COVID-19: Observations from the Private Sector

The current disruption has changed and continues to change the business landscape around the world as we know it.

In our latest Breakfast Briefing, Paul Donovan, Chief Executive at Arqiva –a leading communications infrastructure company – shares his observations on the behavioural changes of his staff and customers, managing cash flow and also how he sees the role of governance and Boards.

So, how will the next normal look like for the private sector?

Paul Donovan, Chief Executive at Arqiva, a British telecommunications company which provides infrastructure, broadcast transmission and smart meter facilities with customers such as BBC, ITV and Sky.

Way Ahead of the Curve

As stated by Paul, “Arqiva is in the critical national infrastructure game”. In this delivery game they play–and during these “unprecedented circumstances”–Paul said that his organisation had to come up with a plan that contemplated “delivering essential services” in a reliable, innovative way. Also, Arqiva, in his own words, “was four to six weeks ahead in terms of COVID-19 preparation” because of in-house experience of working internationally during a pandemic.

Now, more than ever, structured and quick responses in the workplace will smooth the disruptive periods ahead

Preparation, then and now, was essential.

Among the main preventive measures that Arqiva had been putting in place prior to the lockdown were:

  • Collaborative software: Microsoft Teams training up and running early on (December 2019).
  • Secured management strategies:  There were two primary goals of service continuity for their customer (of 99.9% of reliability) and also keeping their people safe, productive and motivated.
  • 24-hour services: Prior to the pandemic, they were already operating in a wider range of hours, offering the best customer service possible.
  • High standards of cleanliness: Deep cleaning shifts and one-way systems implemented for their office-based network but essential operation people.
Changing the Rules

Paul stated that “human behaviour side is incredibly important”.  So, some of the measures they have implemented regarding his staff were:

  • Staff welfare – with bespoken arrangements around working hours and expectations when employees were sent home.
  • Transparent tactical, strategic responses – with a Gold, Silver and Bronze commands, also involving the employees’ representative group and the company’s Unions.
  • Monthly pulse surveys – carrying out regular surveys to receive feedback from staff.

Lifting the lockdown: Global businesses are making multiple decisions regarding how to operate in the new normal.

A Crystal Clear Approach

 “The key to everything I think it’s been transparency and communication with both stakeholders, customers, government, regulators and our own people.” 

In terms of the commercial impact, Arqiva was also actively implementing diversified procedures such as investing in ‘help packages’ for customers – in partnership with Ofcom and DCMS. They temporarily cancelled three months fees of transmission and also gave the option to give extended credit (paying overtime).

What happens next?

Arqiva has a new project on the way called ‘The Future of Work’. Paul clarified that “in a post-COVID-19 world, there needs to be a new psychological contract between the company and its staff”.

He continues, “people are looking for the benefits of the flexibility they’ve found in working from home” in combination with the collaborative aspect of working with teams at the office.

This balancing act on how the future of the office is going to be shaped at the epicentre of The GM group as well.


Inspired by McKinsey & Company, The GM Group has an information pack addressing the next normal

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