It’s been four months since the outbreak of a mysterious virus that causes pneumonia-like symptoms, and today, much of the world as we know it has come to a halt. More than 4 billion people around the world are in some form of a lockdown due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The lockdown will be over one day and time will come to go back out and rejoin the workplace, but given the nature of the pandemic, everything is about to shift.
What will happen to the world when the lockdown gets lifted?
As countries like Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines slowly move toward the gradual removal of the lockdown for some sectors, the government doesn’t have any other choice other than to focus on saving lives and livelihoods. The greatest challenge businesses will face will be restarting their operations. Sectors like public transportation, etc., are likely to remain to be in lockdown and within the restrictions of what we are allowed to do, we’re going to have to ensure that businesses get back on track.
Related article: Impact of COVID-19 on key Philippine economic sectors
What we can know for sure is that people are going to come back very different. It’s not going to be the same people you left before the lockdown and we’re going to see a very progressive opening up of the world. At the same time, we’re going to see very changed people who need to be managed very differently. Life would never be the same ever again. We have to remember how do we keep these things together, how we open our offices and keep social distancing while managing our costs. Accept that the same way you worked before has changed and made work from home a new norm.
How does a business open its office once the lockdown is over?
Governments are going to allow the easing of the lockdown in a regulated manner. Companies are going to have to go through a series of actions to guarantee that they are complying with the government guidelines, but at the same time, assuring that people are safe, and can be active as well because, at the end of the day, we have to operate a business. The steps include:
- Companies need to distinguish which employees need to come to work and which are to continue working from home. That clarity is essential.
- Companies should secure transportation for their staff. At the offices where there are a series of checkpoints that employees have to go through before reaching the office, there should be holding areas to guarantee that a red flag can be raised if someone’s feeling unwell.
- Companies have to make sure there is no crowding in office spaces, ensure that only 25 or 50% of the workspace is occupied.
- Similar actions need to be done with support staff, including receptionists, security guards and cafeteria staff. Companies must ask if all of them need to come to work in the beginning or come in a staggered fashion.
All of these must be well planned out to ensure that while we open up our offices, we consider every step possible to reduce the impact on employees and ensure their well being and safety.
What parameters do small and medium-sized companies have to follow after the lockdown ends?
Several things are non-negotiable. Every organisation regardless of its size will have to do testing, workplace sanitation, and must have a physician available. There will be other parts that are easier for a smaller company but pose important challenges for a large company. This can include transportation which even for a large company can be very difficult to take control of. That will put significant financial pressure on a lot of organizations. So there will be a reduction in the pace of operations. The focus has to be on allowing work from home, wherever possible so that it’s just a proportion of the employees that are affected.
Even when companies open up, not everyone will be allowed into the office at the same time. Rosters have to be created where teams come in at certain times during the day, complete their work, and leave. All of which will have to be brought into consideration and properly planned out.