If Anyone can Survive this Pandemic, Kerry Women Can!
by Rosemary Heard
April 30, 2020
Dear Kerry Women’s Business Network:
To say that our world has changed in immeasurable ways since I had the pleasure of meeting all of you at the Muckross Hotel in September 2019 is an understatement. Since then, COVID-19 has challenged our collective personal and professional lives in ways that are still beyond our comprehension, and in every country across the globe. My heart is with everyone in Ireland that continues to be touched in so many different ways by this tragedy.
While today we are all overwhelmed by the unimaginable loss of life and suffering, as well as the associated economic challenges for both individuals and businesses, surviving this pandemic will forever change our perception of what is important in life. We will all look back on things that we have done that have served us well during this crisis, and those that did not. Hindsight is perfect vision, and we will assuredly be critical of our naiveté in not thinking that this could ever happen in our lifetime, and we will do all that is within our power to ensure that we are as prepared as we could be in the event that we find ourselves in a similar situation again. We will have a keener appreciation for our grandparents who darned clothes, hung teabags up to dry for a second use, and whose mantra was “waste not, want not.”
“Thanks to an amazing worldwide army of first responders, we will survive this one too!”
From an American historical perspective, our older generations are no strangers to scarcity or loss of life. The Great Depression began in 1929, and quickly ricocheted around the world resulting in an estimated fall of 15% in gross domestic product. During that period, unemployment in the U.S. was at 24.9%. That was followed in 1939 by WW II during which time 405,399 Americans lost their lives. In 1955, 58,220 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam. To date, the invisible COVID-19 enemy has claimed the lives of 60,474 (figure accurate as of 30/04/20) Americans, surpassing Vietnam, and 1 in 6 Americans have filed for unemployment. These are grim statistics, and I offer them solely for the purpose of demonstrating the resilience of humankind and our uncanny ability to survive the worst of times. Thanks to an amazing worldwide army of first responders, we will survive this one too!
Similar to Ireland, we are under a stay-at-home order here in New Hampshire, albeit that it is a little more relaxed than your stringent measures. For our organizations, despite COVID-19, it is imperative that we continue to function in support of the many individuals and families for whom we provide much needed affordable housing opportunities in both the States of New Hampshire and Maine. At the same time, we are committed to the continued employment of our staff, their physical and emotional wellbeing, and to individuals and communities that we serve.
“We didn’t come into this situation with a playbook, and therefore, we have to retain the flexibility to respond to an ever-changing environment.”
A number of things have stood to us in terms of our ability to respond to COVID-19 in a thoughtful and timely manner. At the outset, we assembled an internal COVID-19 response team with departmental representation across disciplines. Virtual team meetings took place daily to review not only the challenges, but importantly, the emerging financial support opportunities. Agendas were provided in advance, meeting notes were distributed thereafter, and action items were closely tracked. Four weeks into the crisis, we transitioned to meeting three times a week. Analogous to this situation is that in order to steer the boat when whitewater rafting, one has to be going faster than the rapids. We felt that we had reached that critical point where we were in control of the boat.
Secondly, four years ago, we made a significant investment in Information Technology (IT). At the time, we struggled with that decision as it diverted already scarce resources from programming. Included in that investment was a total shift to cloud-based computing. As it turned out, without that investment, we would not have been able to transition to a remote work environment seamlessly, and within twenty-four hours.
We committed to transparent communication within our organizations at the staff, resident, and community levels. Nothing breeds unrest faster than the lack of communication and/or credible information! Indeed, we see this every day in countries around the world that have transparent leadership versus those that do not.
Early on, we recognized the traumatic stress that we all continue to experience as a result of the COVID-19 devastation. In response, we work tirelessly to ensure that staff have continued access to our Employee Assistance Program.
“we have the humility to recognize that we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Lastly, and importantly, we have the humility to recognize that we don’t know what we don’t know. We didn’t come into this situation with a playbook, and therefore, we have to retain the flexibility to respond to an ever-changing environment.
Aside from responding to the crisis at hand, where do we go from here? How do we reopen our workplaces, under what circumstances, and will it be business as usual? Below is a link to Cushman and Wakefield’s recovery readiness guide. While Cushman and Wakefield is an $8.8billion real estate company with 53,000 employees in 60 countries, this document is thought-provoking, and one that we are using to inform and shape our readiness recovery plan.
In closing, if anyone can survive this pandemic, Kerry Women Can! Stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to meeting you all again in better times.
Rosemary M. Heard
President and CEO, CATCH Neighborhood Housing and Alliance Asset Management, Inc.
Proud Kerry Woman
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