Since the Coronavirus first reared its ugly head, I have been recommending telecommuting as a way of reducing the risks of spreading Corvid19 through your workforce. I have been pushing for this for years for many reasons, including reduced business costs, staff satisfaction, reduced commuter traffic congestion and more. I’m pleased to see news media and others now also trumpeting this call.
Working from home isn’t easy and straightforward for everyone and I’d like to share 5 tips, based on personal experience, that might help.
Make sure you have a space that is just for work. Minimise distractions and while it may be home, while you are in that home office, it is not your home.
Work out a plan if you have a partner and children. If you haven’t worked at home before, agree on some basic rules. For example, a signal, maybe a closed door, that says you are at work. Compensate by making quality time available.
Find a way to stay focused and stick to task. Forest is a cool mobile app that can help. A virtual tree grows as long as you stay focused for a predefined period of time. It withers if you stop the activity you are doing. What’s even more cool, is that the more you use it, the more real trees sponsors pay to have planted.
Whether you are the people leader or the staff member, stay in touch with your colleagues. Have virtual meetings, maybe Skype or Zoom as a way of maintaining business relationships. That contact is really important and helps maintain continuity.
Make sure you take home everything you will need. Laptop, paperwork, meeting notes. There is nothing worse than getting to your home office and finding you have forgotten something essential.
Evidence suggests that productivity and job satisfaction increase, when people are entrusted with telecommuting. There is the potential for the coronavirus to decimate some workplaces, it also means that people can feel safe, working at home.
When people feel a little off colour and start coughing and sneezing, this causes concerns for fellow workers. It also means that people can continue to work, without using up sick leave or annual leave.
If your business has been considering allowing or encouraging staff to telecommute, this is a great opportunity for a trial. It doesn’t commit you to doing it long term, although if you do it well, I suspect it will become part of your business model. Don’t treat it lightly though. It isn’t simple to do well. This is why many consultants have been employed in cities like London where traffic congestion is at its worst.
Horse of the Year is coming up in Hawkes Bay. For commercial travellers and holidaymakers, this generates traffic congestion, with a cortege of horse floats on SH5 from Taupo and SH2 from the south pretty much all day before and after the event which runs from 10-15 March.
I have heard many stories from people who say they are driving to meet their busy schedules and come across a vehicle towing a horse float, or horse transport, driving at safe speeds for their loads, but much slower than the rest of the traffic.
They wait and wait for a passing lane on the windy highway and no sooner have they passed and hit the open road again, there is another one ahead. This continues on their journey.
Other than avoiding the area during that time, which would be a wise move, Google Maps might provide the best solution. If most people travelling on these highways have location services on and use Google Maps, they will be sharing their travel speeds with Google who can deliver congestion information back in near real-time. At the very least, you will know whether it is worth taking a coffee or lunch break along the way instead. Perhaps worth sharing with people you know might be affected.
Avoid the traffic and stress by sharing your information with Google and benefiting from others doing the same.
The grocery industry is going to be sorely tested over the coming weeks and months as people have begun panic buying of groceries, in response to the first person in New Zealand to get Coronavirus or Corvid 19.
Our local New World Supermarket isn’t very good at managing inventory levels as it is. It is a relatively new store, but knowing how good Foodstuffs training, software and merchandising is, I am still surprised.
A lot of supermarket purchasing is relatively automated these days, based on stock turn as much as anything. There are of course in-store and manufacturer promotions, but a lot has to do with previous sales history over a period of time. This presents a potential problem for departmental buyers and owner operators with limited experience, because as this potential pandemic continues over the coming months, sales history of staples like rice, pasta, tissues, sanitiser and other items that are selling out is going to be abnormal.
There is a high risk that many of these items will be bulk purchased, but not bulk consumed and we don’t really have a historic record of any similar situations from the past. Automatic ordering would see overstocks once things get back to normal, which will eat into the awesome profits this industry normally enjoys.
Of course this does depend a lot on whether we can import replacement stocks, given that much of the product, or its packaging or presentation comes from Asia where the worst of the situation is. If they lack the resources to export the product, then retailers might not be able to access it at all.
I’m hoping that manufacturers and wholesalers have been communicating effectively and are putting together a strategy. That should have been done and dusted by now, but it is of course not business as usual.
