ACA Cast

COVID-19: Working in a New Environment

May 28, 2020 ACA International
ACA Cast
COVID-19: Working in a New Environment
Show Notes Transcript

There’s no question that the COVID-19 crisis has presented many unforeseen challenges and opportunities that could become the “new normal” as we flatten the curve and transition back into the office environment. In this episode of ACA Cast titled, “COVID-19: Working in a New Environment,”  Michael Lamm, managing partner at Corporate Advisory Solutions, and Kim Coghill, vice president of communications at ACA International, discuss the impact the crisis has had on the debt collection industry along with tips for working in the post-pandemic world. This riveting podcast is packed with information designed to prepare you for heading back to the office --  or extending your remote work arrangements.  

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COVID-19: Working in a New Environment

 

 

Voice Over:

Welcome to this episode of ACA Cast. ACA Cast is the official podcast of ACA International, the leading voice for the accounts receivable management industry. The content provided in this podcast is presented for educational and general reference purposes only, and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Third party content is not endorsed by ACA nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of ACA International.

Kim Coghill:

Hello everyone, I'm Kim Coghill with ACA International in the Washington DC office. In today's episode of ACA Cast, we'll hear from Michael Lamm, managing partner at Corporate Advisory Solutions on the topic, “COVID-19: Working in a New Environment.” So Michael, a lot has changed in the past couple of months due to COVID:19 and the state and federal shutdowns.

Michael Lamm:

Yes. 60 days, it's crazy how much life can change within 60 whole days. But what a new world we're in. Right?

Kim Coghill:

Definitely what a new world. And let's talk about how working at home has been and what have you learned?

Michael Lamm:

Well, for all those out in cyber land, I know from everyone I talk to in the industry that some of the big challenges that have been out there, and I really just wish everybody who is listening to be safe and stay healthy through this whole thing. But we're going to get through it and we're going to be better as a result of it.

Michael Lamm:

The industry, Kim, has just been in turmoil just with everything going on at the state level. But it doesn't all need to be bad, right, because I think this has been a wakeup call for the industry around business continuity planning. I mean, I go into agencies all the time, our agencies, debt buyers, and law firms. And it's kind of like you dust off a shelf and you're like, "Oh, there's my business continuity plan." Now I think people have dusted that off and have kept it on their desk and will be keeping that on their desk very closely as this pandemic continues on. Because when you think about it, I don't think anybody ever thought that operationally, we would just be sitting working at home, especially in debt collection.

Michael Lamm:

 

 

Kim, I wrote an article about work at home models in 2006 and people said to me, "Michael, that's a great concept, but in consumer debt collection, it's never going to happen." And it's crazy how the world changes. It's probably the best way to say it.

Kim Coghill:

No question at all. So for those people working at home, how do you keep them motivated?

Michael Lamm:

I've been finding keeping communication channels open, whether it's email, text, chat, or Zoom. I feel like most companies today, if they really kind of focused on productivity and efficiency and keeping that morale up, they're doing a lot via Zoom right now. And they're trying to communicate, especially with their key people around them, Kim, every single day, one to two times a day, just to make sure they're having touch points.

Michael Lamm:

Another thing that our companies are doing is they're having individual calls or Zoom meetings visually so they can really talk and get to know their staff during these difficult times, because it can be a lonely environment for people, especially those that do not have family or kids that they're in. That could be a good or a bad problem, depending on who you talk to. But there is a feeling for those that don't have that family or children connection, that loneliness feeling. And the best way of alleviating that is by communicating regularly with your staff and talking to them, not just about business, but about what they're doing personally for mental health purposes. And I think that's something that we're seeing many companies in the industry spending time on and trying to make sure that they're interfacing with the staff regularly.

Kim Coghill:

Right. And I actually work in DC and we're taking baby steps back to I think the date that the restrictions are lifted is June 8th, which is a couple of weeks away. So for companies that are transitioning back to the office, what are some of your tips?

Michael Lamm:

It's definitely going to be different. We're based in Philly. Our order was extended to June 4th. So assuming it doesn't change, the world's going to be different when you go back to the office. I think there should be obviously a plan, a coordinated plan on how you bring staff back. You're not flipping a light switch here. It's going to take time. And you've got to really speak to your staff and understand how you're going to deal with this social distancing and health related things that come up, which they absolutely will once you start bringing all the staff back into the office.

