When preparing the subject for my column in this edition, I had considered three topics. It is always a time of mental wrestling trying to select the most appropriate and useful topic for the time. Never in my wildest dreams did I realise how the entire world would be turned on its head with the outbreak of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Without doubt, it will impact every one of us in many ways, even if we ourselves do not get infected.

Coping in the time of COVID 19

The call has been made to South Africans to work from home if possible. For most individuals and companies, that is an almighty and massive challenge. Of course, working at home has many challenges too. Many employees have children who demand some attention because the schools are closed. Many employees simply cannot work at home because their role and function is such that working at home is impossible, for example a shop assistant.

Yes, I know how those who run successful businesses or professional practices are probably feeling. Perhaps you are overwhelmed by this modern threat, or you may be a denialist and think that it will not get too bad here at the southern tip of Africa and will eventually quietly disappear. It is time to get real, to gear up, to regain your positive mind-set, to look for the opportunities amidst this ‘thing’ and to move into top gear to find the ways and means to continue to be successful, even if times get even tougher for business. Our businesses, both in the lighting design and illumination engineering fields, have been working in the online environment since 2013. Working from home is, therefore, totally familiar to us. Yes, we continuously look for ways to do things differently. Our success can be ascribed to our awareness that we, in fact like every business, need to ‘re-invent’ ourselves from time to time.

On Sunday afternoon, I watched the TV when the business organisations and groupings were interviewed on the steps of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. One of the statements made was that it was now time for us to look out for each other. This statement immediately struck a chord with me. It is for this reason that I decided to deviate from any of the topics I had conceptually prepared for my column so that I could share what we have done since 2013 and what we continue to do. It may help some of you, the readers, to be prompted to act.

As most of you know, I am an accredited international educator in the field of illumination engineering. That we have students from around the globe, is only possible because we use the world’s best software platform to teach. The software has continuously evolved, been enhanced, been updated (as recently as this last week) to provide our students with the best possible e-learning experience. It allows for video content to be embedded, for student to student messaging and student to teacher messaging from within the system without ever having to leave and use other software. Student mentoring is essential.

There are ways for that to take place – telephonic via landline (seldom used now), WhatsApp messaging or calls, Skype for business, Clickmeeting, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and so on. One of the excellent software suites is Microsoft Office 365. This includes the complete suite of Microsoft software, including Teams I have already referred to, plus the ability to save all work directly to the Cloud. Students can arrange for private lessons where some of the software suites above is used. It is also extremely important to ensure that your websites are regularly reviewed, are updated and adapt ed to the changing needs of your audiences.

We have found that this is incredibly important for us because we are exposed in many ways to the international audience of people in the lighting arena. Use the best possible branding companies to make that you are on target. For those of you who work within the built environment and project management fields, the software that we use is equally appropriate and useful to be able to hold project and coordinating meetings with the design team, clients and others. I will always remember the slogan used by the Kat Leisure group of hotels and resorts many years ago, “If you snooze, you lose”.

That is so true now that this need to change has been thrust on us. When thinking about the need for businesses to find ways for their staff to work from home and yet still be able to have meetings to keep track of sales or other information, it reminded me of the title of the 1982 Pieter Dirk Uys production “Adapt or Die”. I appreciate it referred to a very different time in the history of South Africa, but it is equally applicable to us now in 2020, except in a different way. Adapt new systems and methods to ensure that your business continues and indeed, survives. I make no claim to be an expert in the field of all types of software. I only relate this to share my experience and to ‘look out for each other’. I would be happy to speak to any readers who would like to know more about the above software we use and how we use it.

About Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond is the Director and Principal of BHA School of Lighting which offers a variety of courses from entry level Foundation Lighting right through to Advanced Diploma and Master Diploma in Illumination Engineering Courses. Other courses include Photometry, Lighting Economics, Relux Lighting Design Software courses, and more. Visit www.bhaschooloflighting.co.za

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