As phase three of the coronavirus pandemic approaches, governments and organizations need to set their pandemic management protocols (PMPs) which outline how people work, travel, congregate, and connect – says research and advisory firm Forrester.
The Covid-19 timeline in the US and Europe is divided into four phases, notes the consultancy in a report titled “Returning To Work.” Phase 1 (Infection) lasted from January to mid-March 2020, and involved the rapid spread of the disease. Phase 2 (Social Distancing) involves stay-at-home measures, with new infections expected to plummet by mid-May. Phase 3 (Management) will potentially span from mid-May 2020 to April 2021, with protocols defining new ways of working, travelling, and congregating. Forrester says firms will create their own systems to maintain workforce health, with quick testing improving the public health response.
Phase 4 (Eradication) could span from April to June 2021, with vaccines available to end the pandemic. This is, however, on the optimistic side of the vaccine development timeline. Post-pandemic conditions will however be a “new normal,” according to Forrester, with shifts in consumer buying and organizational management change.
With phase three approaching, Forrester stresses that if the phase is mismanaged, countries could loop back to phase one (Infection) – restarting the recovery process from the beginning.
In consultation with government regulations, companies need to prepare now for the restart of closed plants, reopening of stores, and returning employees. Planning will be tough, however, because of uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic and the risk of recurring outbreaks.
“A pandemic recovery, just as with pandemic planning, requires its own unique response because disease outbreaks can subside and then flare up again,” said Stephanie Balaouras, vice president and group research director at Forrester. “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.”
Forrester recommends establishing key pandemic recovery planning measures before returning employees to work.
First, employees should return in stages to minimize infection risk; this also reduces financial risk from reopening before demand resumes. Companies should likewise reconfigure physical spaces and processes to align with OSHA or other regulatory frameworks on coronavirus.
Companies should also look to leverage digital to pivot to new revenue models. Online channels, for example, have been important for many firms dealing with the closure of physical retail locations.
Forrester also recommends examining the company’s financial viability to determine the timing and scale of return. CFOs should look to balance cost-cutting with operational requirements.
Organizations should also chart a communication strategy on how they will communicate with stakeholders during and after the pandemic – determining channels, modes of communication, and frequency.
Finally, companies should build in resiliency – creating risk mitigation strategy, flexible response capabilities, and more dependable supply chains.