In recent days, Brazil has become the Latin American epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. This fact has pushed many industries to transform themselves, and it also has brought painful lessons.
However, Brazil can learn about the solutions taken by a country that has had the worst scenario during this year: the United States.
At the center of the new coronavirus pandemic right now, the United States was not entirely unprepared for such an exceptional situation – despite the unprecedented severity of this century. The experiences of some states with natural disasters and, in the case of New York, of 9/11, have changed many practices of American companies.
In the USA, a lot has been said about the good work done in California, on the West coast. Although the state’s health system is in alarm, as in other parts of the country, the history of combating the consequences of fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes has now helped to face the COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco authorities were the first in the US to quarantine people – what experts say was one of the reasons for the flattening of the contaminated curve in the city. Also, legislation that had been created during other crises stemming from natural disasters is being useful in combating the disease at the moment – such as the one that provides for reimbursement for hospitalizations carried out in a state of emergency.
In San Diego, a fire that destroyed more than 1,500 homes in 2007 and quarantined half a million people made the city rethink public actions in exceptional situations, such as the COVID-19. At the time, when the evacuation was carried out, the local government began to place different citizens in coordinating roles with central institutions – such as health clinics, shelters, and businesses – so that they too could help amid the crisis.
However, it is not just in these ways that the US can offer lessons to the world in isolation: American startups – many of them in Silicon Valley, also in California – have several aspects that help other global business centers manage employees in home-office. These are practices that Brazilian organizations of various sizes can adopt.
First, the United States was able to make a smoother transition towards the home office because many companies have already undergone a digital transformation. In them, all or almost all processes are automated, operations are deployed in the cloud, and HRs can manage the remote workforce without major difficulties. Data published in the American press recently show that, at the moment, half of the country’s economy is operating through employees who, in quarantine, kept their companies in operation.
At the forefront of this process were startups, always at the forefront of this debate about new ways of working and delivering. Also, they collaborated a lot to transform the mentality that, at home, people would not perform their activities – something that is still very widespread in Brazil.
Second, the home office has been a common practice in the United States since the mid-2000s. Since then, several changes in legislative profiles have been made – such as pay and working hours regimes, which are more flexible in the country than in Brazil – as well as the infrastructure and tools to make remote work viable were developed and improved by suppliers and customers (companies and public institutions). Again, startups were big consumers of these new instruments, if not their creators.
It is interesting to note that these tools are also available to Brazilian companies. The issue, however, is the use made of them: in the United States, for example, the public school system was already fully equipped with Teams, Microsoft’s conference platform, which is now enabling the continuity of classes, while many schools in our country have not yet implemented this type of technology.
Finally, many startups have adopted a business strategy that has been praised: making their services available for free for a period, so that potential customers can not only consume them among the crisis but also that they can generate conversions when the situation improves.
All of these points do not prevent startups from also facing challenges: the specialized website Protocol even mentioned some of them in an article published this month. In addition to the quarantine of the workforce, there is a drop in demands and even the fear of some customers about the economic situation. However, they can be the way to rethink what will become of the post-pandemic world.
If it is a difficult time for the world, companies can also learn lessons: in the case of Brazilians, that the home office – when organizations are prepared to manage it – can be an alternative for the world of work.