Michael Lamm:

And I think what a lot of people are toying around with are these kind of hybrid concepts where there'll be certain days during the week that certain staff will be in, others when others will be in before they come back and it's full strength where everybody's working in the office. Frankly, I don't even know if that'll be the case. I think it'll be a long time before everybody's just operating again in an office all at 100% staffing. I think it's going to be the other way where you're going to have hybrid staffing models where people are working at home, coming in, leaving the office, that whole process or workflow is likely to be instituted.

Kim Coghill:

Which also brings up the next question about the employees who may have safety concerns about coming in. How do you deal with that? Or will those be the ones who stay at home for another month or whatever they feel comfortable with?

Michael Lamm:

I think you've got to take every staff person individually at some level. I don't think there's any way you can force people back to the office. I think what you've got to say to them is you've got to give them options. And if they're not comfortable, they're not comfortable. It doesn't mean they've got to be terminated. You've got to figure out how best to handle that employee or employee's issue and see if it could be solved via a hybrid, work at home, in-office operation or not. If their job really needs to be in the office nine to five every day, well, that's just a decision point you and the employee would have to get to. But I don't think this is the time, especially the environment we're in, where it's got to be black or white.

Kim Coghill:

Which also raises the next question. Although the summer is quickly approaching, what about the people who have children who are still homeschooling maybe for the next three or so weeks? I'm assuming that employers will have to work with them as well on how do they take care of their children before summer camps and this sort of thing?

Michael Lamm:

Yeah, Kim, I'm dealing with that in real time right now. I have two children. Luckily my wife does not work, so I've got assistance there, but for those where both parents are working, a lot of the summer camps are closed for the summer, which is a huge challenge, daycare, too, and/or they're going to have limited hours. So it just creates all sorts of challenges. And in addition to that, schools, I just got an email from our schools where they're basically toying with the concept of maybe one, two days a week they're not in school, they're at home with distance learning.

Michael Lamm:

So those are the types of issues that people are facing which are stressful, anxiety-driven things that you've got to figure out financially and how to kind of manage through your own family dynamics so you can work. And I think those are really important things, which is why this hybrid business model that I think many companies are going to institute becomes so important here. Because if they're able to offer an at-home capability, at least a couple of days a week for people, that may be how they get around the childcare shortages or changes that they're dealing with real time.

Kim Coghill:

So before we close, any thoughts on how overall, how COVID-19 is going to change the way we work going forward? What's the future going to hold? What are we going to be doing next January?

Michael Lamm:

Yeah, look, I think we're hitting on a lot of negative things, but there's a lot of positives that I think are going to come from this. Just the overall view of how virtually we're connecting with one another is going to be certainly a mainstay or at least a bigger part of the picture. I never thought that I'd be living and breathing on Zoom or any of these kinds of engagement technologies that exist right now, but it's just kind of the way it is. And maybe that's also going to change how we travel and how we have meetings. But I think there's going to be a whole different dynamic now that is going to reduce potentially some of the travel time and going to business meetings. And that's efficiency, gaining opportunities, too.

Michael Lamm:

So I think there's a lot of good things that could come from all of this. And I think we've got to focus a little bit more on some of those good things versus just all of the negative sides of it. Because I think there's going to be a lot of companies that thrive in this new environment. And we've got to really harness that and teach other companies in the industry to try to do the same thing.

Kim Coghill:

Definitely, no question. There has definitely been less traffic, so that's been nice and it's been a lot easier to get to work for those of us who have been coming into the office. So anyway, thank you so much. Before we close, I'd like to remind everyone that news and information related to the accounts receivable management industry is covered extensively in Collector Magazine and in ACA's daily electronic newsletter. Both are available on our website at www.acainternational.org. Thank you and have a great day.

Voice Over:

Thanks for joining us. This and other ACA Cast recordings are available on ACA's website acainternational.org/acacast. You can also subscribe to ACA Cast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download your podcasts so you never miss a show. Until next time, thank you for tuning in to this episode of ACA Cast.