Case study: How to prepare your employees for life after COVID
Slowly, normalcy is creeping back into society. Most nations around the world have hit the peak of infections. The flattening infection curve has encouraged governments across the world to gradually lift lockdown measures to resuscitate the economy.
Indeed, we are not expecting all lockdown measures to be totally removed at once. Life may not get quickly back to the good old days of 2019. The major challenge before business owners is how well they could restore their operations as life emerges after the pandemic.
With no vaccine clearly in sight (at least in 2020), it is paramount to put in measures to help your employees slide back into their roles after the pandemic, ensuring you sustain fluidity and seamlessness in operations.
In this case study, we will explore how companies thriving after the pandemic are preparing their employees and customers for life after the COVID disruption.
How businesses are preparing for a safe return to workplace
With lockdown restrictions being lifted, employees would be returning to work. Businesses are putting a higher emphasis on workplace safety and health. Many companies are rapidly adopting adjustments in their traditional work arrangements to keep staff, customers, and visitors safer and healthier while at work. Understandably, employers are exploring measures that allow for sufficient social distancing in the workplace.
In line with this, many businesses are trying their hands on staggered work hours for their staff. This means dividing employees to work in groups and batches around the workplace. This way, staff are reasonably apportioned, slicing down the chances of unnecessary interactions or mixing between staff units. Also, the number of visitors or customers that can be catered to at a time is equally being reduced.
Businesses are also putting more energies into enhancing the health consciousness of staff and customers. Sanitary measures are now mandatory as opposed to the typical lackadaisical attitude that escorted sanitation before the pandemic.
More companies are replacing reusables with disposables. The cleaning routines in most companies have been amplified with greater emphasis on the usage of PPE equipment as the role demands. Businesses are investing enormously in re-educating their staff and customers to observe these health procedures and sanitary protocols.
Equally, the management of several companies is investigating the possibilities of reducing contact hotspots. This measure is aimed at suppressing the transmissibility of the virus. Hotspots like revolving doors and public handrails are being temporarily removed.
Given the virus's capacity to be transported through aerially through microscopic particles, managers are equipping high-risk areas with sneeze-guards and ensuring adequate ventilation in these prone regions.
Ford is leading the crowd in employee protection protocols in the workplace. From May 4th, the automobile giant embarked on a phased resumption of its engine and automobile production at its major manufacturing sites situated in Continental Europe. More than this, the company decided to produce its own face masks and "personal-care kits" for the employees working in these sites.
How businesses are managing the size and composition of staff as work kicks off
The workspace has changed significantly on the interim. Aside from radical changes to customer demand patterns, the workforce's architecture needs to morph to life after the pandemic.
The social contract binding the customer and the company has reasonably changed as well hence the need for adaptability on the part of the brand. Necessarily, you may not need the same number and structure of the workforce.
Employers are exploring how best to keep the business economically sustainable without severe shock on its staff. Managers have had to consult on the best ways to slash remuneration (given that demand and revenue have likely crashed in the heat of the pandemic) without significantly slashing the morale and output of employees. Most of these changes have been done in collaboration with legal experts to reduce litigation risks, especially in the case of layoffs.
For employees surviving the cut, managers have explored the possibilities of redistributing staff to protect them. In some cases, workers who have survived the virus (in terms of reasonably developing natural immunity) have been deployed to departments or roles that necessitated direct interaction with customers. Similarly, vulnerable employees have been moved from frontline duties to departments with significantly reduced risks of infections.
In some cases, managers have only reserved on-site roles for very delicate and sensitive duties. For others, they have adopted remote working arrangements on the short term wherever the role allows, while keenly studying emerging parameters.
For example, while trying to create a sustainable balance between output and staff safety, Amazon has extended its remote working arrangements for roles that can be done from home to October 2nd.
According to Amazon, "employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until at least October 2nd." This adoption applies across its global workforce.
How companies are transforming their supply chain
Global supply chains were seriously disrupted by the inter-border lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic. From the moment the outbreak was formally recognized in Wuhan, shock waves were sent through global value chains. Most companies that sourced their resources from Asia – particularly China – were fatally affected.
Particularly the global automotive industry was significantly disrupted by the total lockdown of the Wuhan province. This was because Wuhan was the nerve of most global automotive supply chains.
"It is the first time since the end of the Second World War that both supply and demand have been completely disrupted simultaneously," says Uwe Weiss, executive vice president at Blue Yonder.
Consequent to this, businesses have realized the frailty of globalized supply chains as they showed contemptible resilience to shock. Massive flaws were also uncovered in the 'just in time' supply model.
Business owners are restructuring their supply chain, integrating more regionalization. Companies are striving to be sufficient as much as they can get locally. Businesses have seen they can significantly cut risk from their supply chain if it is shortened.
The need for localized supply chains was also further emphasized by the French Minister of Economy and Finance, who has campaigned for European authorities to reevaluate their value chains with more focus on "sovereign" and "independent" supplies.
How employees are helping staff with their mental health after COVID
It is undeniable that the pandemic has been mentally challenging for some employees. Some of your employees may have likely fought a fierce battle with the virus, where they might have appeared losing at one point. Also, some of these employees may have lost close loved ones to the pandemic.
Indeed, there have been reported cases of the lockdown (and consequent disruption in social circles dues to lonely isolations) triggering depression in employees. All these would create a significant mental scar that could come back to haunt them at work.
Therefore, employees are concerted efforts to help their staff consolidate their mental health, helping them seamlessly transition back to work. Many employers are providing confidential counseling for employees. In cases of potential breakdowns, many companies have also put in place mental health first-aiders.
Also, disciplinary measures are being kneaded with empathy. Some employees are yet submerged in fear of contracting virus, leading to more employees going AWOL as they are being recalled to work. In cases where employees have refused to resume, backup mechanisms are being employed with disciplinary protocols in these cases reasonably fair.
Cisco is one leading company prioritizing its employees' mental health as work resumes in the face of the COVID pandemic. The company holds Global Calls every week with its employees, where they are encouraged to come forth with their mental health issues regarding the pandemic.
Cisco has also consolidated its collaboration with CAMH (Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) as the pandemic rages. On May 4th, the company announced they were expanding their tele-mental health programs for its Canadian employees in the face of the growing need for virtual mental care.