While many will be over joyed when our lock down and COVID-19 restrictions are finally lifted, an immediate normality particularly in the office is not guaranteed.
All employees should remain cautious, taking more precautionary measures than before and ensuring your colleagues and others doing the same.
Here are a few basics FCBT feels we should keep top of mind.
Post-lockdown virus monitoring and controls
If there is an extreme escalation in the number of cases, or hospitals begin to reach maximum capacity with overwhelming effects, this could see a potential second phase lockdown. Another lockdown would certainly have catastrophic effects on unemployment and the economy. Organisations need to conceive, implement and monitor meaningfully distinguishable levels of social distancing with lean working teams, cautiously but with some urgency, from the brink of total stagnation.
In the recent words of Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist working with the government in the fight against the coronavirus, "Our lives, when we go back after this lockdown, are simply not going to be the same," he said. "When you go into a business meeting, you will not go and sit right next to the person that you are meeting with. You will automatically now want to keep some kind of distance. You will not be shaking hands with the person you are meeting with because you will be deeply concerned that you do not want to be part of spreading this virus."
A work from home model
Could your SME benefit from the adaptions of a work from home model for certain resources?It could be worthwhile exploring to keep that business model in place to monitor your company overheads and effects on the bottom line. The advancements in technology have certainly made it a lot easier and forces businesses to really evaluate the value lost with the experience of not being able to work face-to-face.
Findings of a recent Gartner survey show that 74% of CFOs expect to move a number of previously on-site employees to remote working conditions permanently post-COVID-19, in a move to cut commercial real estate costs, like office rental space.
Open floor plans not safe in the new normal
Collaboration will depend more on technology than proximity. Some companies may benefit from open office floor plans, but many did just as well without. The productivity returns on open offices are at times questionable. There is a much easier business case for video conferencing systems and teleworking.
HR monitoring of open offices has proved to be a hindrance to their productivity levels. Businesses can't necessarily quantify this, but there is evidence that open office floor plans led to more politics, unnecessary behaviour, and annoyances. Evidence from HR offices in many industries show that complaints fell as soon as employees evacuated from open offices, they are not going away completely, but perhaps your business should consider this as we go back to a new normal to cost cutting, safety and preference.
Office space re-engineering and design
Many SME’s may consider a workplace re-design, enforced office behaviour and routine in the prevention of virus spread and infection for employees’ safely returning back to the office. Office hygiene and social distancing are at the core of the redesign processes. For safe social distancing behaviour is guided through properly spaced desks, but also visual signals, such as a circles and arrows embedded on the floor or carpet around each desk to ensure people don’t get too close.
Employees are also encouraged to walk clockwise, and only clockwise, in lanes around the office. This one-way traffic is the same approach that healthcare workers take in hospitals to help avoid the spread of contractible viruses.
Each morning, you could ask your employees to grab a paper placement for their desks. At the end of the day, the paper is thrown away, which could help mitigate some contact-based spread of COVID-19 on office surfaces.
The reality many businesses may need to reflect on with this approach, are the cost implications involved which could be quite large depending on the size of your company and staff numbers.
Interaction with customers and internal stakeholders
A challenging aspect of the virtual workplace will be how companies engage with clients and prospects. The traditional face-to-face meeting is always welcome, and sometimes seen as more acceptable than a video chat or phone call, especially as an SME. However, the efficiency of those calls versus the time spent commuting to see clients has become more appreciated by both parties.
Some companies are providing their employees with monthly video conference training sessions to use for clients, prospects and others.
Finding the right balance between the in-person and virtual meetings is key.
You may find your clients will appreciate this very effective use of time and technology in the new way of engaging even though the push toward virtual meetings likely won’t eliminate in-person meetings for good.
There’s a lot to consider now to prepare your business for what it will look like post-lockdown. The key is to approach this process closely and carefully but returning back to work will certainly happen in waves driven by your employee’s safety, consumer demand and your speed to market relative to your industry.
The new normal of business is something that we will all have to adapt to. And when your travellers are ready to return to the skies, your FCBT travel managers will be by your side to guide you through this time of uncertainty and help your SME adapt to the new normal post COVID-19.
When you are ready for the new normal we will be #ByYourSide