Whether a business is reopening, or employees are returning to the office, one thing for sure is work as we know it will not be the same. The pandemic is subsiding, but it is still a real threat. Employers are nervous about how their company will recover from COVID-19. Employees have high anxiety about their safety in the workplace, and the risk of another outbreak in the Fall and Winter is just too exhausting to consider. So, what can we expect?
- Businesses will not be able to pick up where they left off. Each company must develop its own Reinvention Success Playbook and Process (RSPP) to guide its path to success on the other side of COVID-19. This RSPP is not about reopening the business or recovery for the market, but rather the reinvention of the market, explained by Dr. James A. Tompkins of Tompkins International.
- Businesses will be in a rush to re-establish their value, re-energize their product flows, and do so quickly. In this way, even the most mature, well-established organizations will become like start-ups. There will also be a potential deluge of new businesses and perhaps "world-changing companies," according to Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur.
- Leadership has a critical role in refocusing and re-energizing the workforce. Employees need to know how we're going to grow out of this mess, and they crave straight talk. "Tell them what you expect to happen over the next few months, the rest of the year, and into next year," says Doug Knopper, Founder and CEO of CEOhacker. Sure it might not be perfect, and your predictions for the future might be way off, but your team wants to hear your thoughts on where the company is going and how it will get there. Please show them your plan and give them the confidence that you've thought it through. It is not the time to hold back. Once you have the initial communication going, keep it up. Recovering from the pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Set up a regular on-going cadence for communication opportunities and make sure the message is getting out. You cannot over-communicate in a time of crisis.
- Social distancing is front and center of employees minds, and they have recalibrated their sense of hygiene. When employees are back and sitting at their desks, they may not be feeling comfortable. To begin, firms will need to adopt rigorous cleaning procedures for customers and employees. In response to COVID-19, the CDC has promulgated recommendations for how to clean workspaces. Again, the leadership team will have to rethink the structure of an office environment. Brent Capron, the Design Director of Interiors at architecture firm Perkins and Will's, foresees that open layouts will change. Desks may need to space out, partitions could go up, cleaning stations stocked with hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes will become the norm, and workers may seek out spaces for focused work, such as privacy booths. Agile workspaces with unassigned seating will decline in popularity. Workers will want the security and control of having a personal space they come to every day or every few days and can clean frequently.
- Managers need to prepare for a new workforce coming back to the office, one that has tasted the fruits of remote working and won't easily let it go. Forbes predicted that many companies who were resistant to allowing employees to work from home will now accept it as a legitimate option as a result of the aftereffect of this unexpected global work-from-home experiment. Companies have invested in technology systems and put support in place to facilitate mobile work. Teams are figuring out how to collaborate at a distance, and leaders are improving their ability to manage, based on outcomes and objectives rather than presence. Companies will expand the acceptability of remote work, and they will provide more choice and flexibility to employees to work wherever they can to get their best job done, including away from the office.
As we slowly start to reopen, while COVID-19 is still looming, companies need to adapt and respond to these challenges. Companies must plan so that their social, physical, and economic infrastructure can handle this impending new world order.
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