COVID-19: the value of a global network

Published by David Hynam
CEO, Bupa Global and UK

22 May 2020 . United Kingdom

When thinking about the coronavirus crisis, it’s easy to reflect just on the past eight weeks, during which people across the UK have been feeling the impact of lockdown.

Woman drinking coffee at desk

When thinking about the coronavirus crisis, it’s easy to reflect just on the past eight weeks, during which people across the UK have been feeling the impact of lockdown.

In reality, it’s been on our agenda for the past five months, ever since the first cases were recorded in China. The Bupa businesses I look after are based out of nine countries from the UK and USA, through to Dubai and Denmark and both Hong Kong and mainland China. As such, I stay very connected with my counterparts across the Bupa Group in locations like Spain, Australia and New Zealand.

I’ve no doubt that our global network has made us all better placed to weather this crisis, taking action to prepare our businesses elsewhere.

For example, in the UK our procurement teams took fast and robust action to ensure that frontline colleagues in our care homes and the Cromwell Hospital have always had access to personal protective equipment (PPE). This hasn’t been easy but, by acting early, our teams have been able to secure over seven million items of essential PPE to help keep patients, residents and colleagues safe.  

Elsewhere, after seeing other countries facing restrictions on public movement, we quickly adapted our business to ensure that the majority of office-based colleagues across Bupa Global & UK could work remotely.

While unprecedented, I’m proud of how well our teams have moved to home working. Our IT & Digital colleagues have adapted our systems and brought in 1000s of pieces of kit – such as new laptops and screens - to ensure we could continue to support our customers when they needed us.

And it’s not just planning for this crisis itself. As the UK starts to lift restrictions, we are constantly speaking to colleagues in other regions to learn from their own experiences about the ‘new normal’ outside of lockdown.

Businesses looking at returning to offices have already shared practical advice.

Teams in Hong Kong found success in giving people time to return to base, acknowledging that people may be anxious about leaving home – with colleagues returning to work when they felt comfortable, allowing for the early adopters to build confidence among others. This process has been key in building trust and also helping people learn the new ways of working, which is essential for health and safety. They also found that colleagues responded well to clear set days to work from the office. While of course we need to keep flexibility within it, it is important that we give clarity to our people and avoid unnecessary confusion which can contribute to further anxiety.

Elsewhere, on returning to offices in Copenhagen, our Bupa Global teams have redesigned the layout to help ensure effective social distancing – including in previously busy communal areas such as areas where people take breaks. While it might seem obvious, people’s perceptions of two or three metres can vary hugely, so visual prompts were helpful and practical. Similarly, we’ve introduced staggered working hours and also support for colleagues with young families, as Danish children were the first in Europe to go back to school. Both are ideas we’re closely observing within the UK.

When we talk more generally about returning to locations, it’s important to remember that this not only relates to offices but also to our health clinics and dental practices. We’re focused on ensuring we have the appropriate measures in place around testing and protective equipment so that we build the confidence of both our colleagues and our customers to return to clinical settings. These are just a handful of the examples we’re learning from and, with every day, we’re seeing more which are helping to shape our approach now in the UK.

When it comes to this pandemic, we can’t always predict the outcomes. However, by sharing knowledge and learning lessons across borders, we can protect our colleagues and our business, and ensure we’re in as strong a position as possible to support our customers, whatever comes our way.

David Hynam

CEO, Bupa Global and UK

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