Coronavirus pandemic offers unique lessons other crises have not at Grupo OPSA

By Ana María Reyes Fernández

Grupo OPSA

San Pedro Sula, Cortés, Honduras

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Two weeks ago, Honduras issued a national red alert in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. As of Sunday, there were 27 confirmed cases in the Central American country.

As this was all playing out, Grupo OPSA continued informing Hondurans on our different platforms, including our printed editions. Our content raised awareness to support the efforts of the authorities that people remain in their homes (including this video, spread throughout social media with the hashtag #HondurasQuedateEnCasa), in addition to protection measures, and, of course how we are operating and protecting our collaborators.

Our situation in Honduras

  • We began to take measures early on to send our staff to work from home, but we had to accelerate the pace, given that the authorities imposed some mandatory measures to force people to stay at home. On Monday, March 16, they began these measures, allowing some government entities and companies to continue working, including the media, hospitals, assistance centers, supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores, and grocery stores.
  • The isolation measures ordered by the government quickly increased as the week went on. Air, sea, and land borders have already been closed. Permanent curfews in the main cities and in some of the interior of the country, as well as isolation of some colonies and neighbourhoods where outbreaks of infection have been detected.
  • The above has led to the closure of shops, companies, restaurants, bars, etc.
  • There is a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, fear — parallel to people who are still incredulous about adopting insulation and hygiene measures.
  • Entrepreneurs and small business owners have a lot of uncertainty. We are seeing increasing prices of some cleaning products, masks, gloves, as well as basic necessities — people taking advantage of the situation, increasing prices, etc. There is chaos in supermarkets, which were crowded from the previous week and now when people are allowed to shop.
  • Cases of COVID-19, according to official figures, are increasing day by day and the government and health authorities are taking measures, preparing as much as possible, enabling hospitals and makeshift health centers in gyms, convention centers, to attend to the sick on a massive scale.
  • There is much disinformation on social networks, as well as chaos with fake news and uproven remedies.

What we are doing at Grupo OPSA

  • We continue to operate at 100%. The government has included us in the list of companies that are essential. We send most of our employees and executives homes to work, and those who must work from the office do so by shifts and limited hours.
  • We communicate by WhatsApp, video conferences (Zoom, Skype), email, etc.
  • We continue to circulate our printed editions with minimum print runs. People are afraid to buy the newspaper because social networks have generated fear that paper can be a mechanism for contamination and spread of the virus.
  • We continue to serve advertising clients, offering options to promote their products and services. For example, online banking, delivery services for restaurants, supermarkets and pharmacies that offer it.
  • The newsrooms with the majority of their teams are working from home — working full time to report on the different platforms: print (limited editions, Web sites, PDF editions, social networks, newsletters). We are providing minute-by-minute updates on national events and international with a focus on the pandemic, reporting on the authorities’ dispositions, guiding the population, informing and raising awareness.

COVID-19 products

In addition, specific newsletters were created to report on COVID-19, as well as specific sections on the Web sites, here are some products we have created:

Grupo OPSA provided free access to PDF editions in Press Reader of its two main newspapers, La Prensa and El Heraldo.
Grupo OPSA provided free access to PDF editions in Press Reader of its two main newspapers, La Prensa and El Heraldo.

Grupo OPSA created this campaign for its print and social networks for its two main news titles.
Grupo OPSA created this campaign for its print and social networks for its two main news titles.

The group also sent out a B2B campaign for advertisers.
The group also sent out a B2B campaign for advertisers.

This print awareness campaign was published in Diario La Prensa last week.
This print awareness campaign was published in Diario La Prensa last week.

Policies with our employees

  • We have medical offices at sites where we operate in three cities. Where we have trained doctors and are following the WHO protocols as far as employees who should go home.
  • We are having talks about hygiene with our entire staff. We started this early because we have internal offices and the doctors who work there,have received training and protocols directly from WHO and PAHO.
  • Masks and gloves were distributed internally to editorial staff members who do external reporting work. We also trained them in security measures.
  • On our local streets, we deliver gloves masks to circulation staff and distributors, as some readers as I mentioned expressed concern and fear of buying the newspaper due to information circulating on social networks claiming the newspaper can be a transmitter of the virus and lives on its surface between three and five days.
  • Isolation policies have been applied with the minimum of personnel operating in the facilities and a distance between them of 1 to 2 meters. In addition to ensuring that there are not more than 20 people in the same department, we have implemented shifts to further separate employees. We have isolation between departments, as well. We have strict policies of cleaning and disinfection protocols for the areas permanently. People who enter our facilities have their temperature taken. Hand sanitizer is available in the access areas, and carpets with shoe sanitizers were placed in the access entrances (following what we learned from the media in Asia).
  • We are in daily communication with all staff, and we define new guidelines each day.
  • Our board of Directors has a frequent communication via WhatsApp with a chat group, via telephone, e-mail, and two daily video conferences (one in the morning and one at the end of the day).

What are we experiencing and learning

  • Leadership and teamwork is required.
  • We are learning to manage levels of anxiety, stress, pressure.
  • We must be flexibility and creativite to adapt to changes, which are the order of the day and must be done on the go.
  • Communication, communication, communication!
  • Adapting to working from home is undoubtedly challenging. We have done this before but in a limited way with few employees outside. These days, more than 50% of employees are working remotely.

Although we have experienced any number of contingencies, including coups d'état, political crises of different levels of impact, curfews, catastrophes in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, this is our first contingency experience of a pandemic that has world took us by surprise. Although we already had teams with previous experience in this type of situation, we have had to improvise, adapt, make decisions on the fly and, in the midst of chaos, lead our teams.

About Ana María Reyes Fernández

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