There are many considerations about the return to work post COVID19 lockdowns.
Social distancing is an interesting one. Many organisations have gone to open plan workspaces in place of offices, but now we have to consider social distancing. This means that many of the workspaces will be too close together and there may not be enough room to house all of the people that would normally be in an office.
COVID contact tracing is another concern. If one of your staff has been infected by the coronavirus, who else have they been in contact with?
Getting to and from the workplace is an issue. Many people are reluctant to use public transport and as a result, our highways in many cities are more congested than they were pre-COVID19. That’s because so many of the cars only have one occupant.
To add to this, the Australian government has exempted rideshare services from FBT. This will make services like Uber even more attractive, being cheaper than taxis and possibly for some, also cheaper than providing company cars, which are taxed as a perk, even if for some they are a bona fide business necessity.
A little over 10 years ago I sold a Fleet Management and GPS system to a company wanting to track and optimise around 600 vehicles.
Within a couple of weeks of the first installations, I started getting calls from their management saying that several of the vehicles could not be tracked.
I thought this was odd and contacted the auto electrical company that was doing the installations for us. They had no ideas as to why that was happening and invited me over to inspect their work, which I did. Their work was perfect.
It kept happening and I was starting to get a picture. I arranged for a vehicle that had gone off the radar to be directed straight to the auto electrician without deviation. He was sent off to the smoko room and they went under the dashboard of the van he was driving.
They found the GPS antenna wrapped in aluminium foil. It turned out that the technician in the smoko room had been ‘tea-leafing’. If you don’t know the term, tealeaf is Cockney rhyming slang for thief, in this case a time thief.
Word had got out that if you put foil around the aerial, the system would appear to be working, but they would have no idea where you were and the signal would be the same as if your vehicle was in an underground carpark, which sometimes it might legitimately be.
Anyway, the message went out that this was to stop, and those who had a lifestyle based around doing lots of things other than work in company time, might like to find a different employer.
Today there are new ways of blocking GPS signals. They are illegal and potentially dangerous as outlined in the video above.
Having had my home ‘cased’ by would be robbers, I could have been tempted to buy a GPS signal jammer and block their drone’s travel. I chose instead to report them to Civil Aviation as I knew where they lived, and had observed them scaring people in bus stops and on the street. I also heard from neighbours that I wasn’t the only one wanting them to cease and desist. I briefly considered the merits of a slingshot, after all the drone kept flying over my property, with the ‘pilot’ no doubt watching me on his laptop. I would have been quite happy for them to come and pick up the pieces. Of course I wouldn’t actually do that, but I enjoyed the mental image.
tempted to employ a slingshot and spoke to the Police about it.
There are more and more people flying drones flying around today, and many drone pilots don’t know the law. There was a news story last week about this problem. Basically you can buy them online or from hobby shops and even some of the ‘toy’ drones are big machines.
Anyway, the key takeout is GPS jammers are not only illegal to use, they can also cause danger.
Living in a country like New Zealand, you have to appreciate that there is more to life than sitting in traffic going into a city every day. The number of people that have told me over the years, that they only live in the city because of their skillset and that is where the jobs are.
Do you wake up in the city, smell the traffic, anticipate sitting on public transport or in your car for an hour and think to yourself “I’m living the dream?” Do you live in the city and wake up to car horns, the smell of diesel and petrol fumes and think to yourself, “I’ve made it!”
Or do you go on holiday and see people living in those places that you visit for a couple of weeks a year and wish you were one of them?
Many people don’t really want to live in the cities, but felt they had to to make a good income for their families. But, cities like Auckland also has some of the most expensive real estate in the world. For the same money, you can buy a wonderful home in the country near a river, lake, ski field, beach, bush or whatever it is you enjoy doing. Real estate agents are telling us that properties are selling faster in our towns that in the city. Where would you rather live? In an apartment of average sized suburban home for a million dollars, or in a lifestyle area.
In the past people were afraid to leave the city real estate market and move to the country, because they were worried they could not afford to buy back into the urban market. Now I ask, why would you need or want to move back? Obviously it’s not for everyone and not all have the skills to live anywhere they like. Maybe that’s something to think about for people who are starting out on getting an education to support their careers. What type of job will give you a great lifestyle, telecommuting, and living in an environment that gives you pleasure.
Remote working today, as long as you have good Internet access can be done from pretty much anywhere. Can it work? We have proven that it can, out of necessity, during the COVID19 lockdown. The barriers of technology, trusting staff, worries about productivity have mostly been overcome, even for companies who did not have a telecommuting framework or model.
Even if the pandemic is on it’s way out for us, and that is a big if, social distancing means that many offices are currently too small to house all their staff.
