IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE AHA CENTRE:
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having an effect on everyone. By the end of March 2020, the number of global cases has reached more than 50,000 per day. In Southeast Asia, although the case numbers remain relatively low, many countries have taken precautionary measures, such as limiting travel from countries that are heavily affected by the outbreak.
The AHA Centre has also been heavily affected by the pandemic, although fortunately no staff has been infected by the virus so far. However, as a regional organisation, many of the AHA Centre’s activities include travel and engagements across the region. Therefore, travel restrictions have caused the Centre to postpone or cancel some programmes and events that has been planned. Some activities being postponed for 2020 include batch 7 of the ACE Programme, ASEAN-ERAT trainings, and the ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise (ARDEX).
Alongside this, the Government of Indonesia (the host of the AHA Centre’s office) implemented social distancing measures on March 15th, as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the virus. These included requests for all businesses and organisations to implement work-from-home conditions, to which the AHA Centre responded immediately by initiating work-from-home arrangements to ensure the health and well-being of staff and the wider community.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The AHA Centre faces a significant challenge in adapting to this ‘new normal’. This includes significant re-alignment in working approaches as staff switch from office-based to home-based environments. As an organisation that is very reliant to collaboration among staff as well as with ASEAN Member States and partners, the challenge lies in finding the best online working method that accommodates the collaborative nature of the work.
There are, however, two sides to any disaster, even in situations such as the pandemic. The Centre has identified an opportunity to realise a long-standing vision of becoming a smart office that utilises various collaborative technological tools. Part of this vision is to apply near-to-zero waste and minimal utilisation no papers. However, the pandemic situation has forced the AHA Centre to make these necessary changes, as part of its overall adaptation to the new normal.
Adjustments have also included the utilisation of video conferencing tools for meetings, as well as other tools to facilitate sharing and collaboration. Additionally, the AHA Centre has also moved all of its administrative, financial and human resource processes fully online.
Some challenges still remain of course, including the reality that nothing can fully replace direct face-to-face interaction. However, the Centre aims to remain productive, while at the same time protecting staff’s health and well-being. While we hope for the end of the pandemic situation, we also appreciate that some of these changes and adjustments will continue, and that will be for the benefit of our work in the future.
Written by : Dipo Summa | Photo Credit : AHA Centre