I also wonder about local producers, including those who normally provide for export, because they may not be able to get their product to market. This may provide an opportunity to refocus their marketing on domestic consumers, who may also need to change their ingrained eating behaviours.
Over the years we talk about the goal of being self-sufficient as a nation. We now have an amazing opportunity to create case studies on how to make this happen. I wonder if Massey University and others who have been working so hard on projects like Farm to the Plate, are now updating their teachings and partnerships to make the most of this opportunity.
What a great opportunity this is to do something smart! Whatever industry you are in this potential pandemic is going to see many winners and losers. Which will your business be? It depends on the choices you make right now.
What are some of the things you might want to consider now?
Telecommuting. Whether it is because people are sick or to avoid getting sick, this is the perfect time to establish effective and secure systems allowing people who can, to work from home.
Tourism. I’ve been listening to people, such as the Franz Josef community saying that disinformation is killing their tourism business. Yet I see next to know social media marketing, next to no domestic tourism marketing. What about all those people who cancelled their cruises or holidays in Asia or Europe? Kiwis are very well travelled, everywhere but in their own country.
Transport. Our cities have terrible urban congestion right now. What are the strategies when people no longer feel safe using public transport? Imagine if all those people in the main centres who use bus and rail to get to work decide to drive?
Hospitality. Will people start avoiding the Casino, the theatres, restaurants and bars? How are they going to cope? It’s time for companies to get smart. I don’t believe there are not creative ways that the industries can get together and ensure jobs for their people and cash flow.
We are going to learn a lot over the coming months. This is that perfect storm. There will be people who make things happen, people who watch things happen and people who wonder what happened.
They say fortunes are made in times of crisis. Let’s get our fellow innovative Kiwi thought leaders together and do something positive for ourselves!
Giapo, known around the world as one of the most innovative gelato stores in the world, headquartered in Gore Street in Auckland, has just launched a new loyalty app for smartphones, both iOS (Apple) and Google (Android). You should download it today.
I need to tell you first that, at the time of writing this blog, if you download and set up the app, they will start you off with a 1,000 point sign up bonus, which is equivalent to a free gift of $10 worth of their awesome products. That’s special in itself and very generous.
A key benefit of the app is that you can jump the queue, so you don’t have to wait in line to get your ice cream. You can order and pay online and when you are 2-3 minutes away from the Auckland store, click on “ORDER NOW” and it will be ready for you when you get there.
When I first learned about the app, which launched this week, I thought “But the queue is part of the magic of visiting Giapo”, but for regulars, maybe on a lunch break, when time is precious, and where they aren’t bringing guests with them, who haven’t been before, this will be a plus.
You see, there is something interesting about being in the queue at Giapo. First there is the anticipation and seeing the look on the faces of people who have their ice cream experience in their hands. Then, there is every likelihood that while you are waiting in line, you will be invited to try different flavours and you will likely be drawn into conversation with the gregarious staff and total strangers. Giapo is an experience and the queue, to me, is part of that.
When I last went to Giapo to introduce a friend to his first experience, the store hadn’t yet opened for the day. Not a bad thing, because it was easier to get a car park, but with the new app, there is another surprise. You get access to products with extended hours, not available to the public.
I have to say though, that for my friend, the experience of standing in the queue, of seeing the looks on the faces of other customers, trying different flavours and the passion with which the staff embrace the product and the people, was part of what made the experience memorable.
So, what are you waiting for. If you are in Auckland, or going to Auckland, download the app and give them a try. I’m sure once you have done that, you will become a fan like me. Oh, and if Giapo or his awesome wife Annarosa are there, tell them I sent you. They are amazing people who are dedicated to their craft and totally passionate about their business. Want to know more? Check out their website.
Do you know someone who has a loved one who has dementia or some other condition, like diabetes or autism, where they might get confused, wander off and get lost? This can be a very scary time for people and often the solutions offered by rest homes or other services are little more than bandaids. They might make you feel better, but they are quite likely to not be much help if it happens.
The most common solution is a low cost RF (radio-frequency) tracker in the form of a necklace pendant or a watch. They only have a range of about a kilometer and can only be tracked by search and rescue people using a handheld directional antenna.
