Expert Service Solutions is passionate about helping elevator services companies thrive. We want to help reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on the industry, including our customers. Here we explain the potential impact of the pandemic on elevator services companies. We also share some ways* to enable them to continue operating during the pandemic while promoting the safety of employees, customers, and the wider population.
*We base our suggestions on our elevator industry expertise and official guidelines available on the date of writing (March 19, 2020).
The impact of COVID-19 on the elevator industry
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Already, it’s impacting everyone, from individuals to businesses—including elevator service companies.
OSHA guidelines list three main potential outcomes on businesses when an outbreak becomes an “extended event”: 1. Absenteeism; 2. Changes in patterns of commerce; and 3. Interrupted supply/delivery.
Here’s how each outcome may manifest in the elevator industry:
- Absenteeism. Many workers are staying home, whether self-isolating to prevent spread of the disease or looking after sick family. This means that field teams will likely lack the manpower to handle service requests.
- Changes in patterns of commerce. As more people are staying at home, workplaces are being vacated and the use of elevators in the workplace will inevitably decline. This could lead to a lower demand for elevator repairs, installations, and maintenance.
- Interrupted supply/delivery. Problems with transit may mean that inventory, say elevator parts and tools, arrive late or not at all.
Ultimately, every one of these factors can lead to reduced productivity and a significant impact on revenue.
How the elevator industry can reduce the impact of COVID-19
In the same statement that announced the inevitable impact of COVID-19 on every sector, the WHO emphasized that the pandemic “can be controlled.” But this requires everyone—from governments, individuals, and businesses—to take appropriate action now.
Protecting elevator field service companies and their teams from the current coronavirus comes with unique challenges. To name a few, employees are geographically dispersed, they need to be physically present on-site, and traveling is a big part of their daily routine. But by taking the necessary action quickly, elevator service companies can minimize the impact of the current coronavirus. Below are some measures to consider.
Prepare a pandemic preparedness plan
A pandemic response plan will help to respond appropriately, reduce the impact of COVID-19 on your businesses, and ensure business continuity.
A COVID-19 response plan should be based on official government recommendations and may include:
- Preparing for absenteeism. How can you ensure the continuity of your business with fewer mechanics? Pay particular attention to how you will respond to critical scenarios such as elevator break-downs.
- Detecting “exposure risks” and mitigating them. How exposed to the virus are your mechanics? Consider areas in which they will travel and any potential contact with infected people or contaminated materials.
- Reducing transmission. Which measures can help minimize transmission between employees on the field and in the office, customers, and the general public?
- Responding to cases. What is your course of action if an employee becomes ill? Consider who you would inform (for example, customers and colleagues with whom the employee has been in physical contact.)
For more information on pandemic planning for business, see Chamber of Commerce Pandemic Preparedness for Business (Canada) or OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (US). Or contact your local health organization.
Measures for protecting employees and customers
Field service organizations can implement policies to reduce transmission among employees—on the field and in the office—and customers.
- Basic hygiene. Communicate to employees verbally and with visual reminders hygiene measures based on your state’s, province’s, or federal health guidelines. These will include, for example, coughing into arms not hands and regular, thorough hand washing —the CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer with an alcohol level of 60%+.
- Environmental cleaning. According to the WHO, “contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads.” Advise technicians to clean and disinfect equipment regularly and at defined moments. Examples are cleaning and disinfecting cell phones before and after capturing a customer signature, and cleaning elevator buttons before and after touching them.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). This may act as a physical shield to the disease and may include gloves, respirators, and sneeze guards. The efficacy of PPE for preventing transmission is debated. Follow official guidelines on this subject to ensure the safety of your workers.
- Instruct certain employees to stay home. This will certainly include employees with COVID-19, but should also span those with mild symptoms, high-risk employees, those who have been in contact with a sick person, those who have recently traveled to an affected area, and more. However, consider that this approach is more effective when employees “receive insulation” from potential consequences of not going to work, for example, salary guarantees.
Transparent B2B communications
During this time, it’s important to communicate with transparency with anyone involved in your company. Of course, this includes employees and customers, but it also applies to any partners and stakeholders. This will help your business maintain trusting relationships, encourage others to take appropriate action, and minimize risk to your business and those you work with. Consider the following:
- Company safety measures. Communicate your company’s COVID-19 safety measures with customers and suppliers. These may include preventative measures technicians are taking on-site and any specific instructions for deliveries or those handling inventory.
- Guidelines for customer usage. Share appropriate COVID-19 guidelines with customers. These may include the latest recommendations and ways they can continue using elevators while protecting the public.
- Guidelines for outsourced employees. Communicate with any employee contracting or outsourcing companies you work with to encourage sick employees to stay home and still receive compensation.”
We advise keeping up to date with the latest updates on COVID-19 by visiting your federal, provincial, or local health body website.
World Health Organization, Getting the Workplace Ready for COVID-19
Government of Canada, Community-based measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Canada Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Business Pandemic Preparedness Guide