The impact and the opportunities of COVID-19

SWP, together with the Swedish Embassy and Business Sweden in Colombia invited Swedish companies operating in Colombia to share their strategies during the pandemic and how they plan for re-opening of business. All agreed that  the uncertainty of the pandemic and its negative impact is the main challenge. But some companies were optimistic due to new creative solutions to generate business. 

The companies follow the instructions from global, national and company- levels. There is a lot to consider when the crisis hit, many of them had crisis-plans ready as well as contingency plans. The companies that had crisis committees  established, spent a lot of time to adjust to the crisis, but the global impact of the crisis  is unique in modern day business.

The world is affected and the supply chain for global companies is interrupted, due to lockdown, logistical closures, travel restrictions and closing of some factories.  The estimated decrease on demand during the lockdowns is up to 75% in some countries. Some companies and suppliers have production on-going despite the virus and have adjusted their protocols to include  screening of the employees before entering the workplace.


Reliable information is critical and many companies started using digital tools to reach the employees from mid-March. Companies have been creative in their communication with employees through daily newsletter, online platforms, phone calls etc.

One sector which was not included in the lockdown was telecom. Their services are needed for general communictions and to transform the work to a digital way of working. Telecom companies kept a close track of the employees and have adjusted their field and maintenance to ensure  their safety.

Most of the workforce work around 60% time with retained salary. Several companies plan to test the workforce which is one key factor to be able to open the businesses.

A new normal

There will be a new normal and the acceleration of the digitalisation of all business processes in now a fact.

Many companies have already prepared for “smart recovery ” with gradual reintroduction of office employees. In factories, screening is mandatory and PPE (personal protective equipment) will be available and  workplaces are adjusted to distancing.  Some of the companies have taken initiatives to redirect production, using 3D prints for PPE production or other products needed in the response.

Creative solutions

A new way of working can also create new business and optimisation of e.g. supply chain and demand workflow. Most of the companies continued having a close dialogue with customers. Customer webinars have been successful to show presence and adaptation.

All companies agreed on that these learnings are important to share and continue to develop.  

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This executive summary presents the findings from the study “Workplace Cooperation: Finding Practical Solutions in the Colombian Context,” conducted by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The study evaluates the added value of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) dialogue and cooperation model within the Colombian labor market.

Throughout 2022, FIP dedicated efforts to thoroughly understand the SWP model, including its concept, foundations, implementation process, and contributions to the labor market. In 2023, FIP documented the experiences of three companies—SKF Latin Trade, Securitas, and Epiroc—that implemented the SWP model in practice. The study also included face-to-face workshops to gather feedback from various stakeholders including civil society, businesses, government, academia, and international cooperation. The findings suggest that the SWP model has the potential to strengthen labor relations, contribute to decent work, and resolve workplace conflicts in Colombia.

The case studies highlight the importance of collaboration between employers and workers to promote decent work and sustainable development in Colombia. They demonstrate that social dialogue facilitates worker participation in labor decision-making, enhances their representativeness, and promotes cooperation between employers and employees, thus improving labor relations and contributing to the well-being of both employees and companies.

The SWP model is particularly noted for improving workplace relationships and commitment to jointly finding solutions to challenges faced by workers and the company. It empowers workers, enhances leadership, and helps integrate business policies into daily practices, reducing the initial disconnect between management objectives and the day-to-day realities of workers. The study also highlights the model’s capacity to manage conflicts constructively, transforming the perception of conflict as an opportunity for improvement. Structured dialogues deepen understanding of the underlying causes of conflicts, fostering empathy and facilitating effective resolution. This promotes a culture of collaboration and a democratic approach to decision-making, building trust.

Additionally, the model is recognized for enabling workers to make decisions, identify challenges, and propose solutions that impact their well-being, and bridging gender gaps in the workplace. Its inclusive approach adapts to the unique needs and characteristics of each company, promoting a stronger and more diverse organizational culture. It also drives good work performance and productivity by involving workers in problem identification and resolution, as well as in implementing improvements and efficiently identifying ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) risks for companies.

The document identifies the SWP model’s added value in empowering direct interaction among labor stakeholders in Colombia, overcoming historical or cultural reservations, and contributing to the development of stronger labor relations and improved workplace environments in the country.

Challenges and opportunities of the model are also discussed. The study points out the importance of addressing value chain risks, particularly in a global context where corporate clients demand decent work processes and due diligence. It emphasizes the need to integrate SMEs into this process and use anchor companies as drivers of social dialogue throughout the value chain. The role of the state in social dialogue and the importance of highlighting the benefits of the model for adoption across various business sectors are discussed.

The opportunities of the model include raising awareness of human rights in the workplace in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), to strengthen due diligence, manage risks, promote long-term sustainability, and improve organizational culture. The document also underscores the importance of involving workers in change processes, leveraging their insights for continuous improvement of processes, and fostering innovation opportunities. Lastly, it suggests replicating the model in value chains to address work environment risks and gender biases, involving suppliers and contractors, and integrating the model into corporate policies to strengthen existing programs and transform organizational culture towards resource efficiency and effective participation of employers and workers.