In this video, I talk about a new solution I discovered, which can solve the problem and hopefully help return the person safe and sound.
I welcome any comments and if you know of anyone who might benefit from this information, please share a link with them. There is nothing in this for me other than hoping that the information is helpful to someone.
Johns Hopkins CSSE has developed and published a GIS web map tool, whereby you can live track the spread of Coronavirus on a map. I feel the pedigree is important, because when I listen to my Alexa news brief each day, no two news broadcasters have the same numbers.
Like you I want to know how serious this is, especially now that WHO declared Coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and today as a Global Emergency.
You can view the map in detail, zooming into any part of the map and see the geographic spread inasmuch as ‘facts’ have been reported. I suspect given the pedigree and resources, this will be as good information as any.
Adding a glimmer of hope, it not only shows the number of deaths and where they occured, but also the number of people who have recovered and where they are. Of course 140 recoveries out of a current 8,236 people infected is not a number that will have you brimming with confidence.
The information that is of most concern is the spread which is, as is predictable under the circumstances, given that it is believed that people are contagious before they may be aware that they have caught this condition, so the numbers are therefore understated.
Whilst the line for Jan 29th to 3oth may not be as steep as previous days, the only line of real relevance at the moment is the trend line. Putting aside the hype, if you need to know what is going on and where, I recommend this page as the best I have seen so far in seeing what is going on, without any hype.
The hype is bad. A few days ago, some of us saw the 75th commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz Camp where so many people were murdered, mostly for being Jewish, but also for being Gypsys, gay, or for some other reason, less than perfectly Aryan. With tears in their eyes, still, survivors, for whom the nightmares start whenever they close their eyes, even all those years later, told their stories to warn us of racism and of blindly following the lead of other people.
Check out the last one above, which just shows the herd mentality, when French Asians are saying “I’m not a”
What I find particularly galling is that this is also happening in New Zealand where we don’t as yet even have a single case of Coronavirus!
I get that there is fear. We all should be worried, but this is not a disease that is caused by or has any respect for race. Yes it started in China, but given that there are now 9 cases in Australia, should we start attacking our cobbers over there too? Keep those Aussies out, we don’t want any of their green and gold germs here!
When the Mosque Shooting happened in Christchurch, I took a good look in the mirror and said to myself, that like most Kiwis, I have made the odd ‘joke’ about the driving capability of some ethnicities, and kept my mouth shut when people make slurs against people because of the colour of their skin, their beliefs, their sexual orientation or where they were born, I will call this out in future.
So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m calling it out. We are better than that. We are in this together. This is a global problem. We are inside a disaster story which will hopefully end as well as it can under the circumstances.
Spreading fear and distrust of people who might be recognisable with their ethnicity (which is often wrong by the way) is wrong on so many levels, especially in New Zealand, where Chinese immigration began in 1853 and history says we weren’t too kind to them then either.
So let’s just continue to focus on the facts. There is a terrible virus out there. It will most likely come to New Zealand. I believe that our Government, our education system, our airports and workplaces are doing their best to if not prevent it arriving, then to contain it.
Our fellow citizens, especially Chinese will be very afraid for themselves, for their families. Now they are afraid of racism and being vilified because of their ethnicity. Let’s nip this in the bud.
If Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and ACC have had nightmares about Lime and other brands of e-scooter, they should be very worried about the implications of this new disruptive transport mode, the electric water scooter being developed by Kiwi engineer Graham Piddington.
As the article from Stuff explains, Piddington offers many great reasons why this is an awesome concept. It’s electric and green, creates no noise or wake, it has to be loads of fun and he’s hoping to keep the purchase price low and accessible.
In the Stuff interview he was quoted, saying “If you take the Devonport to Auckland city commute, it’s five minutes on an e-foil compared to 25 minutes if you’re lucky in rush hour.” That is compelling.
But here’s my problem. Imagine hundreds of people launching their e-foils by Devonport Wharf, in Auckland, at rush hour. In the morning you have ferries and other craft on the harbour, and in the evening you also have yacht races. Then if they were to also come from Mission Bay, St Heliers and even Takapuna or Browns Bay (e-foils are fast and the battery lasts 2 hours), the picture gets really interesting.
