Many are wondering when we will return to normality, however, the future is still uncertain. Here are some insights that may be of interest to you regarding getting back to work.
The outbreak of Covid-19 may last a long time — many experts predict this could last more than a year — but there are signs that we can win back a few elements of our pre-pandemic lives. Getting back to work is one of them, and it is already underway in many countries, at least in phases and certain economical sectors.
As the world makes plans to open up businesses and restart its economies, people are wondering, when will things get back to normal, and when will I go back to work?
While nobody has a definitive answer yet, and leaders work to understand the facts, here are a few insights to consider.
1. The pandemic presents differently in different areas
Covid-19 is a global outbreak and continues to spread. As of this writing, there are more than 10 million cases around the world.
Yet, despite being a pandemic that reaches far across the globe and which impacts economies regardless of their political foundations, the burden is not evenly dispersed.
Hotspots like Italy, Spain, and New York City bore the brunt of the initial onslaught as the world struggled to understand the virus. Hong Kong, China, and now South Korea are experiencing resurgences in the number of new cases, months after having contained the virus and flattened the curve. Brazil is now the new focus in South America, Sweden is experimenting with herd immunity, and in India, one of the most densely populated countries, the Coronavirus could be about to blossom as the nation of 1.3 billion people reopens its railway system.
2. A return to normalcy is a complex decision
The uneven impact of the Coronavirus means that, while some countries begin to ease restrictions, others are not yet ready. Leaders have a complex set of variables to consider when they make decisions about reopening their economies.
The disease progression has been characterized as having four distinct phases:
- Localized clusters
- Uncontrolled acceleration
- Spread deceleration
- Control and battling resurgence
The public health tools that leaders deploy to get through the crisis and move toward reopening vary, depending on what phase of the disease their region is in. The predominant measures include travel restrictions, physical distancing/quarantine, PPE, testing/tracing, and managing the surge in healthcare capacity.
Leaders must consider each of those factors with respect to two agendas: protecting lives and protecting livelihoods. Their decisions are fraught with risk as they try to move their communities from a state of lockdown and widespread quarantine to some degree of normalcy.
3. The months ahead will be volatile
Although the shift to normalcy will take place incrementally and unevenly, there are some industries that are expected to resume pre-pandemic levels relatively quickly, once they are given the go-ahead to reopen. These are businesses with pent-up demand, such as barbershops, dentists, and health care, who will be processing months’ worth of backlog. Then there is the second tier of businesses where consumer urgency is creating demand: restaurants and bars, for example, that provide social outlets for people who are otherwise cooped up indoors and tired of cooking for themselves.
But many businesses will have to shift to a new normal, as their industries will not return to pre-COVID conditions for a long time, if ever. Consider fashion, an industry where, like many others who sell retail goods, feels the impact of the outbreak on two critical fronts: supply chain disruption and the evolution business model.
The evolution of the business model and processes
Changes will be inevitable and companies will have to adapt (sooner rather than later). Internally, businesses will have to modify and reevaluate the way they are running their core business so far. Security systems, new cloud-based solutions, new infrastructure, and moving towards a more technological and intelligent company will set the new scenario.
Even after reopening, consumers’ changing behaviors may call for new business models altogether, with more of an emphasis on online shopping and a possible preference for shopping locally-sourced goods.
Decision-makers in every vertical, not just retail, will need to closely monitor consumer behavior and stay agile enough to respond to the changes that will inevitably come about, as their markets evolve in the post-pandemic world.
Supply chain disruption
Supply chain resilience will be a major consideration for most industries, not just fashion. When asked about their post-crisis strategies for survival in a survey conducted by PWC, more than half of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) reported that they would be seeking additional, alternate sourcing options for their supply chains.
Half said they would strive to understand their suppliers more deeply when it comes to their financial and operational health. Finally, over one-third said they would extend visibility in their suppliers’ network.
4. Things will not be the same, even after the crisis
Considering the way things are going, the changes look like they are going to last forever. So we must prepare.
Once Coronavirus cases trend downward and economic activity can be restarted in full force, there will be a new normal. Many countries have moved past the initial surge of cases and are tentatively deploying their strategies to ease restrictions. However, getting back to work is not a simple matter of flipping a switch and picking up where you left off. There will be new policies that need to be put into place to protect both workers and the business in the post-pandemic world.
The business environment will continue to create a precarious situation for business owners, as they navigate the enormous shifts in the marketplace that will likely occur as a result of the crisis. In a survey of CFOs from 24 countries, 70% said they were greatly concerned about the potential of this impact, even though 49% of them believed that they could return to normal operations within three months if the pandemic were to end today.
What that tells us is that “getting back to work” is not the only consideration to make. External factors, of which business owners have little or no control, will also play a big role in whether a business will succeed under the new normal. But internal factors will definitely change. For example, nearly two-thirds in that same survey (64%) say their companies will reopen with new safety measures and requirements. Whether that takes the form of requiring people to wear masks or deploying thermal scanners or offering testing to workers, each business will create its own safety strategy.
There are more internal changes to be seen. 47% in that survey will elevate remote work to a permanent option at their business, and almost as many (46%) will accelerate automation.
To get back to work safely, everyone plays a role
Whatever your role might be in business — leader, manager, team member or other — returning to work will require planning around informed decisions that take into account a complex set of variables. Leaders must be focused on the policies and strategies that will enable their businesses to survive the post-pandemic business environment.
Managers will be concerned about merging strategy with deployment as they bridge the concerns of their teams and the mandates of the C-Suite. Everyone has a role to play in the return to normalcy.
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