Business Unusual

We are all waiting for the moment we can stop self-isolating. However, when that moment arrives, new questions will emerge – where can we go, when and with whom?

At this point, we do not fully understand what the exit strategy means, and how it will affect us on the personal level and on the business/economic level. It all depends on the strategy that the governments will find appropriate to implement. I need to emphasize the importance of the terms; the exit plan refers to lifting restrictions as part of the quarantine we are under, but it does not mean we are fully exiting the crisis. The crisis and its implications will stay with us as individuals and as a society, for a long time. We need to know how to Accommodate the situation, Adapt to it, and to Act within it (AAA).

For organizations, adaptation and conduct are very important, and not just for financial reasons. The business’ decision also affects the manner in which the employees returns to routine.

Returning back to business can be different for every organization. Each business needs to focus on its goals. The problem is that it is not necessarily clear how the same needs and goals fit into the reality of Covid-19.

In this article, I will share with you a number of methods that I have developed, while considering a variety of different businesses, their needs, and my familiarity with the International market. The methods incorporate elements from existing international strategies, as well as from my personal experience and knowledge I have gained over the years. Each model is designed to answer certain requirements, and can be combined with other models, according to the specific needs of the organization.

Sharp and “smooth”

According to this method, the organization returns to work normally; in the same format/framework that existed before the Coronavirus outbreak. The advantage of this model is clear – we return to our comfort and familiar zone with maximum production, from the first moments. The disadvantage is also clear – there is uncertainty about the consequences of a sharp and comprehensive return to routine. An action that can lead to the rapid spread of the virus among the workers, which can result in return to self-isolation, which suspends the market.

However, the ‘Sharp and “smooth”’ method can fit organizations with a younger population, or can be implemented when a vaccine will be found, and the virus will no longer be a threat.

FILO (First In, Last Out)

This method of “inventory evaluation” is based on the assumption that goods are sold or used in the opposite chronological order in which they are bought. Hence, the cost of goods purchased first (first-in) is the cost of goods sold last (last-out). If an organization implements this method in reverse, it means that the field or employee who is first to shutdown, will also be the last to come back.

The benefit – the decision to return to activity is very clear for that reason that we work on the process we went into the crisis. While the downside is that the method is unequal and unfair. Employees who were fired first will return last to work, and are the ones who will suffer the most.

“At Risk” populations, Age does matter

This is one of the well-known methods. First, employees who are not at risk will return to work (workers under the age of 60, who do not have pre-existing medical conditions). Employees that are at risk (over 60 and/or suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes or respiratory illnesses) will work from home, as much as possible. The organization will support them, will provide professional web training and ensure they receive government financial coverage.

Those who benefit are organizations composed of mostly young workers, who can quickly return to work in full power. However, the issue at hand is the disregard of the vulnerable population, which naturally face a difficulty and require financial, social and mental assistance.

Regions

This is one of the more controversial methods, which sparked a heated public debate. It claims that every person who lives in a high-risk area (where the virus morbidity level is above the percentage that the government determined), will remain at home and will not arrive to work. This method requires the authorities to conduct a large number of tests among the general population. 

Factories, whose workers live in proximity, can potentially return to work in almost full capacity. However, some industrial areas will remain closed until a significant drop in the coefficient of infection will occur.

Irish Dance

Much like in the Irish dance, ‘dancing without moving in any direction’ or ‘Two steps forward one-step back’, this method allows the business to modify its policy – either setting more restrictions or reducing some of them, all  according to the changing needs and circumstances. This is a prudent method and it depends on the aggravation of the morbidity at the organization.

This method is relatively simple to execute and is based on the “FILO” method. However, the process could be very long and slow, which erodes the employees and the organizations.

The Capsule

According to this method, each field of activity is divided into permanent working groups, ‘Capsules’, who come to work at different times (shifts), and avoid internal and external meetings all together. 

The significant advantage is that if one of the capsules is infected with Covid-19 and is required to remain in isolation, the rest of the capsules can continue to work normally, thus maintaining functional continuity. However, a significant drop in productivity could occur, since the number of active workers is reduced. 

Risk–benefit ratio

This method evaluates the ratio between the risks of an action to its potential benefits. Using the scheme (see picture), the organization examines the level of utility of the individual workers, against their risk of infection, and then place them in the appropriate square. Employees in the green square (high benefit with low risk) are the first to return to work. After further examination, yellow-square workers and orange-square workers will return to activity (high benefit with high risk, low benefit with low risk). Red-square workers (low benefit with high risk) will return to work using protective layers and gear, or alternately will return to a full routine only after finding a vaccine for Covid-19.

The advantage – this method incorporates the need of the organizations to return to maximum productivity with the most important employees, while taking calculated and managed risks for each position.

Disadvantage – it is difficult to determine the order of the employees’ vitality.

Present-Absentee

This method divides the staff into two groups – half of them will arrive at the office and will work from there, while the other half will work from home. Those groups will alternate every other week.  

The advantage is a significant reduction in the number of employees working in the office at a given time, which enables maintaining social distancing between the employees, according to regulations. This allows all employees to work, even if they have to partially work from home. This method will enable better integration among all employees, while utilizing the total capabilities of the organization.

The disadvantage is that not all employees can work effectively from home.

The crown

The ‘crown’ method will only allow those found with antigen to return to the activity. 

Advantage – This method does not differentiate between the different types of business and so theoretically, different industries can simultaneously resume to working normally. 

Disadvantage – The Ministry of Health will be required to conduct extensive antigen tests.

Chess

According to this method, the customer is the ‘king’ and the organization inhabits the other pawns on the chessboard, aims to keep the customer non-infected with the virus, while keeping all the restrictions and preventive behavior.

This method is suitable for organizations that provide care services to at-risk populations such as nursing homes, disabled people, childcare, and small businesses.

Law & Order

This is a method was developed by security organizations, based on the scenario where a military unit enters enemy territory in order to carry out a mission, despite clear knowledge of existing threats. Organizations that are aware of the risks of infection, will return to work under ‘Risk Management’. Firstly, data will be collected systematically, which means periodic testing of employees and close monitoring for infections. Secondly, there is a need in defining security circles and ways of action to reduce exposure to COVID-19. This can be achieved through social distance, wearing masks, informing employees how to safely hold work meetings, keeping a high level of sanitary inside the organization, operating in shifts etc. Thirdly, an emergency contingency plan must be prepared and practiced, in case one of the employees is infected. 

Advantage – this method combines different models, providing clear modes of operation in every situation for every employee.

Disadvantage – very complex planning during uncertain conditions.

Sitting on the fence

This approach claims that it is best to wait and evaluate the method of operation of similar organizations; see how they behave and learn from their achievements and mistakes. 

Advantage – After waiting, the organizations will be able to act better by learning from the experience of others.

Disadvantage – Step back, lack of originality and missed opportunities created by new and market conditions.

In conclusion – it is important to manage the crisis responsibly and subjectively, because it will stay with us for a long time. It is not just a health crisis; it has vast implications on the economy and the society. It has challenged the way governments set and implement a policy. I has led to mental and occupational issues that must be addressed.

We need to know how to Accommodate the situation, Adapt to it, and to Act within it.

Each organization, factory and business will be required to integrate the appropriate methods and advice, while adhering to the official guidelines. This way we can overcome this crisis, efficiently and stronger.

I invite you to suggest additional methods and ways to implement them in your organization.

Wish for better days

Ofer Grinboim Liron

Israeli expert in crowd management at events and complexes

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