How Do We Get Back To Work?

Today on Monday Morning Coffee, Granger Whitelaw discusses the biggest question on every business owner’s mind – “How Do We Get Back To Work” In this “new normal” we now face with Coronavirus still ever-present In our lives? So grab your coffee and let’s

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

Listen to the full episode at the link here:  


Granger Whitelaw: Good morning. This is Granger Whitelaw with a Lotus talks Monday morning, April 13th, 2020 coming to you from Ho Chi Minh City, and I’m hoping you all had a really wonderful Easter with your family and friends – or Passover or whatever you would have celebrated this past week and weekend. It’s a unbelievable time and we can use all the occasions to celebrate friends and family and a higher power that we can possibly take. I’ll certainly take it any time.  

Granger Whitelaw: So I want to talk to you today about, getting back to work., Right? How do we get back to work? This is a conversation that we’re all having with ourselves, with our partners and our businesses and our families certainly as well regarding children, Elderly, our parents and grandparents. How do we open up again? That’s the question today and we all need to think about this from a business standpoint.  

Granger Whitelaw: How do we do that, ss business leaders, it’s important for us to be a part of the conversation and to lead the conversation with our employees and our partners as well as the industries that we work within, industry groups. Certainly the governments as well. We should have a voice in that and many are speaking up now and having a voice because it’s critical. We do need the economy to be running, but there’s a major health risk right now with the Coronavirus and the timing is critical.  

Granger Whitelaw: I don’t know how someone could actually make that decision. If I was the president of a country, a leader, I don’t know how I could make that decision. It would be incredibly difficult. But certainly looking at testing and trying to really measure it from a data standpoint would be key because no death is acceptable.  

Granger Whitelaw: Interestingly,  Austria is planning to ease It’s lock down this next week. Denmark is talking about opening schools and daycare centers on April 15th after closing them for three weeks, which does not seem long because here in Vietnam we’ve had the schools closed for months. So I don’t know. What Vietnam has been doing has been fantastic. Do we need open up schools now I think that’s not a great decision. And the Czech Republic’s lifted a number of their social distancing measures already in. They’re playing a roll back, their travel ban in the middle of April. Even Italy and Spain are considering easing their lockdowns, trying to figure out how to do that and balance the challenges with business versus health of the country. Oh, crazy. I can’t imagine, but we need to think about this now. So let’s not imagine. Let’s talk about some things in detail.  

Granger Whitelaw: First and foremost, if you’re sick, don’t go out! Wear a mask and keep your hands clean.  

Granger Whitelaw: Those are the major issues. And certainly any store or restaurant, shop, school, et cetera can check people before entering and they can provide masks, and hand sanitzer and help mitigate the risk of spread. Make people wash their hands, especially kids, right Guide them to the classroom, guide them to the restrooms, give them the sanitizer. Really make this a mandatory issue  

Granger Whitelaw: In restaurants. certainly restaurants need to open up. I think certainly we’ll see, more space between tables, fewer people at a table trying to create some distance there. And delivery is now a must for all restaurants. Restaurants need to be delivering. There are restaurants here that are doing a great job of that. I know AMCHAM here supporting a discount program with, Maison Marou and Eddie’s and Anon and, Oh, just a whole list of restaurants trying to get people to support their local restaurants, which we all need to do  

Granger Whitelaw: As far as hairdressers and gyms. I know one of my staff was getting their haircut yesterday at home. He just couldn’t take it anymore. And his wife just took a, an electric razor and shaved off the back of his hair. So now other people are considering doing the same thing. It’s, I think we call it the covidcut, right The covidcut. But hairdressers in gyms, certainly will take some time to open up because there’s more human interaction there. So you have to be very careful when touching someone and the spas as well. These will be very difficult to open anytime soon.  

Granger Whitelaw: If you look at commercial real estate, buildings, right Going back to your office. Certainly the HVHC heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will need to be looked at. disinfection regimens. How often you disinfect is going to be key for these, property owners to discuss with their tenants. And the open floor set up, right We all went to open floors and having these open floors and people sitting at different desks and all over the office. Right? I think that may be no more. Certainly we will need to look at is it safe to have open spaces and if so, what’s the spacing between those desks, and those people?  or do we need to go back to individual offices Or you could have a office may be small, but it certainly is a contained environment, that you can keep clean and protect yourself from others. The HVAC will have to have UV systems now that clean the particulates as to go through the air,  so we get clean air and that’s going to be something that is an investment that these commercial real estate owners are going to need to make if they haven’t already.  

