Working from his home near Zurich during Covid-19, Chief Operations Officer Michael Fiebig oversees responsAbility’s legal department, finance, the global network of offices, business technology and IT.
How long did it take you to set up the necessary infrastructure to cope with restrictions caused by Covid-19?
Flexible working hours and home office have been part of our set-up for a while. As a result, the required infrastructure has been in place for a long time and we were fully prepared when Covid-19 hit, keeping up business as usual as far as the circumstances allow. A big word of thanks to our IT and our office management people for adjusting so quickly. After a period of recommending home office work, we kicked off the next phase with a company-wide mandatory home office day on 16 March and have kept up this set-up ever since. All our staff across the globe have been working remotely since then.
What are the regional differences as to Covid-19’s impact?
We are witnessing some form of lockdown or severe restrictions of movement in all our office locations. At this point, India is amongst the most heavily affected. Our staff are not allowed to leave their homes, and on top of that, the mail or courier system does not work, either. We have a new employee starting soon and are now faced with the challenge of getting the laptop to her to start induction. Other than that, home office for everyone is up and running, and functioning well, many video conferences are being held and shared document spaces actively used. We remain fully operational.
“We are trying to offer young parents every flexibility we can.”
With 10 offices worldwide and investments across 90 countries, travel has been an integral part of many teams’ daily routine. How do they cope?
We put in place travel restrictions for our team at the end of February, when Covid-19 had not even reached some of the geographies. This seemed very strict to some, as we are used to travelling a lot. It very soon became clear that our caution was the right path, however, and it has helped to protect everyone. At this point, teams around the world are using digital channels very actively to stay in touch with our investors and portfolio companies, and we are keeping up the operational side of our business almost as usual.
How is responsAbility supporting staff during this challenging time?
We are aware that continued home office will weigh heavily on some people, especially those who are facing challenging situations at home or in their families. That is why we are actively encouraging people to use phone calls and video conferencing, not only for strictly work-related exchange, but also to keep up informal communication. As we have a relatively young workforce, lots of our staff have small children at home and face the challenge of having to work while looking after their kids for part of the day. Our well-practiced flexible work set up is very helpful in this context, and we are trying to offer parents every flexibility we can to get through this challenging time.