Business as usual? How to prepare for the easing of COVID-19 restrictions06 Oct 2020
Across Australia, and indeed, around the world, more companies are returning at least some of their operations to in-person work, as they attempt to get back to something resembling “business as usual.” However, this is not something that should be entered into lightly, or without a lot of preparation of both the workplace itself and, of course, your employees.
There are plenty of steps you should take to ensure your business is ready to ease workers back into the swing of things in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown it necessitated. First and foremost, you need to make sure your company is in compliance with all requirements and recommendations made by the local, state and federal governments. This information should be relatively easy to find online.
For instance, in Melbourne and Victoria as a whole, there are clear industry restrictions that are being altered as risk factors develop and change in the weeks and months ahead. Moreover, there are recommendations you should act upon when it comes to making your office or workplace safe for workers to return. These include, but are not limited to:
- Rearranging the space to account for social distancing
- Instituting a mask-wearing policy
- Practicing and accommodating good personal hygiene
- Creating a response and recordkeeping process for employees who exhibit symptoms
- Encouraging workers to isolate when not at work
Just like government agencies, when it comes to your plans for easing back into the normal ebbs and flows of business, you need to build some agility into your strategy. The fact of the matter is that no one is sure what events will transpire in the next few days, let alone months from now, and as such your business needs to be able to quickly and effectively react to sudden changes in conditions, according to Laura Chapin, senior learning solutions manager at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, writing for Harvard Business. That requires you and other decision-makers at your company to align the twin goals of keeping workers safe and continuing to perform well as a business.
“Now more than ever, [leadership and development professionals] must focus on developing core capabilities that help their leaders pivot as needed, and pivot again as new information comes in, as they identify what’s working and what’s not working,” Chapin noted.
It’s important to be reactive, of course, but to also be proactive in developing plans that allow you to quickly pivot and bring along your entire employee base with ease. That means more effective communication, collaboration between departments and even looking for new and emerging business opportunities.
What you need to figure out
When it comes to all of these issues, leaders may need to take a top-down view of their organizations and assess exactly what their new normal looks like, at least in the short term. PricewaterhouseCoopers notes, for instance, that you might not need all of your employees coming back to the office every single day, and may consider staggering them based on business need, where they live, what kind of jobs they do and so on.
Furthermore, it’s important to be empathetic at a time when you may not fully understand all of an employee’s risk factors or concerns. If someone on your payroll expresses misgivings about returning to the office on even a part-time basis, it’s important to make some accommodations and clearly communicate what you are doing to address whatever issues they may be worried about.
The more you can do as an organisation to prepare for your “new normal” after COVID-19 restrictions on your industry are lifted, the more likely you will be to set up the company as a whole and individual employees for success.