According to Forrester Research, several countries around the world are about to enter phase three of the pandemic – the management phase - and during this phase, it is crucial for governments, schools, businesses and society at large to establish and follow Pandemic Management Protocols (PMPs) – “how we work, travel, socially congregating, and connect as a society. If this phase is mismanaged, countries risk looping back to phase one (infection)”.
Forrester’s comments come in a new report published by VP and Group Director Stephanie Balaouras - 'Returning To Work: How To Prepare For Pandemic Recovery' to guide businesses - which notes that “unlike disruptions caused by IT failure or a weather incident, pandemic recovery planning requires carefully managing the health, safety, and well-being of employees, customers, partners, and the society”.
“A general business recovery plan is only helpful in dealing with disruptions caused by an extreme weather event or an IT failure,” Balaouras says.
“A pandemic recovery, just as with pandemic planning, requires its own unique response because disease outbreaks can subside and then flare up again. Since this global pandemic is the first in 10 years, and only the second in 50 years, organizations need guidance on how to quickly close and reopen their operations if there is a new burst of infections or a second wave.”
Given the “uncertainty”, Forrester has recommended a phased approach to recovery, and says organisations must establish pandemic management protocols before returning employees to work, including key pandemic recovery planning measures:
- Returning employees back to work in stages to minimize risk. Organizations will reduce the financial risk of reopening retail locations, plants, and other facilities before demand resumes as well as to reduce the risk of infection.
- Rethinking and reconfiguring physical spaces to safeguard employee well-being. Globally, regulatory bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are publishing risk frameworks to guide employers on how to protect employees during COVID-19.
- Leveraging digital to pivot to new opportunities. Any merchant that does not already have a digital presence must invest in it now. Also, utilize digital to pivot to new revenue models.
- Aligning business priorities and working closely with the CFO to plan a full return to capacity. Key decisions about when, how, and how many employees return to work will be based on the firm's financial viability. A recovery plan will require CFOs to determine financial viability thresholds and balance cost-cutting countermeasures with operational requirements of the business.
- Maintaining continuous communication with all key audiences — especially employees. The communication strategy should clearly outline how the organization will communicate before, during, and after the pandemic. It should dictate the actual channels, modes of communication, and the frequency of communication.
- Building business resiliency as a competitive advantage. Resilient companies — those that can deliver on their vision and mission no matter the crisis or disruption — will build a strategy and framework for risk identification and mitigation; thorough business continuity planning and preparedness; flexible crisis and incident response capabilities; and business systems and supply chains designed for redundancy and dependability.