Even after lockdowns are lifted, the risk of the ongoing health crisis persists. We may all want life to return to ‘normal’ but it is unlikely to happen any time soon. And organizations everywhere are still working out what the post-lockdown workplace will look like.
Lockdowns may have been rapidly rolled out in Asia and elsewhere, but lifting them after the peak of the virus has passed will be gradual and staggered. It could take months, if not years, to get back to how we used to work. Until then, organizations must adapt to the new norms and make necessary changes.
These five tips may help you transition your organization to become a post-lockdown workplace.
1) Bring employees back in stages
Operational resilience goes beyond simply reopening workplaces. It’s far more complex and challenging,. Your organization must proceed with a gradual and multi-stage approach.
To begin with, you should plan for returners based on role criteria, assessed as either “essential or non-essential”. So says Henry Ee, managing director at Business Continuity Planning Asia Pte Ltd. a recent webinar guest of ours.
These criteria and the timeframe between each phase will depend on the company’s needs and the ongoing health of employees. These can be blended with new work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. These might ask people to come in only on alternate days to reduce the numbers in the office at any given time.
“There needs to be ongoing assessment and evaluation of whether it is necessary for employees to be back in the office, especially during the initial phases once lockdowns ease, ” says Mr. Ee.
He expects that only about 10% to 20% of the total headcount will return to the physical workplace post-lockdown, with the majority continuing to WFH. “This may not be what some businesses have been hoping for post-lockdown, but large group settings will likely continue to be out of the question for a long time.”
2) Promote regular teleworking
Teleworking will continue to be essential post-lockdown. It will be central to keeping businesses up-and-running and keeping employees safe. It’s not just about what happens in the office however. Getting there also presents numerous challenges for public safety. To protect key-workers and reduce chances of a second wave of the health crisis, authorities will continue to advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places.
As such, organizations must continue to ensure that employees – whether seasoned WFH workers or new hires – have the tools they need to work effectively on remote terms.
Aside from ensuring they have the technology they need, your workforce continuity strategy should measure employees’ perception on WFH. How are they adjusting? Not everyone is doing so equally. You will also want to understand how the new norm is impacting productivity. Some may be relishing getting more done in a remote setting, or having more time in their day, yet others may struggle. It can be very hard with competing domestic commitments or working in isolation without any face-to-face interaction to stay focused and productive.
3) Cross-train and repurpose your workforce
Can you Identify and cross-train employees who can be entrusted to make swift and decisive responses if need be? In times of crisis this can help mitigate risks and any potential damage. It helps if this pool of resources is geographically dispersed in case of a disaster affecting all employees in one location.
Of course, with an economic downturn likely to follow, your organization – like many others – will be reassessing its workforce needs. If you are a retailer, you might not be re-opening as many stores as before, nor need so many people working in them. By contrast, you may need more employees in your warehouse.
So, how can you repurpose your existing workforce? Start by looking at the possibilities for re-deploying within your organization. Get an up-to-date overview of your employee’s’ skills and competencies. Next, assess how these skills could be transferable across departments. Are there opportunities to upskill or re-skill employees for gaps that need to be filled? If you’re cutting back on hiring, this can be an opportunity for your organization to demonstrate your dedication in retaining and developing employees.
Communicating well, and often, with employees is imperative so that they understand what you are doing and why.
4) Minimize all business travel
Lockdown mandates and social distancing efforts are temporary measures to slow the spread of the virus. In reality, the risk of the disease continues to be present even after lockdowns are lifted. As such, another vital point for your post-lockdown workplace checklist is to minimize all non-essential business travel.
Yes, there are signs of travel restrictions being eased in different territories. This doesn’t however mean carte blanche to hop on a train just because you can. You should curb non-essential travel plans and continue to encourage online collaboration. The tools exist to keep dispersed employees effectively connected with clients, customers, and other stakeholders.
This will this mean more efficiency, and less risk. It will also reduce some of your organization’s expenses and equip you for the future, whatever it looks like.
5) Prepare for a second wave of the virus
Perhaps the most critical point on this list is to develop a pandemic readiness and response plan for the possibility of a second wave of the virus.
People may not be able to work in a specific location due to illness or travel restrictions. Based on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), this should address staying operational even if significant people cannot come to your place of business. If your organization has a global corporate health crisis plan, then you must of course consider how the plan can be implemented locally.
Plan for ‘double disasters’
Beyond this, you should, says Mr. Ee, prepare a business continuity plan (BCP) for what he describe as “double disasters”. These are worst-case scenario where you get hit by both health and disaster crises at the same time.
“While the current health crisis is taking centre stage, organizations must not forget about more traditional and periodical crises that BCPs need to cover such as earthquakes, typhoons, terrorists and cyber-attacks ” he explains.
“It will certainly not be as easy as simply slotting 1,000 people into a bunker when you have considerations like social distancing, In this situation, it’s won’t just be a matter of breaking people into different teams, but also about having different BCPs to tackle different crises, and how your business must go on in the midst of all these events,” he concludes.
Will you be ready as a post-lockdown workplace? Do you need assistance now to help with your business continuity? To learn more about how your organization can quickly move from makeshift ways of communicating, collaborating and calling, read about our rapid response for business continuity solutions via the link below, or contact us today.