3. Revisit your policies, procedures and processes for workplace health and safety
Each plant is different. Within the framework of scenario planning, you must consider critical questions, such as:
- How does a worker enter the building?
- Can you stagger start times to accommodate social-distancing needs for a larger workforce?
- Will you be testing employees for COVID-19 when they develop symptoms, or is your plan to do random testing, as spreading by those without symptoms is also a concern?
- Do your policies for dealing with potential incidents need to be updated?
- How will you sanitize the equipment?
- Do you have the required amount of personal protective equipment?
- Is it appropriate or feasible to deploy technologies to assist in distancing and tracing?
Using the answers to such questions, develop reopening criteria and a schedule, also relying on information and guidance from local and federal governments and scientific authorities. Stage a return to the workplace, creating worker personas or categories and prioritize them while encouraging remote work when possible. Critically evaluate who needs to be on site, at which site, and consider the possibility that workers who have made remote work successful may not need to physically return at all.
Establish clear policies on workplace social distancing, meeting protocols, health, hygiene, and daily cleaning and disinfection requirements to support adaptive guidance — as it is developed and socialized. Modify your workplaces accordingly — for example, by reconfiguring workstations to accommodate greater distance between workers.
Take a people-first approach to your policies. According to Mike Bertolino, EY Global People Advisory Services Leader, “By putting people first, organizations can build and maintain trust with their employees, their customers and their stakeholders.”
4. Communicate clearly and effectively
This is a disconcerting time for employees, who are naturally concerned for their lives and their livelihoods. Not only is it a time for empathy, but it’s a time to be as clear and thorough as possible in your communication plan. All key stakeholders — including employees, landlords, visitors and vendors — must know new workplace procedures. The tone and messaging should remain direct, honest and empathetic. Communicate return-to-workplace expectations across appropriate channels early and often.
And it is critical to establish two-way communication throughout the crisis. Establishing a dedicated channel or hub for workers to submit questions, feedback and concerns can go a long way in ensuring seamless communication. Also, consider deploying pulse surveys on a regular basis to gauge employee health and productivity.
5. Keep an eye on your cost structure
The costs of not getting this balance correct are high as many manufacturers are also facing liquidity challenges. Stimulus dollars and the opportunities to preserve cash and defer taxes are available, but planning should also explore how to pull cost out when reacting to scenarios — for instance, outsourcing some back-office functions, suspending R&D, marketing and non-fixed costs, or revisiting short-term staffing models.
While the challenges are steep and the learning curve is short, this crisis is an opportunity to usher in a new way of working that could ultimately benefit your business, your employees and your customers. The journey there may be difficult, but with new resiliency, the future can be more focused on what’s possible, not what’s in your way.