When the Quarantine Ends: How to Be Ready to Reopen Your Company

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Sooner or later, the danger of coronavirus will recede, the quarantine will be relaxed, and companies will be able to move toward resuming normal operations. In today’s blog, we’ll share some steps you can take to reopen your company and help you manage what is sure to be a welcome but daunting transition.

START PREPARING NOW

How many of you have begun preparing to bring your operations back online when the economy reopens? If you have, you get a gold star. If you haven’t begun planning to reopen your company, you better get going. It’s going to be a big job.

Recently a client told me what it’s going to be like for him to restart his company. He said their operations used to be like a well-tuned watch, then they had to send everyone home to work, taking the watch apart and scattering the pieces all over the country. When the shutdown is over, they’ll have to try to recover all those pieces, put the watch back together, and hope it tells the right time.

THE UNCERTAINTY CONTINUES

No one knows for sure how things are going to unfold with the current pandemic. It is assumed that at some point the danger will go down and it will become comparatively safe as well as legal for organizations to begin moving back toward some semblance of business as usual.

Exactly when that will occur, how the process will work, and whether things will ever be exactly like they were is unclear.

STRANGE TIMES BUT A FAMILIAR PROBLEM

The situation of having a huge number of businesses shut down or drastically scale back their operations in a matter of a few days was unprecedented.

Similarly, the situation of having those same businesses reopen and try to accelerate back to cruising speed in a short time will also be unprecedented.

However, when you look at the problem on the company level, it’s not as unusual as you might think. It is likely to have many similarities with such relatively common situations as restarting operations after a disaster, strike, or move.

Based on my experience helping companies in those types of situations, I have some idea of what a company can do to get back in action and reopen your company efficiently when the quarantine ends.

THREE STEPS TO HELP YOU RESUME OPERATIONS

Here are three steps every organization can take to help it resume normal operations smoothly when the quarantine ends:

1. Create a return-to-normal team.

This should be a subset of your crisis management team, made up of people representing such core departments as HR, Facilities, Communications, and IT. When your team is set, select a team leader to manage the return-to-normal campaign.

2. Create a return-to-normal checklist.

The return-to-normal team should create a checklist documenting the high-level tasks needed to get back to work over a handful of key areas. (See this post for advice on creating good checklists.) Below is a list of the key areas and some issues you might face with each.

  • People. How will HR prepare to bring people back if they’ve been working from home or on furlough? How will it bring in new employees? What HR policies and procedures will need to be followed? What if people are afraid to come back to work? How do we make people feel good about coming back to work? What about people who prefer to continue working at home? Will we be requiring employees to wear a mask or have their temperature taken? What if an employee refuses?
  • Communications. What communications need to be made internally to prepare to get the company back to normal operations? How about externally?
  • Operations. What operations will be brought back to the organization and in what order of priority when you reopen your company? Will any operations remain shuttered or continue to be conducted remotely or through a hybrid arrangement (onsite and work at home)?
  • Facilities. How do we ensure facilities are cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis? What disinfection process do we need to use, based on type of facility? How do we address the issue of workers’ proximity to one another? Do we need to retrofit facilities? Is It necessary to restart or pre-condition facilities or equipment in advance of returning back to operations? Do we need to recertify manufacturing lines or operations? Is the building management company ready to reopen the building?
  • Technology. What do we need to do to bring people’s technology back to normal operation? Who will help reinstall technology? How will we confirm that we got back the technology people took home with them? 
  • Suppliers. What suppliers did we bring on that can be let go or transitioned off?  Which suppliers need to be replaced due to poor performance? What suppliers are more critical than we once thought?
  • Security. How we do we find out if network security was compromised by having people work from home or on their personal devices? How do we restore network security?

3. Create an implementation timeline.

Once you work out the key areas and checklist items for each, you need to think about your timetable. What will the approach be to getting the company back into operation? Will you take a phased approach or return en masse? More complex organizations might benefit from coming back up in phases. In using a phased approach, more critical operations should be brought back first.

As a final point, the above steps are applicable not just in the current situation with coronavirus but in any situation where an organization has to restart its operations after a hiatus.

HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

The coronavirus shutdown is unprecedented, but the challenge of restarting a company after a significant pause is familiar to us from other situations. By following the steps given above, you can help your organization hit the ground running when the quarantine ends. The most important step you can take to reopen your company is to start planning now.

FURTHER READING

For more information on dealing with COVID-19, reopening your company and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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