Be honest: how many times have you said “when this is over” or “when this has passed” in the last few days? One of the things we’re doing the most during quarantine is plans. What will happen when the containment measures are lifted? How will the companies work when the quarantine is over? How will we get back to work?
The day after quarantine probably won’t be the way we imagine it. The fight against COVID-19 is a long-term race, so our survival depends on our ability to adapt. I’m here to give you a few predictions on how you can get back to work after this quarantine.
Let’s get started!
Will There Be A Second Outbreak of COVID-19?
No one has a crystal ball to predict the future. But we do know that when we get past the peak of the pandemic and the number of new infections per day starts to decrease, it will be thanks to containment measures and not because the new coronavirus has “disappeared”. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will continue to circle around the world and be transmitted. Therefore, there is a possibility of a new outbreak when the containment measures are lifted.
But has anything like this ever happened? Yes. The 1917-1918 Spanish flu had three waves over two years. The second was especially deadly, first because the virus had mutated; and second, because it overlapped with the last months of World War I, which caused soldiers to carry the virus around the world. In other words, it ended up affecting regions that had escaped “unharmed” from the first wave and had not developed group immunity.
Moving on to Wuhan, 2020, a Lancet study concluded that lifting social distancing measures prematurely could cause the second outbreak of COVID-19 as early as August. A progressive return of the active population to normal life is the best way to delay the second peak of contamination and “gain” time to isolate risk groups, improve the response of health systems and develop an effective vaccine on a large scale, which could take 18 months.
How Can We Resume Normal Life After COVID-19?
Despite everything, the knowledge we have about SARS-CoV-2 is still limited. All scenarios assume similar behavior to other coronaviruses. Therefore, the best way to plan the post-quarantine is to focus on the territories that have already controlled the virus and that are now getting back to work, little by little, to life as they knew it.
Progressive Return To Work After Quarantine
Prepare a return to work progressively in the post quarantine. Start by reopening only with “minimum services” on-site and allow all other employees to work remotely. The positive part is that, in the meantime, your team has adjusted to working and communicating from a distance.
Also, outline your team: the first group to return should be those who have recovered from infection (to be confirmed that they have antibodies against the virus and that there can be no re-infection), followed by healthy young people and other age groups without associated pathologies. Exempt the groups at risk from working in person (those over 60, people with diabetes or other autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer problems, asthma, or diagnosed with COPD).
Reduce Work Travel
Reduce work travel to a minimum. Try to provide more support to your colleagues, employees, and customers remotely, even if it means producing more complete instructions or DIY guides for simple repairs. Consider implementing contactless solutions. Keep having meetings by video conferencing and make your salespeople experts in inside sales. Discard non-essential travel, especially if you’re going to countries where the virus is still actively transmitted. There may be a learning curve here, but with all the technological solutions at our disposal, you just have to find the right tools.
Create Rotating On-Site Schedules
If you want to assemble the team in person, pay attention to the maximum number of people who can occupy the office while keeping the recommended safety distance of at least two meters in enclosed spaces. A solution may involve creating a rotating schedule in which not all teams work on-site at the same time. For example, the marketing team can meet and work from the office in the first week of the month, the HR team in the second week, and so on. The rooms should always be airy and air recirculation through the air conditioning system should be avoided.
Prepare Strategic Material Storage
In addition to social distancing measures, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to wash your hands. Increase supplies of alcohol gel (with at least 60% alcohol) and make these disinfectants available at strategic points such as doors and lifts – this strategy has been highly effective in containing the virus in Taiwan and maintains the principles used to fight the H1N1 virus in 2009. Depending on your area of operation, you should also prepare a stockpile, or at least ensure a continuous supply, of nitrile gloves and other protective materials.
Under social distancing orders, professionals have retreated to their homes, but low-wage workers continue to stock shelves, deliver food, and care for the sick, often without basic protective equipment. Tens of millions of others have lost their jobs, and many are now locked down with older and younger family members, or even amid crowds in cities. Maps released by New York City showed that wealthier areas of Manhattan had low rates of infection, while working-class and poor districts of Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx had the highest. Because working-class people and people of color are far more likely to suffer from overwork, lack of decent health care, and environmental exposure, they have higher rates of comorbidities, including diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema.
Things will get much worse before they get better. While Congress has finally passed paid sick leave, the legislation has many loopholes and will not cover workers at most large companies. That is one reason low-wage workers continue to work. Congress has also expanded unemployment benefits, but without further relief many families many will soon be unable to buy food. While some health insurers have promised to wave patients’ share of costs for COVID-19 treatment, many remain uninsured, and we will likely see a wave of bankruptcies.
In other words, the pandemic is highlighting the fragility of our labor markets just as much as the fragility of our public health and welfare systems. In the short term, we’ll need to focus on providing health care, income support, and other needed goods and services to all. But as we take the economy out of its induced coma, we’ll also have to address more fundamental questions: What kinds of jobs do we want and need? What sorts of labor markets and other policies can deliver them? And at the most basic level, how do we want our state, society, and economy to relate to one another?