Policy, Process and Restricted Contact

Simon Thomson , 23 March 2020

Thomson Rossi’s approach to managing the practice in the context of the novel coronavirus is guided by a COVID-19 Policy Statement, which establishes clear boundaries and habits. Simon Thomson explains that the intent is to keep the office open as long as possible.

Thomson Rossi is an Adelaide practice of 12 FTE staff and an office dog, working mainly with government and institutional clients. The photo shows the COVID-19 inhouse pizza Friday lunch, where the practice chatted about how their families and/or partners were being impacted by the virus.

What measures has your practice put in place in response to COVID-19?

Our approach is outlined in our COVID-19 Policy Statement, which was implemented and sent out on Monday 16 March. We updated it over the next few days, and it is still evolving daily as things change.

Thomson Rossi COVID-19 Policy Statement

We believe our best line of defence against COVID19 at the moment is to restrict exposure as much as possible. This means corporate isolation in a sense.

So, from today onwards:

  • ALL meetings/visitors here at Thomson Rossi involving outside parties are banned.
  • There will be some necessary exceptions – for example, IT support, cleaners, air-conditioning maintenance etc. In these cases, we will insist on handling cleaning protocols before they enter and after they leave.
  • Avoid sending material via couriers. Any couriers delivering material here will have to leave at the door without signing.
  • Please do not arrange to have any personal items couriered to this office until further notice.
  • Attendance to essential meetings/site visits outside the office will be referred to Directors for a decision.
  • Shift as many meetings to VC, Skype and Zoom as possible.
  • No visits from trade reps until further notice.
  • No attendance to any trade gatherings or professional events.
  • Café catch-ups on hold until further notice.

What you can do:

  • Limit your attendance or exposure to group gatherings in your personal life, following Govt and SA Health directives. Be aware though that they are behind in their response given the escalating rates of infection.
  • Hand hygiene is the first line of defence; practice this outside the office as well to protect your extended families. Follow the correct hand-washing guidelines and do it frequently – for example, if you come back into the office after lunch.
  • Be vigilant re cold and flu symptoms.

We are communicating these new procedures and policies to clients through personal phone calls.

What technology are you using?

We have a number of new systems in place. We have implemented Zoom for all meetings, and we are trialling ‘Remote PC’ software in the event that staff need to work from home. We have had some success with this so far.

We currently utilise BIM 360, which allows the use of Revit in the cloud – we have licences for 50% of our staff. They are expensive but allow continuity for offsite staff. We are currently trying to source a spare workstation class laptop to assist with working from home.

Did you have systems and processes in place already that you have been able to build on? How has this worked? 

We currently have facilities for video conferencing, including equipment and wide band internet service allowing big data streaming. This has been very important in allowing virtual meetings and model sharing in the cloud (BIM 360). Senior staff members and management already use laptops and VPNs to access documents and work remotely, so we are familiar with how this works, and can extend to other staff as required.

What challenges have you encountered to date?

Government clients insisting on a business-as-usual approach and refusing to discuss heightened risks around project programs and security of payment (novation contracts).

Maintaining a healthy work environment and keeping our employees safe.

Maintaining morale – we have found keeping people busy is the best remedy here.

Maintaining work flows. Many of our future opportunities have been postponed or mothballed. We are not receiving any new commissions. 

What advice would you give to other practices based on your experiences so far?

Small and medium-size practices are well placed to adopt the isolated office approach. This means keeping the office open, while severely restricting contact with others.

Embrace technology and look to the positives – explore how can these new protocols benefit productivity in the future.

Simon Thomson is a Director of Thomson Rossi and Vice President of ACA – SA.