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Preparing for a COVID-19 comeback? We have a playbook for that!

If you read our blog post last month, you learned about some of the key factors we think businesses should focus on in staging a comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the post, things have moved rapidly. Reported cases are trending in the right direction and provinces across Canada – and also throughout the United States – are providing guidance to businesses about the gradual re-opening of workplaces.

The sudden pace of change has resulted in a flurry of inquiries received by our firm. Senior leaders are wondering how to prepare their staff for the new normal while workplace design agencies have asked for our input on how physical distancing in offices will play out.

Since we’re not fortune-tellers about what the future holds, we’ve returned to our roots and used situational analysis to develop strategies and tactics that could be used in different scenarios.

What follows is a sneak peek at three scenarios that are included in a playbook that we’ve just finalized.

Base case

In this scenario, there is a phased opening of low-risk economic sectors that stretches over a period of about four to six months.

During this phase, social distancing remains in place, along with travel restrictions. The wearing of face masks is commonplace, and virtual work becomes a permanent part of the business.

Among the strategies and tactics we would recommend in this scenario include:

  • Appointing forward-thinking leaders to steer committees that seek new ways to do business to address the “new normal” and future of their industry.

  • Building agility and resiliency throughout the organization to be better prepared for future disruption, including a potential second wave of the pandemic.

  • Highlighting that change can be positive and serve as an opportunity to improve elements of your business while building new habits.

Best case

In this scenario, a phased opening concludes within two months and a vaccine is discovered in the near term.

Physical distancing is still required, but masks and personal protective equipment are only required when social distancing isn’t possible.

Schools are also re-opened before the end of the school year, which is welcomed by working parents.

Among the strategies and tactics we would recommend in this scenario include:

  • Assembling a task force of representatives from every line of business to design a plan for a smooth return to work.

  • Preparing material to properly communicate how the return to the office will unfold along with addressing any questions or concerns related to health and safety.

  • Assisting with the adjustment to physical distancing in the office (including workspaces and meeting rooms) along with communal areas such as food courts and concourses.

Worst case

In this third scenario, the pandemic grinds on with little improvement or even worse, another wave of infection starts to build. As a result, the re-opening of businesses halts until a vaccine or anti-viral drug is widely available.

This situation results in only essential services operating, and businesses are forced to cut costs dramatically, resulting in layoffs and cancelled contracts.

Strategies and tactics we would recommend in these dire circumstances would include:

  • Bringing together senior leaders to develop or refine a Crisis Response Plan.

  • Asking IT teams to consult with business leaders to assess their digital and collaborative needs and then developing a digital roadmap.

  • Asking HR teams to implement a reduction-in-force plan to determine critical departments and positions that lead to sound decisions regarding layoffs.

Ongoing conversation

While each of these scenarios is vastly different, our playbook builds in the ability to pivot from one to another in the event of a major development. That’s important because planning for the future shouldn’t be a one-time exercise but instead an ongoing conversation. Request a copy of our playbook here.

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