Our local restaurants are starting to reopen for business. Some shopping centers are also opening back up to customers.
While these businesses aren’t yet operating at full capacity, life is starting its slow progression back to what it was like before COVID-19 became a global pandemic. But there’s still a question everyone should be asking as we enter the summer months:
Will the virus come back?
The majority of health experts and other officials say, ”Yes,“ as detailed in a Forbes article. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease doctor and a member of the White House task force told Bloomberg, ”In my mind, it’s inevitable that we’ll have a return of the virus.”
History also tells us a virus has can come back in bigger waves than before, as the Spanish Flu in 1918 had an even deadlier second wave than the first one.
Those could be grim facts, but it doesn’t need to spell doom for your company if a second COVID-19 wave does come. In fact, Apex Chief Innovation Officer Stan Jackson said the medical field is already taking more actions to be better prepared in an episode of The Point Podcast.
“I believe what will be different this time is they will have the necessary equipment and supplies to safeguard their own employees and those treating individuals 1-on-1,” Jackson said.
Learn from the past
There was a lot of unknown information about the virus when it first made headlines in late December 2019 and then made its way to the United States in January. Now, however, we know much more about COVID-19 symptoms, modes of transmission and ways to keep employees safe.
This information can be used to effectively combat a second wave and help us prepare to keep operations running. Companies can also see what worked from the first stay-at-home order and continue those policies for a potential second wave.
“For most organizations, we must simply learn from the decisions we made (or were required to make) during the initial round of stay-at-home orders,” Apex Chief Operating Officer Jim Harenberg said. “We understand whether we are essential businesses or not. For those businesses where remote work is possible, we’ve learned how to equip our teams and ensure productivity. Finally, we’ve been reviewing the customer-, business- and non-value added costs in our business and have been taking action to eliminate the non-value added while minimizing the business-value add costs.”
If something didn’t go as planned – or not well at all – in your business continuity plan, consider changing those policies.
“With this knowledge and our direct experience, now is the time to update our business continuity and catastrophe plans,” Harenberg said. “We need to enhance those plans to go beyond a single location or facility being interrupted and address entire communities and marketplaces being impacted.”
Be prepared for anything
There’s no telling what a second wave might entail.
It could look like the first one that forced companies to shut down for about two months, or it could be a longer, more dangerous wave. There’s also no way to know if another wave would mean more stay-at-home orders issued by local governments, but it would be a smart idea to at least have a plan in place should those orders come.
“As leaders we must prepare for a continuum of possible restrictions including the worst case scenarios of complete shelter-in-place orders once again,” Harenberg said. “Now is a great time to shore up our IT infrastructure and technology, further train our employees and managers on how to work productively while physically separated, and review all operations to identify how to minimize the impact of such restrictions.”
Of course, remote-work policies are probably not feasible for employers in retail, manufacturing or in the restaurant industries. A second shutdown could be detrimental to a current business model, which means those industries will want to make changes to operations.
For instance, restaurants with dine-in only options may consider a carry-out or delivery model to continue operation. Manufacturers may need to create physical distancing at assembly points for personnel, or invest in greater levels of automation.
If the first wave taught us anything, it’s that employers and employees find ways to persevere. We saw business adapt and change models that still allowed them to operate all while keeping employees safe and following restrictions put in place. A more knowledgeable working economy could create new ideas on how to continue thriving if a second COVID-19 wave happens.
While another wave could be scary, especially for those companies that struggled in the last couple months, the best way to relieve any anxiety is to be prepared.
“The bottom line is that we’re not at a peak in the crisis and we are focusing on restoring operations,” Harenberg said. “But now is the time to learn and prepare ourselves for the next possible wave of this pandemic.”
For more blogs about returning to work, check Apex’s Returning to the Workplace Resource Page.