After COVID-19 Business as Usual (BAU) is Not Going to Be BAU

As companies emerge publicly to discuss their plans for return to operations post COVID-19, a return to business as usual (BAU), now seems difficult to imagine.

Company-issued sanitizer bottles and wipes will likely be distributed to every cubicle end-cap. Employees may work staggered work schedules. There’s likely to be redundancy-based splitting of teams as well. These are all part of discussions as companies consider what a return to BAU looks like.

Organizations must follow mandated social distancing guidelines, new cleaning regimens, and everyone may be required to wear face coverings. These are part of the new baseline for health and wellness in the new workplace.

For organizations of all sizes, implementation of these policies translates to a complete reboot of work, compared to the various stay-at-home periods during the last few months.

Resiliency in the New Normal

Resiliency practitioners have been busy working with organizations during this time. Many practitioners have been heavily involved since the beginning, monitoring the potential pandemic situation before February and pivoting to a ramp-up of their company’s response as various international, national and local bodies began to take action.

Now, they are looking forward into the back half of the year to anticipate what else they may need in this COVID-19 climate we are in.

After all, Summer and Fall have traditionally brought other challenges for practitioners, like wildfires and hurricanes, and  there is no sign this year will be any different.  If anything, given the Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast recently issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year will bring more issues than usual.

A Change in Fundamentals

Several practitioners we spoke with explained that things have changed so fundamentally, we will not go back to the world we knew pre-2020.

The new world will leverage more work-from-home, which means less office space and more requirements for supporting technology. We are looking at leveraging built-in location resiliency that automatically comes with working from home.

Of course, the new challenge is understanding where there may be too much concentration of work forces in a particular area or a region, as well as understanding and managing the additional cyber security threats created by this approach.

As some practitioners pull further back on the lens, they also say they see less corporate travel, more re-shoring of work, more localized production, and in some ways, a reversal of many of the trends seen during the last decade and a half.

Technology Transformation

One resiliency practitioner we spoke with explained how his company had pulled forward multiple years of technology transformation and accomplished it within a two-month period.

In ordinary time, it would have taken lots of discussion, budgeting, planning, and execution over multiple years to manage the people, process, systems and facility issues needed to support large segments of his employee population working from home.

In pandemic time, however, the entire process—obtaining technology supplies and spinning up work-from-home for more than 1,000 people in his organization—became a reality in less than a month.

As more companies continue to allow employees to stay in a work-from-home setup post coronavirus, more work certainly needs to be done to shore up the resiliency of the network connections and how they access various systems, but it’s likely to be accomplished this year in short order.

Video Conferencing

Several practitioners noted that video conferencing is the new social space, not just for corporate employees, but increasingly for every corner of their lives, including activities relating to schools, religious and cultural organizations, non-profits, etc.

But a switch to video conferences in lieu of face-to-face meetings, did not come without its own challenges across enablement, security, and availability.

Also, with telepresence for everything comes new protocols, from the basics of using technology capabilities (muting, video conferencing, recording, etc.); to more advanced ones like using the space in creative ways as a kind of social glue to keep productivity going and morale high.

Changes for Brick-and-Mortar

Businesses with physical operations have made other changes, too. These changes extend from retail locations all the way back to the manufacturing floor.—everything from personal protective equipment that workers are provided and required to use, to how workers keep themselves separated and even how shifts must change to accommodate new guidelines.

One practitioner we spoke with explained a silver-lining in all of this for resiliency: “Generally, it has been a very positive response from the people I engage with across our organization. The lightbulb moment for our Executive Committee came about a week into the pandemic response, where several suddenly said ‘oh, I get it...’”

He went on to explain how these changes are playing out for his continuing work across the organization.

“Our recovery site strategy gets completely changed, now that we can work from home,” he said. “So we will have to revisit that when we get into the Fall and beyond. We really need to review our current capability, as modified by the pandemic response and take a fresh look at the exposures we have as they exist today.”

“Having implemented some sea changes in the use of technology to support work-from-home, how have the old recovery strategies changed? Do we really still need another recovery site? How has our geographic footprint changed and how are the old exposures different? How much of our old planning is still valid anymore? These are just some of the questions the company will be reviewing as a whole into the rest of this year and as they start a new planning cycle.

So, as we return to BAU, we will have to bring a fresh eye to everything because nothing is really the same anymore.

Nothing is usual. Old work environments and policies have transformed.  The technologies, systems we use have changed.  Old spaces too are gone, replaced by telepresence for everything.  Even the old planning and underlying assessments reflect the shape of a bygone corporate shape.  Exposures have fundamentally changed. 

And more is yet to come.

So, for the foreseeable future, business as usual is anything but business as usual.

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