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Week 14, 2020

Responding to COVID-19: Clear Expectations, Regular Updates, Targeted Action.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Each week I share three ideas on how to make work better. And this week, that means detailing MAQE’s response to COVID-19.

Why am I writing about this? It’s an unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in. People are worried. And rightly so! They want and need answers; reassurance — something to hold on to. We all do. But how can we provide answers when there are few answers to be had? And how can we provide reassurance amidst all this uncertainty?

This week, I want to share my company’s answers to these questions.

Let’s dig in.

1. Clear Expectations

COVID-19 can and will impact our business in either of two ways. First, the spread of infection can directly impact the health of our staff and that of their loved ones. Second, how other organizations respond to the crisis can effect our pipeline and economic well-being. We have, for these reasons, chosen to communicate a risk assessment with six levels — each one associated with a certain countermeasure.

2. Regular Updates

We can’t say if or when certain levels will come into effect. But the risk assessment does provide answers as to what our next action should be. And that’s critically important. We update the risk assessment on Fridays at 4 PM. And we communicate that decision over Slack. People are worried about health and livelihood. This method ensures everyone knows what to expect and when.

3. Targeted Action

We are currently on risk-level 2 and we hope to stay there. But it means that we now recommend everyone to work from home. Luckily for us, this isn’t too drastic a change. We’ve had lots of practice in years past. But it has uncovered a few stressors, such unstable home Internet or desks not suitable for an 8-hour workday. To address this, we’re now subsidizing such purchases on a case-by-case basis.

Like everyone else, we’re figuring things out as we go along. But the response from our 60+ colleagues has so far been very positive. And that’s despite the rather draconian measures found on levels 4 and above. We hope never to have to go there. But we also don’t want to sugarcoat the situation. It is what it is and we just have to deal with it as best we can. What’s important, however, is that we’re in this together. And as a company, we have made the decision that it’s better that we all suffer a little bit rather than some suffer a lot. We’ll do everything in our power to avoid letting people go. And at the end of the day, that’s the reassurance I think most people need to hear right now.

That’s all for this week.

Stay safe out there.


PS. A note regarding the “strongly advised” language found in levels 4 and above: MAQE is based in Bangkok, Thailand. And unlike countries such as the US or my native Sweden, Thailand does not have regulations supporting furlough. As such, it’s not possible for us to mandate unpaid time off — even in times of crisis. This has to be a voluntary action. And while MAQE has the culture to support such a move, I do understand that many organizations do not. All this to say that what works for us might not work for everyone.

UPDATE JUNE 24, 2020: It’s been three months since we published our risk assessment framework. And lucky for us, we never had reason to go beyond level 2. Thailand has fared remarkably well during the crisis and we’re now back at level 1 and business as usual .



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Andreas Holmer

Andreas Holmer

Designer, reader, writer. Sensemaker. Management thinker. CEO at MAQE — a digital consulting firm in Bangkok, Thailand.