliwayo Features Correspondent
Traditional ways of doing business do not consider crowds as unacceptable, but with the coming in of coronavirus (Covid-19), the thinking has been changed.
Coronaviruses, which cause Covid-19, are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Covid-19 is a new strain that was discovered in 2019, and has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals and have not yet infected humans.
The coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, and it is also having a growing impact on the global economy.
For long, crowds confined in a space have been considered a sign of good business, but now are a health scare and risk.
Across the country, for businesses to survive in the era of Covid-19, a paradigm shift is a must.
Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IoDZ) chairman Mike Juru told The Herald that central workplaces are no longer ideal, as such people are now expected to work from home.
“Smartphones and laptops are now tools of trade, while access to data is now a basic requirement,” he said.
“Proper work spaces have to be created at home. This also calls for safety and health issues to be given attention at work premises.”
The question that arises, according to Juru is: could this be the end of commercial office buildings?
Yes and no, he said, are both correct answers.
“Yes, because demand will go down and no as there will still be the need for offices for holding other meetings,” said Juru.
“The space for commercial property investment space will change, same as residential development which will continue to thrive, but with a change in design to incorporate working space at home.”
This means that availability of reliable Internet connection countrywide is of great importance.
All retail spaces are now under scrutiny, and people cannot risk being congested, hence there is need for retailers and the general public to adopt online shopping.
Online shopping is the activity or action of buying products or services over the Internet.
It means going online, landing on a seller’s website, selecting something, and arranging for its delivery.
The buyer either pays for the goods or service online with a credit or debit card or upon delivery.
Thus, e-commerce, warehousing, distribution and logistics or last mile delivery services demand will rise, said the IoDZ chairman.
Even schools and universities should now have a component of online training so that they will not be caught unawares if the pandemic hits the country.
This all requires gadgets that include laptops and smartphones which need unlimited Internet connections.
Imagine an economy where people won’t need to visit Government offices for services.
“E-government should now be a necessity to ensure that the nation does not grind to a halt in the case of Covid-19,” said Juru.
“On the other hand, a surge in demand for data will also require service providers to lower their prices. Gadgets should be affordable so that people won’t be inconvenienced if the need to work from home arises.”
If the country is affected by the Covid-19, demand for public transport will be lowered as people will avoid travelling.
This means jobs for drivers and even touts are at risk.
Covid-19 is real and a danger to human existence considering the rate at which it is spreading across the world.
The rate is exponential and frightening, meaning the country should be prepared to fight it and protect citizens.
IoDZ has also been assessing the negative impact that the pandemic may have on corporates.
Indeed, Covid-19 presents business continuity risks that may pose novel challenges to directors and heads of corporates.
Nonetheless, the good news is several precautionary measures have been recommended by health experts, as well as relevant national and international institutions.
If judiciously followed, individuals and corporates will go a long way in curbing this unprecedented health scare and ensure business continuity.
The IoDZ recommends every director, organisation, business entity or company to follow a guide given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) titled: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 found at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/getting-workplace-ready-for-covid-19.pdf.
The guide contains low-cost measures that will help prevent the spread of infections in the workplace, such as colds, flu and stomach bugs, and protect customers, contractors and employees.
The guide provides information on what employers should start doing even if COVID-19 has not arrived in their communities.
It also looks on things to consider when employees travel and getting businesses ready in case COVID-19 is diagnosed in their communities.
Management is encouraged to lead the initiative, and be astute leaders during these trying times, and ensure the highest standards of safety and hygiene for their employees and members of the community. This is what good corporate citizenship means.
Personnel should constantly be sensitised and reminded of the implications of COVID-19.
IoDZ advises that all necessary and adequate precautions are taken at offices as part of ways to prevent any case of this virus.
Also recommended is to continuously monitor the developments in the country, in particular and the world in general, and always stand guided by expert advice.
On March 17, the Government declared Covid-19 a state of national disaster, and announced several measures to prevent any cases of infection.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a sad story with an unclear ending at the moment.
Certain at the moment is that it is threatening human lives, and many people across the globe have succumbed to the pandemic.
Therefore, local companies have an imperative to act swiftly to protect their personnel, address business challenges and risks, and also assist Government efforts to help alleviate Covid-19 impacts.