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You’re as healthy as your friends are

Written By Jon Budington

July 17, 2020

Assorted wisdom for keeping a business open during COVID

I’ve written extensively on our work experiences outside the office. I thought it would be helpful to share what we’ve learned through our efforts to keep the printing, mailing and fulfillment operations running smoothly.

At the end of March, I asked a group of senior managers and employees to develop a COVID response plan. Together, they worked through different scenarios on how the virus could threaten operations. They tested multiple mask options and created our in-office mask wearing policy. They devised cleaning regimens with excruciating detail for all our workspaces. And it was on their advice that we reversed course on our plans to return to the office. One of their more creative ideas was a COVID testing policy; tests are now mandatory for certain behaviors and are fully reimbursed with a cash incentive for following the plan. 

COVID committee in action

In May, we had our first COVID scare inside the plant. An employee in Experiential Graphics called his manager after learning that his roommate had been exposed to COVID. We asked the employee to self-isolate and get tested. It took 11 days to get the results. Thankfully, both he and his roommate tested negative. But this scare made us realize that while we had a good plan for positive test isolation, we still had questions around the process and rules for contact tracing. Can you recall everyone you’ve been in contact with since Monday?

Experiential Graphics department is busy printing essential CDC signage for businesses reopening.

I was sharing this story at a neighborhood socially distanced happy hour. Fortuitously, my friend (and my boys’ former baseball coach) David Sapin was in attendance and he described a new technology his team was developing at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC.) He offered to let us test it. The product is called ACT –  Automatic Contact Tracing. Employees download the application onto their phones where it uses Bluetooth technology to create a database of everyone they come in contact with while at the office. Now, if an employee reports a positive test or a confirmed exposure to COVID, our HR department can pull a report of everyone in the office who had significant contact with the person, allowing us to isolate and test.

Sample tracing report – quite literally, who do you know?

There were some initial employee privacy questions regarding the technology, but those concerns were alleviated when we explained that the product only collected data on staff interactions, not what they did or where they were—and only traces those activities while in our facility. It has since become a comfort to everyone who cannot work remotely. It’s also helping me sleep better at night.

I’m enormously grateful to our internal team for developing the plan and continuously working to improve it. Specifically, I want to thank the following More Vang employees for their contributions: Josh Hirschorn, John Davis, Allison Yates, Al Jemmot, Chris Lucas and Paul Rossbach. I especially want to thank Shannon Bailey for pulling all the ideas together. And finally, I want to thank my friend David Sapin and his team for their support. I know More Vang isn’t an obvious client for PwC, but the livelihoods of over 100 families are depending on our ability to stay healthy and open. Contact tracing is an essential part of our plan to do that.

PwC Principal/Coach/Friend David Sapin with my sons circa 2011

Finally, I want to share my concerns over a growing problem in our country regarding this disease. New COVID cases across America are on the rise, and experts predict the death rate will eventually follow. And yet, many in our country want to politicize the science and question the medical experts providing guidance. Lives, livelihoods and normalcy require a collective change in our behavior. Denial and luck are not reliable COVID strategies.

Wear your masks, wash your hands and keep your distance. Please.

P.S. – While our plan is More Vang-specific, I’ve included a link here if you would like to read it. Feel free to ask questions or provide feedback. I’m sure our plan will evolve as we learn more about this disease, but we’ve come a long way from that May incident.