Granger Whitelaw: And people talk about digital, certainly working from home, right? With zoom and blue jeans and all of these different conferencing applications that we’re using now every day. So will people start working from home more? I don’t think so. I really don’t. I think you’ll see an increase in it. You’ll see more flexibility. But humans are social animals by nature. We like to interact with each other. We need to have contact and we need to live and work together. And how to do that is going to be business by business. How to get your teams working together in a safe space  – in a safe way.  

Granger Whitelaw: But this is the new normal as they say, right, These things are the new normal. But I think people want to go back to the office and need to work together.  

Granger Whitelaw: Malls certainly are a major issue. So do we limit the number of people in any mall at any time? And even in any store at any time? this is something that the mall owners and retailers are going to have to think about, but it makes a lot of sense. The same with movie theaters. Limiting the seating and separating people by that’s six feet, maybe 10 feet. I mean certainly, you know, unless you’re at opening night, most movies I go to aren’t full anyway. So this is really more about planning, proper planning and still enabling people to go enjoy themselves, but do it in a way where it’s safer  

Granger Whitelaw: Grocery stores, some of them already limit the number of people in at any one time and a lot of them set different hours for elderly or high-risk people to go shop. Right?Smart. I think that is such a smart, smart thing. The grocery stores are doing that.  

Granger Whitelaw: Obviously e-commerce is going to become even greater and more prevalent in use now without a doubt in the months and years ahead. So brick and mortar stores are going to need to have a digital plan, for sure, if they don’t already. And those will diversify, right. You’ll want to create, a local feel to your eCommerce plan and how you can offer shopping and delivery online for those people who wish to do that. And done properly, I think a good balance between retail and eCommerce can fill in what people need. Certainly ride sharing with Uber and Grab and others will have to have more safety measures for passengers entering or leaving cars to protect the drivers and the passengers. Have hand sanitizer the car. you know, make sure that the car’s being clean and sprayed inside with disinfectant. you can get that at stores, certainly put them right through the air conditioning systems or heating systems in the vehicles.  

Granger Whitelaw: These things need to be looked at. I don’t have those answers, but I just have a pretty good feeling of what needs to be done.  

Granger Whitelaw: And with public transportation, there needs to be limits as well. Limiting the number of people on a bus, on a train car, on a subway, et cetera. Again, disinfection and cleanliness will be keys to proper public transportation to protect the drivers, and also the passengers  

Granger Whitelaw: And for sporting events, live theater plays concerts. At a minimum you’ll need a, a seating limit of how many people can actually be in the audience or at the stadium. Open-Air stadium certainly is not as big of a deal, an issue, I don’t think at all. but you’ll still want to increase distances between guests to create safety barriers for everyone  

Granger Whitelaw: And schools, which is always on someone’s mind that I speak to daily. Will really need to assess how and when to open up in the fall. I think right now at the end of the spring, becoming a summer now, it’s not necessary, to open schools up again. It’s necessary to protect the children and protect the children from infecting the older grandparents, and adults and that spread. But it’s a few months away, and it’s a real issue. So class sizes, socialization of the children, sporting events, athletics will all need to be closely looked at. Kids are hard to control, but they’re going to have to realize that times have changed and politics can’t be the play here.  

Granger Whitelaw: Politics cannot come into this. I don’t care what political stance you have in any country. You have to follow policy that is good for the people, and also can let people go back to work.  

Granger Whitelaw: And the good news is we can do that.  

Granger Whitelaw: Just look at Vietnam. We’ve done such a great job here. Really keeping the numbers low and keeping this social spread low through tracing and tracking people who’ve come in contact with those who do get COVID.  

Granger Whitelaw: And continuing to do that is going to be paramount. Having a great tracing capability going forward. The businesses need to be involved with that, but the governments need to also not threaten to shut them down. We have to work together to make this work not only here in Vietnam but globally.  

Granger Whitelaw: And the answer is we can do it. We’re smart. We know how to think through things.  

Granger Whitelaw: We can put parameters and processes in place in our organizations to protect our employees, protect each other, protect our families, but still continue industry.  

Granger Whitelaw: That’s the good news for the day. So my question on Monday morning coffee is I always leave you with a question is what can you do for your business to make it a safe environment to get back to work?  

Granger Whitelaw: I know you’re thinking about it. Maybe I gave you an idea, something to think about today. May be not. I hope I did   Granger Whitelaw: Monday morning. Let’s all make it a great week. I hope you have a phenomenal day. A successful week. I’ll speak to you on Friday.  

Granger Whitelaw: Until then, this is Granger Whitelaw with a Lotus talks. Bye bye.    

The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group and Hosted by Granger Whitelaw.
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