I had my first drive in Auckland city today since the ‘Safe Speeds’ program was enforced, dropping the maximum speed from 50km/h to 30km/h. I thought I’d try Queen Street to see what that looked like now. Lots of empty shops, lots of people on rental scooters, many buses, and a moderate number of warmly dressed pedestrians.
It took me 25 minutes to drive from top to bottom, but that was because of traffic light phasing, not the speed zone. I have to say pedestrians get a great run and of course, they are trying to discourage cars. Mission accomplished, I won’t be driving down Queen Street again in a hurry.
Then I turned onto Fanshaw Street and it reminded me of when the North Western Motorway north of the Waterview Tunnel was 80km/h and, observing the speed limit, I was the slowest car on the motorway.
The AT Metro bus in front of me ignored the 30km/h zone and sped off at around 50km/h leaving me in its wake, to observe the legal speed limit. Several other drivers, frustrated at sitting behind me, went for the gaps to get past, giving me dirty looks in the process, for holding them up. I wasn’t going to risk a speeding ticket for doing 20km/h over the speed limit, although there wasn’t a cop in sight.
The intention of the speed change which covers more than 600 roads in Auckland, is to save lives. I’m interested to know if it is reducing the number of injury accidents and deaths, because the way people were cutting and diving around me, I would have thought that the risk for pedestrians, cyclists and people on scooters has increased.
I noted that Barney Irvine of NZ Automobile Association predicted what I experienced today on Stuff late last year. “The theme that comes through really clearly is that people don’t think the changes make sense. If people don’t see a speed limit as credible, they are unlikely to stick to it; and where compliance is low, you don’t get the safety benefits – all you get is higher numbers of infringements. That all adds up to a really poor road safety outcome.”
If you want all the details, you can find the 156 page report from Auckland Transport here, along with a cool video and some interesting statistics. I do have a question about the statistics. They talk about 54 deaths on Auckland roads in 2018, which is terrible, and 595 serious injuries. My question is, how many of those were on the roads which have been reduced from 50km/h to 30km/h?
I recently read an article in Intelligent Transport , exploring whether rideshare, such as from Uber and Lyft was a substitute or complementary to public transport. It quoted research from SMART which found that a third of ride-share trips were made instead of using public transport during working hours, between 8 am and 6 pm.
I’ve frequently considered the risk of community transmission of COVID19 on a bus, either from being in proximity of an infected passenger. The likelihood is that many passengers will grasp a handle, and most have to either push a button to alert the driver that they want to get off, or to open the door when they arrive.
No matter how good the COVID19 health and safety policy is, it is simply impossible to clean all areas passengers come into contact with often enough to minimise the risk to a meaningful level.
Is Uber safe to use during the COVID19 pandemic? Would it be safer, simply because less people are in an Uber car during the course of a day? Are Uber vehicles cleaned between passengers?
Uber is running a trial with Clorox in as a ‘commitment to clean’ in Atlanta, Chicago and New York City. Great places to do it in my humble opinion given that many people in those cities don’t own cars and rely heavily on public transport and ride hailing.
600,000 canisters of Clorox disinfecting wipes have been distributed to drivers, in order to sanitize their cars to protect their passengers, as well as give their customers the option to clean seat belts or any areas they might be concerned about.
The driver can tick boxes on their Uber app to let customers know that the driver has no COVID19 or coronavirus related symptoms and that they are wearing a face mask. It is even recommended that the driver upload an image of themselves wearing a face mask to add to customer confidence.
I suspect that the pilot which started this month will be very popular with patrons, and could draw even more passengers into Uber vehicles, away from buses and trains.
Around the US and Canada, Uber has supplied drivers with 5 million face masks and a lot of other health supplies.
I’ve written articles previously about the taxi industry who have complained frequently about disruptive transport competitors. I suggested that that services like location based apps could have easily been provided by taxi companies, either before the likes of Uber arrived, or by learning about what their customers want, based on reasons (other than price) why people use rideshare services.
When I looked online to see what information taxi companies are providing on their websites about COVID19, most had no mention at all. There were a few like Blue Bubble who do have a link on their homepage to a page explaining the responsibility of drivers, which isn’t bad, but I feel it is another opportunity missed for most.
I hope that Uber will quickly expand this pilot globally. If I was in the taxi industry, I’d be looking to do something similar quickly, especially in cities where Uber hasn’t launched these features yet. It would make competitive sense for any brand, wouldn’t it?
Have you noticed that traffic in New Zealand cities seems to be worse at Level 1 of the COVID19 lockdown than it was even before the pandemic hit?
Are you in the distribution, freight or service industries? Or perhaps you are a retailer trying to get your product out to your customers as part of your new way of doing business.
Extra traffic may reduce the number of deliveries or visits you can make in a day. That means increased costs and decreased customer satisfaction. I think I can help.
