It’s been one heck of a year!

When January 1, 2020 hit, no one could’ve predicted that 2020 would go down as the year of COVID-19. As with any pandemic, it has been a challenging year on so many levels for individuals and businesses, both personally and professionally. OP organizations have been on a stomach-churning roller coaster ride with no predictable end.

Crises such as this often bring with them a necessity for change. COPA’s members certainly felt the nudge and responded with new product offerings, reimagined marketing initiatives, accommodating sales strategies, and radical go to market plans. With the OP sector recognized as an essential business, organizations were able to remain open during the lockdown, and take advantage of government initiatives, such as converting manufacturing equipment to make urgently needed medical supplies. Others saw a boon in categories like Jan-san and technology, when the demand for cleaning products skyrocketed and reliable technology products became a necessity as workers moved from the office to home.

Indeed, one of the biggest changes brought on by COVID-19 was the shift to working from home full-time. Prior to the pandemic, many organizations shuddered at the thought of having employees work from home even some of the time! With no other options available, however, remote work has proven to be the saviour of organizations across the globe, and has quickly gone from an enviable privilege to the new norm.

Realizing the enormous impact the shutdown and the uncertainty of the pandemic was having on our members, COPA jumped into action to figure out how it could best help its members. We set up a COVID-19 info page to deliver pertinent and accurate information to our members about available supports to businesses and individuals across Canada. We also established a weekly virtual roundtable to bring leaders together to discuss best practices and approaches for addressing some of the most immediate impacts of the pandemic.

In addition, COPA also joined with other Canadian trade associations to push favourable policies in the Federal Government, and to suggest policies and programs that would alleviate the burdens that were brought onto our members by the pandemic.

We worked to keep the OP community together with virtual networking and relevant learning opportunities. Our second annual Making Waves Conference was moved online and the theme was adjusted to cover pandemic-related topics, such as, working from home, digital marketing, the state of the economy, mental health, cybersecurity, and more. Instead of a two-day in-person event, it became a month-long digital learning extravaganza with topics presented twice each week.

Peer Groups in Human Resources and Logistics also continued to meet throughout the year, providing another touch point for members to exchange ideas and better cope with business changes.

This year also marked the beginning of a formal partnership between COPA and OPI (Office Products International) that will allow us to share programs and knowledge. We are excited about the possibilities this partnership offers and look forward to realizing its full potential in 2021.

As we prepare to move into another year with the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, we are all hoping for a more normalized 2021; but, health experts have cautioned the public that even a vaccine will not pave the way back to a pre-pandemic normal. It is expected that this virus will continue to cause us grief throughout 2021 as many countries still struggle to get infection rates under control. This means the global economy will likely remain unsteady and uncertainties concerning the global supply chain will continue.

Meanwhile, more surveys show workers are growing increasingly fatigued with Zoom meetings and are struggling to balance work and home responsibilities, even more so now while working from home. Workers with school-aged children are especially under duress with having to deal not just with the impact of COVID-19 on their job, but also with its impact on schools and their children’s lives. Business leaders have the double responsibility of ensuring their organization remains viable, while considering the health and wellbeing of their workers, who are integral to their success. It’s easy to understand the new stresses that professionals are enduring and the impact this can have on their wellbeing.

Taking all this into consideration, we understand that this is an especially tough time for businesses and remain committed to doing all we can to help. We encourage our members to reach out to us with their concerns and struggles, and encourage leaders to become a part of our weekly Roundtable to find out how other members are coping with some of the issues you’re facing. We will continue to push for public policies that help our sector and to provide information that can assist in your decision-making.

Yes, we will inevitably face more challenges in the New Year, but, with the continued resolve and agility the OP sector has shown throughout the years, and especially in the year of COVID-19, we are confident that the industry and our members will remain strong, and will emerge with one heck of a story to tell when this pandemic is finally over!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a successful 2021.

Your President,
Sam Moncada
COPA
smoncada@copa.ca
905-624-9462 ext. 228