A Global Strategy to Beat a Global Pandemic

How ZEISS is Dealing with the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus is changing plenty of aspects in our lives. But the ZEISS Group has taken a responsible approach to this, by seeing beyond and running a host of different activities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This allows the company not only to protect its employees and customers, but also to ensure that business remains stable – and is also making a contribution to society by playing to its strengths.

The four objectives of the ZEISS Task Force

ZEISS formed a central task force early on, in January 2020. The ZEISS Group measures were derived in the pursuit of four objectives that aim to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus-induced crisis.


To protect the health of all employees


To ensure smart business continuity to the greatest possible extent and support customers across the globe


To combat the economic impact of the pandemic on the company in a targeted manner


To leverage market opportunities and strategic options arising from the new situation

Fast, pragmatic and responsible

How to successfully manage a crisis in a highly dynamic situation

by Heiko Winkler, Head of the ZEISS Task Force

Heiko Winkler is Head of Corporate Security at ZEISS. He has been in charge of all safety and security topics at ZEISS for just shy of a decade. While he started out alone, he now heads up an international team. When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the Executive Board of Carl Zeiss AG asked him to lead the central task force, whose members include representatives from the Company Medical Center, HR and Communications departments, as well as from the Business Services & Infrastructure division.

For a global company like ZEISS, the outbreak of the coronavirus was a challenging time full of uncertainty and unknowns, and we wanted to help our colleagues around the world navigate it as safely as possible. The central task force was immediately formed, which allowed us to feel a great sense of responsibility in terms of ensuring that we protect our more than 32,000 employees worldwide as best we can.

Our four-pillar strategy helped us to protect the health and safety of all those at the company while safeguarding our business and all of our jobs. We had to act in a fast, flexible and agile way in order to ensure this. Every day brought a new challenge. We made sure to closely monitor the pandemic's evolution at all times, evaluate its impact and immediately take appropriate action – throughout the entire ZEISS Group. Through close coordination with local and area-specific units, we coordinated and took measures across the board, for the entire Group. To do this, we worked closely with the Executive Board of Carl Zeiss AG, who supported us every step of the way. It was also important that the different countries and segments were able to respond to their particular situation as needed.

It was ultimately a team effort but the hurdles will certainly keep coming. We are very proud of how ZEISS has not only admirably brought the situation under control, but also how we have contributed our own know-how, expertise, and the technologies produced by our segments to the global fight against the coronavirus.

Standing by all our employees

ZEISS' top priority is to ensure the health of its employees. Nevertheless, the steady stream of new findings related to the pandemic and the coronavirus were cause for concern – as were the new hygiene and social distancing rules. The task force compiled some strict requirements and binding rules for the workplace, and issued recommendations regarding proper conduct in the private sphere. Together with the physicians from the Company Medical Center, a wealth of comprehensive information was provided and contact persons appointed.

ZEISS also invested in employee qualification. The ZEISS CurioZ learning platform was used to offer optional further training at no charge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics included language learning and relevant content for those working in Sales, Project Management and Design and Innovation, as well as problemsolving techniques and leadership fundamentals. ZEISS' credo during this time is to ensure that both the company and its employees emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever, through the acquisition of additional competencies and skills.

Digitalization – a solid foundation

ZEISS was highly digitalized long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Corporate IT had been consistently driving digitalization for several years, thus pursuing a strategic course that the ZEISS Agenda had defined for the evolution of the Group. The option to work remotely, coupled with the digital collaboration platforms, had not yet been fully harnessed at this time, but all that changed with the coronavirus-induced lockdown. In mid-March, almost 90 percent of employees went overnight from working at the office to working from home. And the company's solid IT infrastructure ensured this could be done problem-free.

So while offices stood empty, the company was able to continue operating. And if our colleagues experienced any technical difficulties while working from home, our IT experts were able to step in thanks to our remote services. This model is benefitting an increasing number of ZEISS customers: The ZEISS Medical Technology and ZEISS Industrial Quality & Research segments were able to use our remote services even during the COVID-19 pandemic – many measuring machines, medical devices and microscopy systems from ZEISS were maintained remotely home.

ZEISS' contribution

The coronavirus is posing major challenges for healthcare systems and medical institutions. And ZEISS is supporting them through its know-how, materials, technical devices and plenty of volunteers.

The COVID-19 virus enhanced with artificial dye, captured using a ZEISS GeminiSEM 560, aSTEM detector. Used with permission from Matthew Hannah, Virus Reference  Department, Public Health England, United Kingdom
The COVID-19 virus enhanced with artificial dye, captured using a ZEISS GeminiSEM 560, aSTEM detector. Used with permission from Matthew Hannah, Virus Reference Department, Public Health England, United Kingdom

A better understanding of the virus

Fast diagnosis and effective treatment are essential for helping COVID-19 patients and containing the pandemic. As a company that has closely partnered with researchers for so long, ZEISS is involved in scientific discussions that arise through joint research projects and it provides optimum technical lab equipment like the ZEISS Celldiscoverer 7.

Assisting with intubation for COVID-19 patients

Since the start of the pandemic, ZEISS Medical Technology has been working on solutions that shield medical staff from infections. The ZEISS NURA video laryngoscope, for example, enables healthcare professionals to maintain a greater distance between themselves and patients, thereby reducing the risk of infection.