I’m offering a free, no obligation opportunity to trial route optimisation in New Zealand. Give me a list of deliveries you want to do in a day and I will process that into an optimised list that could save you time and money.
It could be a list of jobs you want to do tomorrow, or it could be the jobs you did yesterday, in which case I can show you whether I could have saved you time and money and help you with your next schedule.
Why not give it a try? Drop me an email to the address at the end of this short 1 minute video.
I have written several posts in the past, suggesting that PAYD insurance will become popular in the future, but acknowledging that most traditional car insurance companies won’t like it. Shareholders will hate the concept, because the customers who have the most to gain are underwriting insurance company profits and funding those who drive a lot and have many accidents.
Since the COVID19 pandemic, it is likely that many people will be remote working at least part time if not most of the time and many have lost their jobs and will not be driving as much. They also won’t be able to drive much, having lost their primary source of income.
This opens up a great opportunity for new boutique disruptors to enter the market if the traditional behemoths don’t offer this type of service. I did a search in New Zealand and wasn’t able to easily find any company offering this service. This doesn’t mean it isn’t available and if you find someone who does offer the service, please leave a comment and link. I’m happy to support them in my blog.
In many cases, this might include the installation of a GPS vehicle tracking system into the car, but that has all sorts of benefits to it as well. If it were to be stolen, you can track it down. If you lend it to the teenager to pop down and see a friend, you can see if they are speeding or going somewhere they didn’t tell you about. Some also allow you to disable a car so it can’t be taken by a prospective thief, or include alarms. Vehicle tracking systems today are cheap and reliable.
During the COVID19 lockdowns, most of us did very little driving, but our car insurance premiums kept on coming out as usual. No one came to me and said “We will charge you less at this time, because we know many clients are experiencing financial challenges.”
Besides people who are now unemployed, there are also a large number of retired people who drive very little and don’t have many accidents. They also as a whole don’t have much disposable income.
Taxi companies complained when Uber came along and offered services people wanted, like being able to rate and see ratings of drivers, to agree on the price before being picked up and being able to see the location of the car on a map, to know how far away it was. Taxi companies have very sophisticated technologies, and it would have been so easy for them to add those features before disruptors took business off them. But they didn’t and in most cases still haven’t. It’s a shame because that industry won’t be doing very well right now because people aren’t keen on hopping into cars that have had many other passengers in them already.
Would you opt for PAYD if it was available to you?
So many small to medium businesses are going broke right now because of the COVID19 lockdown. All companies are paying rent, power, wages and paying back interest on loans used to purchase inventory, fittings and more, and the end is not yet in sight.
Assuming you have not made the decision to close your business, I wonder if you are keeping in touch with your customers. This is very important because people do business with people, and while everyone is suffering, your customers also want you to stay in business, both as people and members of the community, and also because they want your goods and services. Local business is important.
Do you have a social media page? If you do, post daily. If you don’t, then now is a great time to set one up. Facebook is probably the best place to start. Don’t know how? Do you have a teenager in the family? They would love to do it for you.
Also make use of your community pages. Not for selling, but to communicate and develop relationships. Post and look for replies, comments and questions. Answer them promptly.
If you just close your doors and wait, doing nothing more, you are missing an important opportunity to relate to your customers and keep our business in the forefront of their minds. You will be on the back foot.
I recommend you tell stories about your business, why you are in business, how you are preparing to come back, perhaps what you and your family are doing during the lockdown, or what your staff are doing. How are you helping them?
What will your business look like when you come back? Are you in the food business? What are your stocks going to look like, will you have everything as usual? What are you going to do with pricing? Will you have a welcome back sale or will you put prices up? Have you thought about a loyalty program?
Are you in the restaurant business? Are you going to do deliveries? If you haven’t done them before, how will your customers know? It’s fine if you are using a service like Uber Eats, but can you afford the premium? Can your customers, many of whom are not being paid, afford the premium?
How are you going to keep you and your customers safe when you reopen? Will you restrict the number of people coming into the store at any time? How? Will you have a real time social media presence? You could let people know what is going on, you could talk about your products and how they can be used?
How do you tell your stories? I recommend that you write as though you are talking to your customers, as friends. Post on social media regularly. Tell them interesting things about your products and services. You probably got into business because of a passion and interest. When things are busy, you don’t have the time to do these sorts of things. Now you do.
If you do this, people will feel so much closer to you when your doors reopen. They will want to do business with you. Your business can pick up more quickly if you are in touch with your customers.
Don’t know how to tell stories? Of course you do, you do it all the time, you just have to write them down, or you could video yourself. If you are really stuck, employ someone like me as a casual copywriter to write them for you, then all you need to do is post them. I can coach you as you go. I’m a small business too, but I have that experience.
Since the Coronavirus first reared its ugly head, I have been recommending telecommuting as a way of reducing the risks of spreading Corid19 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.