Forrester says many countries across North America and Europe are entering phase three (management) of the coronavirus pandemic, expected to last from mid-May through the end of the year 2020 and into the year 2021.
During this phase, pandemic management protocols (PMPs) — ways of working, traveling, socially congregating, and connecting — will have to be constructed and maintained by governments, companies, schools, and all organisations in society.
Forrester says that if phase three is mismanaged by companies, states, and federal governments, these countries will not drop back to phase two (social distancing) — they will loop back to phase one (infection) and start the recovery process from the beginning.
This will risk a year-long disruption of the economy rather than the three-month disruption caused by phase two.
In the report, “Returning To Work: How To Prepare For Pandemic Recovery,” Forrester stated that as the epicentre of the pandemic shifts around the world and each affected region reaches its peak infection rate, firms must prepare now to restart closed plants, reopen retail locations, and bring employees back to work.
Planning pandemic recovery is particularly challenging, however, given the uncertain duration of the event and the risk of ongoing disease outbreaks and relapse but, most importantly, because it requires a focus on carefully managing the health, safety, and well-being of employees, customers, partners, and the community itself.
Stephanie Balaouras, vice president and group research director at Forrester cautions that a general business recovery plan is only helpful in dealing with disruptions caused by an extreme weather event or an IT failure.
“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,” Balaouras added.
Approach to recovery
Given the uncertainty, Forrester recommends a phased approach to recovery. According to Forrester, organizations must establish pandemic management protocols before returning employees to work.
Pandemic recovery planning measures include:
- Return employees to work in stages to minimize risk.
- Rethinking and reconfiguring physical spaces to safeguard employee well-being.
- Leveraging digital to pivot to new opportunities.
- Aligning business priorities and working closely with the CFO to plan a full return to capacity.
- Maintaining continuous communication with all key audiences — especially employees.
- Building business resiliency as a competitive advantage.