UIC Barcelona celebrates International Women's Day and invites two female executives to share their experience of directing companies during the year of COVID-19

Topics such as lockdown sharpening the tension between work and family and digital transformation as an opportunity for women in the labour market were discussed during the virtual session

On 8 March, International Women's Day, the University joined in celebrations for this important date and, through the Equality Office, organised a virtual seminar entitled “Working from home in the context of COVID-19: psycho-social risks of remote working in the digital age”.

With  speakers Maria Ángeles Tejada, general director of Public Affairs for Randstad Spain and Vanessa Martínez, general director of Grupo Carinsa, the virtual session revolved around how the lockdown has heightened tensions and clashes  between work and the family and how the digital transformation has acted as an accelerator for remote working. The measures taken by these companies to address the current situation, the potential economic crisis and the psycho-social risks arising from the pandemic were also analysed.

The general manager of Grupo Carinsa, started off by describing how her company has dealt with COVID-19. Despite the fact this health crisis has not been easy for anyone, “Grupo Carinsa has witnessed strengths and opportunities during this pandemic,” said the company’s CEO. Thanks to internal security protocols and anti-Covid measures, “the company has kept ticking over, it hasn’t experienced losses, and we have fortunately not had to furlough any of the workers. We did mass PCR testing from the first week and managed to monitor the workforce with minimal risks for those working shifts,” noted Martínez.

Despite the circumstances, Grupo Carinsa has grown 27% during the pandemic and extra workplaces and new lines of business have been generated within the company. Moreover, as the CEO explained, “thanks to good internal communication – we created explanatory videos each week – and careful management of people in the face of uncertainty, we have achieved maximum commitment from the Group’s workers who have felt more a part of the company than ever before. We have generated a great and strong sense of belonging among employees, who feel safe working with us.”

Randstad's Director of Public Affairs, a company which has 1,900 employees and 42,000 temporary workers, also shared her experience in senior management for the company over the past year. “From the moment the pandemic hit, we saw turnover fall dramatically, and in fact, between March and April it fell by 40%.” This is because Randstad works in very sensitive sectors, such as hospitality and event organisation, which had to stop temporarily.

Although this company has had to furlough some of its workers, the first of these being members of the Executive Board- it wanted to send a very clear message, that if the situation was difficult, it was going to be difficult for everyone and not for one specific group. Randstad, which is a leading people management and talent management company, wanted to ensure individual follow-up of the various situations and through its own staff the means were put in place to ensure that remote working could be carried out in optimum conditions for both employees and their families. The good news is that in November the situation improved and the workers were able to re-join the company.

Despite two different points of view on the pandemic, both executives agreed that we learn from all crises and we must talk about opportunities: Opportunities to gain loyalty among workers and customers. And the reality is that, according to both of our speakers, technology has been used more than ever, which means more contact with workers and customers virtually, without leaving home. Society has had to adapt to new technologies, it has been an opportunity to grow, streamline processes and learn for future situations that may involve working outside the office.

Timetable flexibility for workers, for example, able to work from home for Grupo Carinsa and Randstad has become normal and has worked in their favour. The two companies have adapted to their workers, to family situations and the needs of each family unit, which has generated positive working relationships and a better working environment among employees, who have felt supported and heard at all times.

Therefore, it becomes clear that internal communication was crucial during the pandemic in both companies. It played a very important role within both companies, since it made workers feel safe and properly informed at all times and provided transparency in the face of complete uncertainty.

Watch the talk here