We’re all reading and watching the news right now and seeing the same headlines about “reopening” beaches, shopping malls, businesses, and states. And we’re seeing the very spirited debate about the right time to begin this transition. I imagine that this debate will be going on for a while.
Regardless of your feelings about when the country should reopen again, I’m sure that everyone eventually wants to see things open up and a return to some degree of normalcy. It would be nice to have our workplaces return to the way things were as well. But as business professionals, we’ve got a lot of work to do before we can resume operations.
I was thinking about all of the questions that senior management teams should be asking themselves as they prepare to reopen operations. Here are seven that came to mind:
- Have organizational goals and priorities changed? I’d like to think the answer is “yes”. Maybe a product launch will be delayed. Or a major technology implementation will be pushed off until next year. Organizations will want to figure out their revised goals and priorities for the next few months because they need to tell employees what to expect and where they will be focusing their work.
- Are we ready to open? Based on the answer to #1, the organization needs to honestly assess the workplace situation. It could be that, as much as the company wants to open in the next thirty days, it makes more sense to do it in ninety because the company’s supply chain isn’t 100%. Or maybe the company would be better off with a phased approach over a longer time frame.
- What’s our workforce plan for the next 3 / 6 / 9 months? What about next year? The answers to #1 and #2 are going to drive how many employees are needed and in what roles. If the organization doesn’t have those positions filled, what’s the plan? Organizations will also need to decide if there are any skills that they will build internally or the need for a contingent workforce to complement their staffing needs.
- What do we need to keep employees safe? We’re not just talking about personal protective equipment (PPE) here, but should organizations enact steps like taking employee temperatures. And what will the organization do if an employee shows symptoms or tests positive in the workplace? Hopefully, no one will have to deal with this situation, but the time to discuss it is before it happens. This is a good conversation to have with your legal counsel.
- Where are employees going to work? The answer to #4 might drive this. Organizations are not going to be able to simply send an email that says something like, “Starting Monday, everyone needs to come into the office. Normal business hours.” During quarantine, employees may have assumed caregiving needs. Many states have decided not to reopen schools or plan to continue distance learning. Organizations will want to work with employees on remote work arrangements.
- Do we have the right technology? This ties into #5. One of the things I’m hearing from companies during this pandemic is that they were not well prepared in terms of having the technology tools in place for employees to work remotely. Organizations that find themselves with a larger remote workforce might need to look at their technology needs. For remote employees to be productive, they need reliable and secure technology.
- What happens if there’s a relapse? Not just what will the company do if someone tests positive in the workplace (from #4) but what if your city / county / state reissues a shelter-in-place. Sad to say but this is within the realm of possibilities. While organizations had to react quickly initially, there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a plan in place now. And that plan should be communicated to employees.
When we first started learning about COVID-19, organizations had to make some fast decisions. That’s okay. And there are organizations that are still trying to figure it all out on some level. That may be okay too. But it could be very detrimental to our employees and our businesses if we open too soon and without a plan.
Hopefully, organizations and individuals never have to deal with this again. Hopefully, we bounce back quickly, start rehiring employees soon, and customers flood in. We all want the same things here. We want people to be safe and to have a vibrant economy. And if we do this right, we can absolutely accomplish both.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Stillwater, MN16