Australian map and sun rising

Beyond COVID-19: Navigating the journey towards our New Normal

Keith Weston
About the author : Keith Weston

Director Corporate Services, Education & Healthcare at Sodexo

Published on : 5/9/20
  • In Australia, we’re beginning to see the positive outcomes of having extensive measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. With cases reducing daily, state governments are in the initial phases of easing restrictions. As they do so, businesses are beginning to consider what returning to work will look like in the weeks and months ahead.

    Like many industries, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the services sector, revealing the essential and vital work that dedicated service providers perform. But, as we know, no industry or sector has been left untouched by this crisis, and at Sodexo we’ve seen this first-hand as we continue to serve our clients during this challenging time. 

    Australia’s energy and resources sector has continued with fairly minimal interruptions – sites have remained open, but cleaning, sanitation and social distancing practices have been heightened and strictly enforced. On the other end of the spectrum, service providers in the corporate and education sectors have seen operations majorly disrupted.

    From what we have seen, the way to continue successful operations in a time like this is to be agile and proactive, prioritising the safety and security of workers and consumers in a constantly changing landscape. 

    While we must remain vigilant, I believe it’s also time to be forward looking as restrictions begin to ease and people return to the workplace. As a global organisation, Sodexo has been on the frontline of the COVID-19 response since it first emerged. We experienced the virus head on, serving our hospital clients in Wuhan, China, the original epicentre of the virus. Now, we are continuing our frontline action to support remobilisation and the return to work across the globe.

    Meeting background with digital UI

    We see five potential drivers of change impacting workplace environments

    While we may be experiencing a slow return to a more comfortable way of living, we can assume the world will never be quite the same following COVID-19. Businesses, teams and individuals need to be equipped with solutions to effectively navigate the return to the ‘new normal’. 

    Collaboration, support and working together is the best way for us all to get through this crisis. In line with this ethos, I wanted to share five potential drivers of change which we expect to have an impact on future workplace environments:

    1. Changed expectations around food delivery and ordering. Through digital services and retail, we’re able to ensure the engagement of stakeholders both within and beyond the workplace. These services provide solutions such as pre-ordering, grab & go, and contactless payment among others. 
    2. The physical and mental health of teams and employees. The significant changes in how businesses are able to operate makes the health, safety and mental wellbeing of employees a serious concern. Continued engagement with teams, such as through apps, online workout tools and mental health resources, is vital.
    3. Multiple waves of COVID-19 over the course of the next two years. Having experienced the effects of the virus across the world, we’re aware of the potential for second and even third waves of the virus to emerge. Remaining mindful of this and taking proactive measures to stop the spread could prove lifesaving.
    4. Economic slowdown and remote working practices activating new projects onsite. Each individual organisation will need to adapt its workplace to the new normal in a way that supports business continuity for the long-term.
    5. The new reality requiring us to look differently at how we prioritise environmental sustainability. This is an opportunity to rethink how we can reduce the environmental impact of business operations. For example: from a supply chain perspective, the new normal allows us to focus on local sourcing of fresh products.

    We anticipate digital ways of operating will help enable a reality that accommodates these likely changes. In preparation, we’ve outlined a suite of remobilisation services and service adaptations and enhancements to support the transition to our ‘new normal’ which you can read about here.

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    A safe and confident return to work

    The return to work will be gradual and will need to be treated with sensitivity across our communities. We’ve integrated core principles into our business processes to ensure our clients receive a personalised and effective solution to support the return to work. There have been inevitable changes in the ways our clients can operate and we’re adapting our service provision to accommodate these changes. Again, collaboration is key, and success is only achievable by supporting clients to understand the ‘new normal’ and identify the most effective way forward. 

    As we progressively emerge from confinement, employees will expect to feel safe within the workplace. Parents will need to feel reassured they are sending their children to a safe environment at school or in nurseries. People want reassurance their parents are living and being cared for in safe aged care facilities. Consumers will need to feel confident that the food they are eating is safe. 

    The value of our expertise in the services industry is more critical than ever to rebuilding that trust through delivering the highest standards and procedures. 

    Despite the incredibly challenging crisis, we are seeing constant displays of resilience and solidarity to work together and support one another. We couldn’t be in the position we are – optimistically looking post-COVID-19 - without the efforts and flexibility of Sodexo’s workers across Australia and across the services sector.

    We know, as a nation, we are in this together, and we will get through this together.

    For more information about the return to work, I’d encourage you to take a read of our approach to helping businesses work towards our new normal by clicking here.