New year, new beginnings – that is what many of us thought when 2019 turned into 2020. However, in December 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus became established in China’s Wuhan, and although it was far away from Finland, we could not in our wildest dreams have guessed how much this unknown disease would affect the world economy. The impact has been staggering. Countries closed their borders. Traveling stopped abruptly. Meetings were restricted. Schools and daycare centers were practically closed, and the elderly were instructed to self-isolate in home quarantines. For businesses large and small, and across the globe, traditional ways of working were challenged and altered to reduce the spread of the infection – including Wipak.
The world has certainly changed and we at Wipak have changed along with it. Our industry and plastic as a material were transformed from villains to heroes overnight. The packaged food and groceries sold in stores were considered safe and their sales soared. We have also seen an increase in demand for some of Wipak Health’s business packaging. Importantly, we have been able to act as a reliable partner to our customers. We have even been given an opportunity to put our innovation claims to the test and deliver new products we have never produced before, such as face visors and protective clothing.
‘Safety First’ is the backbone of Wipak’s strategy and it has been central to our activities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our primary objective has been to secure a safe working environment for our employees in production, logistics, and other functions where working remotely has not been possible. We have succeeded well in this. Unnecessary contact between employees has been eliminated, we are focusing heavily on hygiene, and those on-site keep a safe distance from each other.
Office employees from all Wipak sites work, as a rule, remotely, either full-time or part-time, and this has been a new experience and opportunity for many of us. In fact, a survey targeted at those working remotely indicated that many have found the new setup a positive experience.
When it comes to home working, the biggest challenges facing us in the long run are internet connection issues and work ergonomics. We have aimed to improve the latter by giving our employees the opportunity to take their office tools and equipment home, including their office chair, display monitor and keyboard.
We have updated our IT system across the board and this has enabled us to have video meetings and to see our colleagues when we talk to them – something I think is really nice when we are all missing human contact. Several teams have had virtual coffee breaks, the staff at Wipak UK have been running a virtual morning quiz, and the staff at Wipak Gryspeert have celebrated co-workers’ birthdays.
Traveling, which used to be a norm for many, came to a complete halt due to the pandemic. This new situation has given us time to think about whether all traveling is necessary, and how we are going to meet and visit our customers in the future. In the post-corona world, traveling will most likely reduce significantly. The future will require us to develop new skills and we want to respond to this challenge quickly and efficiently. We are already planning training for our sales teams about how to sell using virtual tools which, of course, will be delivered virtually!
Tough times are the ultimate test for the solidarity and good fellowship of employees, and this was clearly evident in the early stages of the pandemic when members of the Wipak family reached out to help others.
Our European units were able to provide face masks to China and when things turned around, our Chinese unit came to the rescue and helped our European sites by supplying face masks back to Europe. And this is only one story – there are so many other stories to tell. Wipak employees across all our sites, as well as in home offices, have really gone the extra mile in order to ensure that our manufacturing units continue their operations without any interruptions.
COVID-19 is a serious disease. It has caused, and will for a long time continue to cause, a lot of human suffering across the globe. We see that this pandemic will change the world, but we also know that the “new normal” of the future will provide a lot of opportunities, which we will utilize nimbly.
Stay healthy ?
Paulina Rannikko | General Counsel and Head of HR at Wipak Group