Successfully returning to the physical workplace is the priority. But recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is also an opportunity to reframe your organization’s future.
In Germany, car dealerships are reopening their showrooms; in Bangladesh’s garment factories, the sewing machines are restarting; and across much of the US, companies from chipmakers to jet manufacturers are cautiously opening their doors. But as lockdowns begin to lift at different paces and for different groups of workers across the world, it’s anything but business as usual. An effective physical return needs to balance the external operating environment (such as regional public health status and demand patterns) with internal capabilities that put human wellness at the center of the return plans.
This article provides a roadmap for managing the difficult transition back to the physical workplace. We suggest a two-gear approach: the first gear focuses on mitigating risks for employees and customers to enable a trusted transition back to physical operations; the second explores how to reimagine work, transforming your organization for the better. Leaders must become masters of a dance that applies learnings from the pandemic to both gears in a constant cycle of model, iterate and pivot.
Transition: managing evolving uncertainty
A post-lockdown return to the workplace isn’t an event, it’s a process. Some essential workers have never left — they have helped sustain the food and medical supply chain, keeping shelves stocked and deliveries made, often putting themselves and their families at risk. Others have been working exceptionally long hours remotely. However, an estimated 2.7 billion people1 (or 80% of the global workforce) have been affected by COVID-19-related lockdowns. Their safe return is a mass challenge, fraught with complexities. To return employees to the workplace with confidence demands big-picture planning alongside a forensic focus down to individual surfaces on each floor of each building.
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