Covid-19 dictates our way of working at HQ

Following the national guidelines in Denmark on gradually re-opening society, home working colleagues in our headquarter were called back to work from 12 May. Many colleagues are excited to be back and resume interactions with others; others have expressed natural concerns about working in an office during a pandemic. We have asked Anne-Christine Ahrenkiel, Chief People Officer, about DFDS’ way of handling this unusual situation.

Question: Why were homeworking colleagues called back to work at DFDS House or Harbour House at relatively short notice?

Anne-Christine Ahrenkiel: During a pandemic, governments introduce measures that apply almost instantly or the next day, requiring companies like DFDS to make quick decisions and manoeuvre quickly to comply with local governments’ recommendations. Therefore, we had already early in the planning process made people aware that one should expect to be called back at very short notice, after working from home or being on temporary leave.

When we asked people to return to office as of Tuesday 12 May, it was based on the Danish Government’s announcement after the end of the working week. Michael Sandberg and the HR Operations team worked quickly over the weekend, to prepare the return and communicate it to managers and on the Bridge in order to be ready for Tuesday 12 May. Judging from the first days after the change, it seems that most people are happy to be back and resume their interactions with colleagues, even if some people have had to make adjustments at home to ensure balance between e.g. opening hours in day care and being back in the office. Within the guidelines, we have left flexibility for the local managers to help people adjust.

But didn’t homeworking work well?

Anne-Christine Ahrenkiel Yes, homeworking worked very well and in general, in the EMT, we have been very impressed by how quickly people in the organisation have adapted to a completely new and unexpected situation. With that being said, we were keen to also contribute to getting our society ‘back to normal’ as much as possible, with due respect and consideration to the general safety guidelines in Denmark. Not everyone thrives working alone, we don’t have the same equipment at home as we do in the office, and together with our colleagues, we are just more dynamic, creative and productive. That is the essence of working in a knowledge-based and development-focused organisation like ours. And we need all our combined skills and creativity to ensure DFDS is in the best possible position both now and when the crisis ends.

Concerns have been raised about the risk of bringing many people together when the pandemic is still going on?

Anne-Christine Ahrenkiel: I fully understand that there are such concerns, and if you have concerns you should of course raise it with HR ADMIN or Michael Sandberg. However, we have introduced very thorough measures that are more than complying with the national guidelines. Michael Sandberg and his team have done a great job over the holidays to prepare HQ to receive you back in the safest possible manner.  Cleaning procedures have increased, all touch points (coffee machines, elevators, restrooms, door handles, desks etc.) are cleaned numerous times a day. Workstations and seats in the canteen have been counted and limited to ensure safety distance – which is why you are still required to work from home one or more days per week. In addition to the above, we also have full confidence that each and every one of us will bring with us the safety behaviours that we have learned in the past months and apply outside DFDS, when we get back to work in the office.

I am confident that you are all aware of the WHO guidelines on how you can avoid spreading the virus or reduce the risk of contracting it through your personal behaviour.

If you are in a special situation, or have concerns that are unanswered here, please do not hesitate to ask your manager or place your question or concerns in the comments field under this interview.

With that, let me say on behalf of the entire Executive Management that it has been really great to see you who worked from home until now back at the head office, and the buildings full of life again.

May 14, 2020