December 2019. The date signifying the world's collective awareness of the virus that would soon become a pandemic and change our lives. Monitoring the news of positive cases and deaths quickly became an obsession. For us in Barbados, it was no different. While there were no reported cases of Covid-19 on the island at the time, we all knew that the inevitable would soon be upon us. As we monitored the rapid spread over the globe due to its highly contagious nature, we at ICBL knew that adjustments and adaptation would need to be embraced quickly.
In March of 2020, our CEO Geoff Scott, in collaboration with the Executive Leadership Team, made the bold announcement that we'd close our doors to the public and staff and begin our work from home operations. Constant communication internally and between company and customer and several technological advancements kept the operations going. While policies were being issued and paid online, our Covid Response team worked hard to ensure customers and staff safety.
This team comprised our Medical and Health Services Administrator Lisa Brathwaite–Graham, Facilities Manager Shawn Kissoondath, our Technological & Business Solutions (IT) Team and other key team members, who developed a strategy for a safe return to the office. Most impressively, while remaining available to lead our team at ICBL, Lisa simultaneously developed and executed a strategic operation to ensure the QEH staff and patients' safety.
Protocols such as sanitizing and social distancing became the new buzzwords. Renovating the workspaces was one of the methods used to create a safe space for customers and staff. Guided by the protocols, Kissoondath efficiently mobilized a team to install sneeze guards and expand the customer area to accommodate comfortable, appropriately spaced seating. He also oversaw the implementation of a system that ensured an approved number of people occupied the building at any one time. While work was being done on the physical building, our IT team readied, in record time, each staff member’s access to the tools and resources needed to continue and complete jobs and maintain productivity in a remote environment.
The workplace readiness plan created by Lisa contained the all-important element of signage, positioned at key locations such as sanitization stations. Additionally, markers to ensure adequate social distance were installed at workstations, lunch and bathroom facilities.
All these efforts would come to nought if there was no training and education to staff on the need for strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocols. As such, sensitization training was conducted for our entire staff complement and training for our security officers and Building Maintenance Team included the correct way to use a thermometer and basic principles of cleaning and disinfecting.
Face-to-face events were halted, and even now remain at a minimum, in favour of virtual events, and our first virtual press conference was held recently.
Everyone understands our new mode of doing business, not only with our outside publics but also in our Human Resources management efforts. The handling and managing of information regarding the Covid-19 status of employees confidentially were considered. This included providing support and counselling if required and easy access to Covid-19 related leave.
The forward-thinking team also established and implemented Compliance Officers even before the suggestion was made by the Prime Minister. In addition, all staff are provided with Personal Protective Equipment to ensure they can operate in a safe and healthy environment.
The one constant is education and training. So our team joined CBC for their Covid-19 Queries Broadcast to inform the public on the measures ICBL engaged to reduce community spread in the company. This was followed by a Vaccination Campaign titled: Covid-19 Vaccination: I want to know… which again saw Lisa making informative presentations to every business unit in the company.
Why were these measures taken? These are the international best standards and practices which are tried, tested and true. Of course, as time progresses, the actions taken will depend on the situation, which remains fluid. We will remain guided as the health recommendations dictate.
What the 'new normal' for ICBL looks like is still unknown given the ever-evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, what is certain is that ICBL remains committed to its people, staff and customers alike. This means we won't compromise on safety. Likewise, as we focus on business continuity and improving the customer experience, you can be sure we won't compromise on service either.