The Corona crisis appeared at the worst possible moment for our company. The tire change season was about to begin and we were expecting 60 tire fitters to arrive in the second half of March. Everything was buttoned up.
Several fitters arrived and started to work in the second week of March before the borders were closed.
Of course, in the beginning of February we all knew about the spooky virus circulating in China that could easily spread. We just didn’t know when and with what force it would hit Belgium. On the 4th of February the first official corona case was announced in the media. It was a Belgian man repatriated from Wuhan. He was immediately put in quarantine and consisted no danger to the public health. As days passed, more and more cases were being reported. Public fears started to raise across the country. We have started to receive information from various sources on how different companies were putting together strategies for the coming weeks. Meetings and trainings were being cancelled.
As the health and safety of our employees has always been a top priority for us, we had to be quick to take preventative and protective measures as well.
On Monday March 16, we agreed on a new work schedule. From then on, maximum 2 people could be at our Bornem office at the same time. The rest of our team, which consists of 13 people, had to pack and from then on work from home.
On Tuesday March 17 the Belgian Security Council announced a series of new strict measures: only essential commute was allowed. Non-essential shops were closed and a ban on gatherings came into force. The world suddenly became a different place. The streets became empty, restaurants and pubs closed. The traffic problem was suddenly solved. People are wearing masks on the streets and stopped breathing when a stranger passes by. You still meet your friends in bigger groups for a glass of wine and a good scrabble game, except that now it is online. Sport events disappeared from the surface of the earth until who knows when. Your phone is being flooded with dozens of GIFs, memes, videos about people and toilet paper or people being bored in quarantine. Sometimes funny, at times not really. When you look around in your neighborhood you notice many white clothes hanging from the windows as a sign of gratitude towards the medical personnel who work extremely hard these days.
The new measures were challenging for the businesses that remained open and often extremely busy such as grocery stores. Every supermarket took on a slightly different approach to the challenge, which may be confusing for their clients. Some hired an external security company to disinfect trolleys and distribute single use latex gloves, some are letting only one family member in and some smaller shops do everything what they can to keep the social distance between people. Now that the hoarding wave has passed some calm has returned, while shelves of key supplies remain largely understocked.
As from March 17 we all work from home and harder than ever to provide service and support to our candidates and clients. In the last week our main focus was directed towards our candidates, who as the result of the measures, lost their jobs and decided to stay in Belgium. Our sales did everything they could to find new clients and provide new jobs to as many workers as possible. We have already booked a success in that regard, but it will remain our focal point for the coming weeks. Another important focus has been communication. We believe that staying correctly informed in this uncertain times is crucial. We have been sending all the necessary updates to the clients, candidates and our international recruiting partners in multiple languages on a regular basis. At the same time we have to ensure that all the administration is correctly done, and that our daily regular tasks are performed. We hold daily calls at 9:00 and 15:30 to exchange our updates, successes and challenges. And although we see each other on a little screen and hear a robotic disrupted sound at times, we feel the team spirit more than ever before.
Much remains uncertain these days. There are at this moment 7284 corona cases registered in Belgium. This afternoon we will hear again from the Belgian Security Council. It’s expected that the measures will be prolonged.
The one certainty remains that this epidemic already has dreadful consequences to the world’s economy and thus to the labor market, which will need years to rebuilt and come back to its pre-crisis shape. Although many jobs are disappearing as many companies reduce their capacities, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Link2Europe remains active and researches new opportunities in Belgium for all those who are willing to enrich their international career experience. At the same time we continue to support Belgian industries in order to help them in achieving their goals.