Altron has a progressive outlook and had implemented work-from-home policies before lockdown.
The impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has on the world and South Africa is beyond imagination. All people and businesses are impacted in one way or another and Altron is no exception.
Altron CFO Cedric Miller says, fortunately, the company has always had a progressive stance towards flexible working arrangements and had a work-from-home policy in place before the onset of Covid-19. “Under the leadership of our CEO Mteto Nyati, this policy was reviewed and tested before the lockdown period was announced. Everyone at head office had to work from home for a number of days before the lockdown came into effect to test our preparedness.”
The technology solutions company has a Covid-19 response team who meets every second day to deal with all Covid-19 related aspects, including deciding who performs essential services as per government guidelines, as well as procuring safety equipment like masks and gloves through to monitoring groupwide liquidity. “The response team also deals with difficult and painful decisions around expense reductions in response to anticipated reduced revenue to ensure the health and sustainability of the entire group for the benefit of all its stakeholders and society at large,” Cedric says.
The response team consists of all Altron senior executives as well as representatives from operations. Communication with staff, clients, suppliers, funders and other stakeholders have been increased and the company is using technology to hold big townhall events led by Mteto and other senior executives to allow staff to raise questions and answer them in open and transparent forums. “Covid-19 and its far-reaching implications is new for all corporates but dealing with issues quickly and openly has yielded positive results to date,” Cedric adds.
At a personal level, Cedric finds it challenging to be in a house in which both parents work long hours while still trying to keep the children occupied and away from electronic gadgets and social media. He is also concerned about his broader family. “I have an elderly mother who lives alone and it is rather hard not to have her close by during the lockdown period,” he says.
However, Cedric believes that this period is a time to reflect on what is really important. “I find that I get by with a lot less than in the past. We have been given an opportunity to de-clutter and reassess how we spend our time and resources. It is up to us to use that opportunity wisely in our personal and corporate lives.”
He admits that he misses the energy of the team at work and that engaging via online platforms does wonders for productivity, but that you should not underestimate the compounding effect of a team feeding off each other and resolving minor issues during the cracks of the day. “Having clunky online meetings does slow things down, but it remains much better than the alternative,” he adds. “There are also fewer informal coaching opportunities for junior team members if interaction is limited to online meetings.”
Cedric knows that finance has a major role to play during this time of uncertainty. “We should step up to the plate together with our risk colleagues to guide our respective companies through this crisis. During times of uncertainty, the demand for information escalates and this is where finance comes into its own as we are typically in a privileged position to access and deliver actionable information quickly.”