Covid update: Roman Knap, Czech Post CEO recounts his experience managing the Post while fighting the infection himself

Special message was sent to all employees on their hard work.

The Czech Post Management Board publicly expressed their appreciation and gratitude towards their employees, in the form of a personal “thank you” video, which was shared on social media. This video has been followed by several Czech celebrities and online influencers who also started to voice their support for the company employees.

While sharing this message of support, the Management Board Members, were on the backstage themselves, fighting this new Covid-19 infection. In order to illustrate how it is to run a Postal Company while being infected by the Covid-19 virus, we present you, with an extract from a recent interview with the CEO of Czech Post, Mr. Roman Knap, who himself managed to recover from this infection.

How much did the coronavirus pandemic hit the Czech Post - its service for clients, but also its structure?

RK: I have to say that the Post works almost normally, albeit in a special, crisis mode. I would even dare say that the Post is going to the fullest. We see a tremendous increase in parcel delivery as a consequence to the ban of traditional shopping in some stores, so people have to do their shopping online, vie e-shops instead. In terms of volume, we are basically on the pre-Christmas traffic numbers. We, as a critical infrastructure of the State and Universal Service Providers, have some responsibilities in this aspect, and we are fulfilling them. Regarding the functioning of the branch network and conventional delivery, we had to take measures to prevent closer contact between employees and clients and between employees themselves. As a result, we had to adjust the delivery methods for some products to match the contact between postal worker and client to the maximum safety of both parties.

How are you doing when it comes to coronavirus infections?

RK: Every day we respond to the specific situation, when some of the employees have to do the quarantine or do the testing. So, we are adjusting and re-adjusting our operations accordingly to minimize the impact on our clientele, and in our branches. Despite the hard restrictions, the postmen and postwomen are doing their job extremely well.

How do you manage to implement security and technological measures, such as the installation of protective glass at the counters to minimize the risk of virus transmission, etc.?

RK: First, Czech Post closed all counters without the protective glass. There were around 100, including barrier-free counters. Therefore, services are been provided solely at the protected counters. In order to mitigate the risk from the coronavirus transmission, we have shortened the opening hours of post offices. Early opening hours until 9 am are reserved for senior citizens and all post offices close at 4 pm. We have been criticized for such decision, however, we needed to do it, in order to set up employee shifts in a way that minimizes their physical contact. Thus, we only have one shift working at a time, per post office, every day. If we had continued the standard shift rotation (as scheduled), one potentially infected employee would force us to put all shifts to quarantine and close entirely down the post office. Therefore, this measure substantially minimizes the potential risk of virus transmission.

I am convinced that it is better to keep post offices open during shorter opening hours than to have them closed. If, by any chance, we are forced to quarantine a certain shift, we are still able to keep the post office in operation. However, it is more difficult with small post offices, many of which needed to be temporarily closed due to employees in quarantine.

When an entire shift needs to be placed in quarantine, how do you proceed? Do you disinfect the premises, use ozonation?

RK: Of course, it is happening. In Český Krumlov, in Choceň, in Jílové near Prague, in Neratovice. If such problem is detected, the postal premises are disinfected and the entire post office is prepared for a safe operation for the second shift as well as for our customers on the same day.

For example, in Choceň, Czech Post delegated part of its agenda to a Post Office Partner in a shopping centre. Do these franchises in private or corporate businesses prove to be successful during this pandemic?

RK: Yes. For example, in Choceň, an agreement was reached regarding a part of the postal agenda. We managed to reach an agreement with our partner in that shopping centre and I am very glad about this outcome. Now, such option is available at more partner branches if needed. It shows that flexibility works and we are able to maintain our operations. Of course, protective equipment plays an important role in maintaining the operation. Communication with the mayors is also very important - without them, we would not be able to solve such difficult situations as the one in Litovel.

Does the Czech Post purchase any equipment?

RK: Of course, we purchase some of the equipment – protective suits, disinfection products, and so on; we have also acquired several thousand protective shields. This week we will receive ten thousand respirators purchased by our partner ČSOB. It is a combination of everything. We must realize that we have over eight thousand letter and parcel deliverers and eleven thousand employees at the counters. Overall, almost twenty thousand people who are in daily contact with customers and need to be protected. We have large teams in the internal services as well. It is a big number.

What about the data networks and their administrators at the current coronavirus time?

RK: IT employees belong to a risk group, so we protect them as much as possible. Our network works in a standard way, without any major complications.

Even you were infected with the coronavirus. How did this happen and how did the disease manifest itself?

RK: A colleague from the sales department got infected by his friend. At that time, the extraordinary intensity of transmission wasn’t known, and he didn’t have any symptoms. So we worked normally and thus almost the entire post office management got infected. It's been almost a month, and I've had two check-ups. Both came up negative. I can say responsibly now - yes, it´s over.

So what were your symptoms?

RK: In the beginning, the symptoms weren't at all as I'd read. People expected high temperatures over 38 degrees, shortness of breath, strong cough and so on. I didn't have any of these symptoms. Temperatures rose very slowly and gradually within six days to 38.5. But as we had this colleague at work who had described the symptoms four days earlier and got tested, it was then quite clear what was going on, and I went to quickly do the tests.

How do you manage Czech Post working from home?

RK: We were all working from home since an early beginning; we have the necessary communication tools, management meetings, crisis unit meetings, everything is being done over the Internet via web platforms. This is actually how the crisis staff at the Ministry of the Interior worked at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s how people who are under quarantine work, and since we were also connected to them, it is also working out for us. Still, I dare to say that despite this personal management deficit, the Czech Post works normally. We are able to solve problems until evening hours and also during weekends. Fortunately, no one in the management had any major complications during the treatment of the disease and did not end up in the hospital, so we did not have to face any dramatic limitations.

Source: Czech "Economic Weekly“ magazine

Disclaimer: This is an unofficial shortened translation of the original interview in Czech and provided for information purposes only. In case of a discrepancy, the Czech original will prevail.

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