The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly change the way we live and work for the foreseeable future, and new trends will emerge that will become part of our 'new normal'. Businesses will not go back to the way we knew them before the pandemic but will reinvent themselves to be more resilient, adapting their operation models to the 'new normal'.
The short-term impact for corporates and companies is proving to be significant as their business and usual activities are aﬀected with the changes that are occurring daily. The immediate shock and realisation of the outbreak are now over and the majority of companies are in response mode after a short phase of preparation and immediate actions. Now companies are preparing for 're-entry' of their facilities and sending their workforces back to work in several waves.
Planning for 're-entry'
There is currently limited visibility on the timing of this next stage, but most companies are now planning for "Re-entry". This phase is complex to navigate, requiring some restructuring and courage from business leaders and their workforces.
Companies and corporates must determine the level of modification required to return to business: prepare, redesign and fit-out workplaces ready enough to invite employees back to the office, combined with remote-working capabilities and a robust triage approach. It is not only about getting back to the office as soon as possible, rather the opposite approach.
It is first and foremost about technology. What does it take to 're-entry' facilities that were closed weeks ago, bring people back to work and return to stable business activity? What functions must come back when the 're-entry' option is available?
Wider environment as important as corporate behaviour
Actions by corporate occupiers are only one piece of the re-entry strategy. Landlords along with city corporations and local governments also need to be providing safe environments and clear guidance to employees and corporates alike. Public infrastructure must be adapted to manage the density and provide clean environments along with enabling tracking and control measures. Corporate decision-making will depend on the country / local policy and measures.
When in doubt, put people first
There is an opportunity in adversity in every business. Assistant Professor Joe Allen of Harvard University thinks "we'll soon be in a place where 'acceptable' is no longer acceptable. The goal will be optimal". Returning to work means reaching an optimal solution where the trust of people in their employer, their colleagues and their government is beyond expectations. The physical transformation of our environments is instrumental in reaching this state and crucial to getting back to work. New habits and behaviours will need to be adopted and educated. This 're-set' will lay the groundwork for reimagining the new workplace as a liquid and distributed ecosystem model.
The author is currently working at a non-banking financial institution.