As part of our #LockdownLessons series, Bizcommunity is reaching out to South Africa’s top industry players to share their experience of the current Covid-19 crisis, how their organisations are navigating these unusual times, where the challenges and opportunities lie, and their industry outlook for the near future.

We chatted to Wendy Buffa-Pace, MD at Atlas Copco, to get her take.

BizcommunityWhat was your initial response to the crisis/lockdown and has your experience of it been different to what you expected?

Wendy Buffa-Pace: Our initial response was to firstly do what we possibly could to protect all our stakeholders while fully supporting all government regulations put in place to curb the spread of the virus. Our experience has been eye opening in the sense that we have learnt to work in ways that we have never thought could be possible.

BizcommunityComment on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on your organisation or economy as a whole.

Buffa-Pace: Both our economy and business have been impacted in one way or another. This has resulted in the reset of many economic and business plans. We have not yet seen the full effect on our business or the economy as a whole

BizcommunityHow is your organisation responding to the crisis?

Buffa-Pace: First and foremost, as always, comes safety as organisations have a responsibility to make sure that we do what we can to limit the spreading of the virus. We have a responsibility to our people, and we have a responsibility to protect our customers, operating remotely, hosting regular Covid-19 awareness training sessions with our employees and continually ensuring that we check in on the mental health of our employees. Business critical and essential operations are also available during this period to ensure that our customers’ in critical services needs are met.

BizcommunityComment on the challenges and opportunities.

Buffa-Pace: I believe that it is safe to say that Atlas Copco has faced the same challenges as any other business. However, this has been a time for us to create even more agile teams and the lockdown has fast-tracked our transition into the virtual world. We have embraced the “new normal”.

BizcommunityHow are you navigating ‘physical distancing’ while keeping your team close-knit and aligned?

Buffa-Pace: Currently, only our essential operations have access to our premises, which is 10% of our total headcount on rotation. Virtual offices and meetings are proving to be a successful way of keeping our teams together.

BizcommunityHow have you had to change the way you operate?

Buffa-Pace: We have had to reinvent the way we communicate in order to ensure that daily operations continue. Precise and consistent communication has positively contributed to the way we operate.

BizcommunityYour key message to those in the sector?

Buffa-Pace: At this point, we are stronger apart. Now is the perfect opportunity to review processes and procedures and adjust what you can so that a consistent flow of business can be recovered.

BizcommunityWhat do you predict the next six months will be like?

Buffa-Pace: The Covid-19 pandemic has brought so many uncertainties, especially since there is no clear indication as to when the lockdown will end. The next six months will definitely include many companies adapting to the new way of operating as well as navigating around the economic speed bump that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown our way.