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Winning a war against an enemy - and particularly a pernicious and invisible one like Covid-19 - is only half the story. Every bit as important as the victory is preparing properly for the peace. As the world slowly begins to turn the tide against the Covid-19, a comprehensive and well-informed blueprint for recovery should be a priority for every organisation. That means solid groundwork and well thought out preparation needs to be undertaken.
The time to start this planning is now and inevitably, the devil will be in the detail. As well as taking big ticket strategic decisions about how to reopen their workplaces for business, leaders will need to apply themselves to finding answers to a whole host of smaller scale - but still extremely important - questions about how they will operate in the “next normal”.
Most of these will revolve around practical issues concerning how returning staff can be comfortably and safely accommodated. Many employees are likely to be apprehensive about coming back to work and mixing with others. Mental as well as physical health will need to be considered when making some of these decisions.
Organisations will need to create and reinforce a safety-first culture and environment that reassures individuals and gives them confidence that they are valued and being protected.
Leaders should draw up a checklist as part of a fuller recovery toolkit, sharing details with staff if possible before they return and seeking their input where appropriate. The output from the toolkit should consider multiple scenarios to ensure all angles are covered and risks captured.
Good and frequent communication ahead of time will be key to the whole back-to-work process. Important messages may need to be repeated if they are to be fully understood. If employees know what is expected of them and in turn, what they can expect from their managers, nerves will be calmed and the core message that everyone’s safety, health and well-being are the top priority will be reinforced.
Many decisions will revolve around safety and physical distancing within the building. People will need to know what will happen on their return. What will the security procedures be? Will they have their temperatures checked? How many people should use the elevators at any one time?
Desks or workstations will have to be spaced at least two metres apart and decisions made about installation of new screens and panelling and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE). Managers should also consider whether any of these items might be given to staff using public transport.
Questions about how employees should take breaks and whether they can buy food on site will also need to be answered, including how many people can safely gather together at one time and if it would be better for them to bring in their own packed food and cutlery.
Another important consideration will be cleaning, including how and when it is done and if any additional measures need to be implemented. Any disinfection regime should also include sanitising equipment such as laptops used at home by staff during lockdown.
If the company occupies part of a building in conjunction with other tenants, then there may need to be discussions with landlords and risk managers in other organisations sharing the premises. This is to ensure that back-to-work policies are aligned where necessary and common areas sufficiently protected.
Other recovery checklist items should include how to keep records of employees’ health and spotting any potential reinfection, while at the same time addressing any privacy concerns. What will the screening policies for those returning to the workplace be? And if someone does become ill, how are those around them going to be protected and reassured?
High level changes to operations may include a revised policy on home working for staff who are happy to continue with this as well as introducing staggered starting and finishing times for those wanting to return to the office or building.
If this sort of phased working is implemented, it will probably make sense to make sure that key team members are kept on different rosters to ensure physical separation from each other.
There will be plenty of other operational questions. What will the policy be on face-to-face meetings internally and with clients? How are contractors and subcontractors to be accommodated and protected? If people want to travel in by car, is there enough parking for them all?
While operating in the shadow of Covid-19 is a huge challenge in itself, it cannot be isolated from other risks which may also occur, and all potential threats may need to be taken together. If there is a fire in the building, for example, does your emergency management plan need to be revised to take into account the new working practices? For example, will you have sufficient wardens to evacuate the site?
There is a huge amount to consider, and it will be challenging if not impossible to get everything right. But thinking the issues and solutions through now will undoubtedly reap rewards when the day of return comes.
The time for all this planning is now. It makes a huge degree of sense for risk and business continuity managers.
Recovery strategy planning – toolkit checklist
This toolkit aims to set out some of the priority considerations in planning for the return to work post Covid-19 restrictions. It contains checklists, scenarios to consider and a sample risk register.Find out More