BEIJING, March 17, 2020

Reopening Our Doors
in the Wake of COVID-19

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) reopened its headquarters on March 16, 2020, ending a remote work protocol that was enacted in response to COVID-19. Putting the safety of staff first and doing its part to control the spread of infection, AIIB’s Senior Management Team is welcoming staff back to the office, in consultation with and under guidance from local authorities and infection experts.

Although, the reality is we never really left. COVID-19 hit China during the Chinese New Year Festival when many of us were away visiting family or taking a much-needed break. When people would have normally been returning to the office, the pandemic—which was still in its early stages—was causing a lot of concern within China and around the world. With our headquarters in Beijing, Senior Management erred on the side of caution and safety and issued a remote work protocol for the next six weeks.

It has been an interesting experience, especially for a new organization like ours which is still in the process of building a distinct “AIIB Way” of doing things. We wondered how moving to remote work would impact our corporate culture. Were we agile enough to adjust to this new way of working—especially for our Bank which had, to date, become accustomed to face-to-face interactions to get the work done? COVID-19 made us work differently, but in the end it also helped us come together as a stronger team.

Our operations staff never stopped building the pipeline of new, sustainable investments and working with existing clients to monitor project implementation. Finance, human resources and all our departments are leveraging the many tools at their disposal to embrace virtual work to minimize the impact on our operations. A special callout has to be made to our safety and security team who have been working around the clock to keep all of us up to date on the latest information on COVID-19, wherever we are in the world.

There have been challenges. Connectivity issues, increased operational risks and isolated staff are issues we needed to overcome. Some work had to be delayed due to travel restrictions and other unavoidable complications. As tough as this experience has been, there are many examples of people rallying to help each other, filling in the gaps and keeping our operations running as smooth as possible under these circumstances.

From the beginning, AIIB has been leveraging technology to work with our nonresident Board of Directors and our clients all over Asia. In the process of building our culture, we have been thinking hard about how to incorporate different ways and styles of working together to determine the best fit for AIIB. It was just a question of building on that foundation, absorbing what works and what does not to support our temporary digital nomads around the world.

As of this week, a third of our staff were back in the office, observing the required safety protocols—including social distancing, temperature taking and wearing masks when among other people. We expect the rest to return in due course, with a number of them currently observing the 14-day quarantine to avoid spreading the infection. In the end, we can proudly say that COVID-19 has not stopped us from doing what we do best—helping our members improve economic and social opportunities for their citizens.

 

AUTHOR

Laurel Ostfield

Director General, Communications Department, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

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