Life after lockdown for businesses in South Africa

Mixed race business people analysing the results

While many will be over joyed by the uplifting of the COVID-19 inflicted restrictions, an immediate normality particularly in the office is not guaranteed.

 

Keep in mind, although we may return to work your employees need to remain cautious, in most cases taking more precautionary measures than before and ensuring that colleagues and others are observing the same responsibility.

Here are a few elements FCM Travel Solutions believes your enterprise should keep top of mind.

 

Post-lockdown virus monitoring and controls

If there is an extreme escalation in the number of cases, or hospitals begin to reach maximum capacity with overwhelming effects, this could see a potential second phase lockdown. Another lockdown would certainly have catastrophic effects on unemployment and the economy. Organisations need to conceive, implement and monitor meaningfully distinguishable levels of social distancing with lean working teams, cautiously but with some urgency, from the brink of total stagnation.

In the recent words of Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist working with the government in the fight against the coronavirus, "Our lives, when we go back after this lockdown, are simply not going to be the same," he said.  "When you go into a business meeting, you will not go and sit right next to the person that you are meeting with. You will automatically now want to keep some kind of distance. You will not be shaking hands with the person you are meeting with because you will be deeply concerned that you do not want to be part of spreading this virus."

 

A work from home model

Global enterprises may continue to see real benefits from the adaptions of a work from home model for certain resources, and may explore maintaining that stance for a period of time in the continued monitoring of company overheads and effects on the bottom line. The advancements in technology have certainly made this transition a lot easier and forces some global businesses to continually evaluate the value lost with the experience of not being able to work face-to-face.

Findings of a recent Gartner survey show that 74% of CFOs expect to move a number of previously on-site employees to remote working conditions permanently post-COVID-19, in a move to cut commercial real estate costs.

As many global enterprises know, collaboration often depends more on technology than proximity. Some may benefit from open office floor plans, but many did just as well without during the lock-down phase. The productivity returns on open offices are questionable. We are evolving to adopt technology more to your travel, video conferencing systems and teleworking.

HR monitoring of open offices proved to be a hindrance to their productivity levels. Business can't necessarily quantify this, but there is sufficient evidence that open office floorplans led to more politics, unnecessary behaviour, and annoyances. Evidence from HR offices in many industries show that complaints fell as soon as employees evacuated from open offices, they are not going away completely, but will significantly be rethought in the new normal due to cost cutting, safety and preference.

 

Office space re-engineering and design

Many organisations will consider a workplace re-design, enforced office behaviour and routine in the prevention of virus spread and infection for employees’ safely returning back to the office. Office hygiene and social distancing are at the core of the redesign processes. For safe social distancing behaviour is guided through properly spaced desks, but also visual signals, such as a circles and arrows embedded on the floor or carpet around each desk to ensure people don’t get too close.

Employees are also encouraged to walk clockwise, and only clockwise, in lanes around the office. This one-way traffic is the same approach that healthcare workers take in hospitals to help avoid the spread of contractible viruses.

A tip to help mitigate some contact-based spread of COVID-19 on office surfaces, is each morning, give your employees a paper place mat for their desks. At the end of the day, the paper is thrown away.

The reality many businesses may need to reflect on with this approach, are the cost implications involved which could be quite large depending on the size of the organisation and its workforce.

 

Interaction with customers and internal stakeholders

A challenging aspect of the virtual workplace will be how your organisation engages with clients and prospects. The traditional face-to-face meeting is always welcome, and sometimes seen as more acceptable than a video conference or phone call. However, the efficiency of those calls versus the time spent commuting to see clients has become more appreciated by both parties.

Many global organisations are providing their employees with monthly video conference training sessions to use for clients, prospects and others.

Finding the right balance between the in-person and virtual meetings is key.

Businesses will find that clients will appreciate this very effective use of time and technology in the new way of engaging even though the push toward virtual meetings likely won’t eliminate in-person meetings for good.

Organisations have a significant amount to consider now to prepare business for what it will look like post-lockdown. The key is to approach this process closely and carefully but returning back to work will certainly happen in waves driven by employee’s safety, consumer demand and employer speed to market relative to industry.

The new normal of business is something that we will all have to adapt to. And when your travellers are ready to return to the skies and reconnect globally, we will be by your side to guide you through this time of uncertainty and help your business adapt to the new normal post COVID-19.

When you are ready for the new normal we will be #ByYourSide