They would be competing with the many cruise ships that now come into the harbour, container ships and other commercial craft (not to mention our Navy). Kayakers have been known to take great risks getting close to craft that need miles to manoevre a turn, and the curiosity of people with little or no water safety knowledge is going to be high to explore.
One would assume that business people would take a professional approach to this mode of transport, but there are many issues, mostly impacting safety:
There is no marked path, although an option could be to approve a certain track, say beneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge, at certain times of day. A key issue with that is the exposure to strong tidal currents, which are even more dangerous when the wind is blowing against the tide, which flows quickly through that area.
These are foiling devices. They can only foil when they reach a minimum speed. They can’t just hover on a spot if there is busy traffic, someone falls over, or crashes into another vehicle.
Take the example of Lime. Despite age restrictions, many young people (some I’ve watched in school uniform, thus below the legal age) enjoy curb jumping and other tricks on rental e-scooters. The many related injuries covered by ACC will attest to that.
Current transport bylaws are not suitable either for commuters using water scooters for transport, or as pleasure craft. The only relevant bylaws are probably those that jet skis go by and they are not really comparable.
We don’t have safety or security personnel to maintain a semblance of order or to rescue people who, for whatever reason, need help.
Where will they all be stored? I’m assuming you don’t put an e-foil under your arm and walk the last mile to your place of work, or to public transport.
I’m often frustrated by government’s lack of commitment to preparing for smart cities and disruptive modes of transport. They have many training courses and meetings about change management, but don’t seem to have resources exploring what new modes of transport are being introduced by startups in other cities, where commuters face similar problems to ours.
We humans are extremely resourceful and when devices appear, like hoverboards and scooters that would be fun to use, whether they are just devices purchased privately, or a mode seeking transport legitimacy, we are never ready for them.
Most transport demand management improvements are based on fixing legacy modes, rather than exploring new ones. That’s because that is where the skills and funding are focused. Even in the world of ITS, 87.23% (I made that number up) of papers, presentations and workshops are extensions, perhaps improvements on legacy transport systems and the solutions are band aids, often targeted at politically convenient single location improvements. That seems a bit like the Model A Ford detractors who said we needed faster horses. A sustainable modern solution to that might be adding Spirulina to the horse feed.
Now, I love this concept and the fact is that we need to think differently. Instead of looking excitedly towards the Internet of Things to flood the city with 5G sensors, that can tell us how bad the traffic is, why don’t we have a Work and Transport Institute of Future Studies, funded by government, corporates and our main universities? Why not team up with innovation hubs around the world and develop new solutions?
Whether it is Graham Piddington’s e-foil, a new Segway, e-bikes, e-scooters, drones, or something we haven’t even seen yet, why don’t we research new innovation and go back to the future with New Zealand as the ‘Number 8 Fencing Wire’ innovators of the world? We certainly have the capacity.
While we’re at it. We also seriously need to look at how and where we work. Some years ago, one of my senior managers at NZTA suggested that maybe there could be an opportunity to look at telecommuting hubs, such as the many successful shared offices in the US. I told him I had done some research in that space and shared how telecommuting was making big changes in the US, to where people live (moving to lifestyle and more affordable small towns), work, such as from home or from shared hubs, meeting together periodically as appropriate to the job.
Is one of the most effective transport modes and choices, to stay at home? Why didn’t it happen sooner? IMHO because many managers didn’t trust their staff to work from home and thought productivity would suffer. The evidence disproves this theory with companies reporting reduced costs, reduced staff churn, increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Why didn’t we think of this before? Because our organisations aren’t set up for it. Our national and state Transport Agencies and DOTs build and maintain roads. Our City Transport agencies build and maintain local roads and control public transport modes. There are silos of great people in some of these organisations, but they are seen as a nuisance to much of the leadership, tasked with maintaining an orderly status quo.
As Sam Cooke sang, “A change is going to come.” But I fear that, like the change he was singing about, that it will come despite ‘The System’ we pay our taxes and rates to, rather than because of it. Because the government organisations have to maintain the status quo, we will continue to have tension and frustration, instead of going back to being in the global spotlight, as we used to be, with large corporates wanting to have innovation hubs in New Zealand.