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Coronavirus: emergency planning for faster business recovery

How organizations can plan now for recovery

Published by Rupert Morrison 

Graph showing productivity planning

It may seem a long way off but eventually the Coronavirus pandemic will subside, and life will begin to return to normality. But by then, the economic damage will have been done. In this article, our CEO Rupert Morrison explains how organizations can productively plan for the new normal once the crisis has passed.

As difficult as it is, thinking ahead in the midst of panic and confusion could protect your business from the worst of the fallout from Coronavirus[1]. By forward planning now, your business will be in a better position to return quickly to full performance.

We’ve outlined and prioritised three steps that organizations can take to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on their business operations.

Step 1: Monitor the health of your workforce over time

First and foremost, organizations have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of their extended workforce, whether full time employees, contractors, suppliers, or other associates.

Collecting information on changed personal circumstances of workers, and tracking this over time, not only actively demonstrates support for your people but supports recovery planning. It means you can identify who in your workforce is well placed to remain productive and reassess what those who are in more compromised circumstances can reasonably contribute.

Importantly, leaders need to show leadership at this time, demonstrating confidence that they have the situation under control and communicating effectively to the workforce that there’s a detailed plan based on a range of scenarios (see step 2).

To monitor the health of your workforce over time, there are a series of actions to take:

  • Track all cases of Covid-19 across the workforce in all locations
  • Identify community contact across office locations
  • Look to automate data collection and reporting to keep workforce status up to date
  • Support a healthy working environment for employees working remotely
  • Identify mental health and wellbeing challenges alongside physical health
  • Purposefully communicate with all employees using established crisis management methods

Step 2: Maintain productivity and continued provision of critical products and services

What can you be doing to keep up productivity? Begin by understanding in detail the work people can do remotely and prioritise that. By looking at the factors affecting workers’ ability to carry out critical functions, you can forecast and model how to sustain your business through the pandemic.

To help you do this, we’ve identified three scenarios that describe the potential business impact of Coronavirus and what recovery might look like. Consider how your business might respond to each scenario, asking yourself “what would be the key points of impact in each case?” and “what are the signals that will tell me which scenario is in effect?”

Scenario V: Rapid return to previous market conditions

As quickly as the economic downtown has occurred, it’s quite possible that we’ll see a rapid market recovery in many countries following the crisis. If this happens, will you be ready to quick start your business? What will you do to mitigate volatility in the workforce?

In this scenario, precautionary measures and economic stimulus provided by governments prove to be successful. We would expect to see workforce supply and demand balance out by late summer 2020. Essentially, we would be back to normal and business will be back up and running quickly, provided they’ve planned for this, by September 2020.

Scenario U: Slow return to previous market conditions

Instead of a quick recovery, we could face an extended downturn as people continue to fall ill with COVID-19 and the economic damage bottoms out. This would result in a much slower return to previous market conditions as the workforce takes longer to recover.

For this scenario to arise, government measures to stimulate the economy would be slower to take effect, which in turn would continue to affect market confidence. So, although the workforce would be back by the end of summer 2020, demand would lag behind and slow down a return to productivity.

Scenario W: Volatile return to previous market conditions

Potentially the most difficult scenario to manage, there could be a second wave of infection and economic damage after an initial bounceback, delaying long-term recovery for 12 to 24 months. In this scenario, we see an apparent recovery from the economic impact of Coronavirus but this proves to be short lived.

We may instead see an extended lockdown period, leading to deep structural economic damage. Businesses will need to consider the possibility of moving certain tasks to different locations to hedge against a prolonged downturn and outlast the situation.

So, continuing with step 2, you can get on top of what your workforce do productively by:

  • Identifying mission-critical roles and activities
  • Resourcing critical roles by planning hourly and daily at the level of individual employees
  • Scenario planning for the continuity of critical roles in the short term (taking into account household contexts and potential inability to work)
  • Ensuring remote workers have the infrastructure to work
  • Rapid building of operational contingencies, such as redeploying team members to fulfil critical roles and activating an extended workforce
Graph showing productivity planning
Prioritizing roles enables focused attention on maintaining business continuity

You should also consider reviewing and adapting your business objectives in line with the work that can be done. Decide what your main goals are in the short term and which projects you can accelerate by redeploying your workforce and resources.

Step 3: Accelerate your post-crisis business recovery

Although nobody knows how long it will take to come out of this situation, if you focus on productivity now, you’ll be on the road to recovery more quickly. You can do this by:

  • Keeping basic organizational planning tasks going
  • Investing time in priority initiatives now to optimize performance post-crisis
  • Planning against all three scenarios outlined in this article
  • Anticipating which scenario you think will most likely play out
  • Developing a plan for regaining performance
  • Adapting work policies to manage workforce recovery
Monitor how the health of your people changes over time

On top of this, think about the work you’ve always wanted to do and the measures you’ve been meaning to put in place but are usually too busy to do so, and consider giving time to these now as other projects are postponed. This course of action is particularly appropriate in the event of Scenario W, where longer-term business plans may be sidetracked for some time.

Preparing for life after Coronavirus

Leadership and being one step ahead during this strangest of times will help you get back on your feet once the wildfire of the pandemic is under control.

As well as what you need to do right now, being ready for whatever this situation may throw at you in the longer term will be fundamental to weathering its economic impact. We hope this article goes some way to helping you do that.

[1] On naming and terminology, Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 is a strain of virus belonging to the group, coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease arising from SARS-CoV-2 that causes a persistent cough, fever and shortness of breath. We use Coronavirus when talking about the pandemic and its macro effect on business productivity, whereas we use COVID-19 when talking about the potential effect of the virus on the health of the workforce.

Learn more about workforce modeling with Orgvue

Rupert Morrison

Founder and Deputy Chair of Orgvue, Orgvue

Rupert Morrison is the founding pioneer behind Orgvue, the leading organizational design and planning platform, which has won numerous accolades including Gartner’s ‘Cool Vendor’ in human capital management software. Rupert’s aim is to help businesses realize their goals through data and analytics. With over 20+ years of experience in consulting, and 17 years in developing software, he blends a deep understanding of board level business issues with new data driven methodologies to give real and sustainable business impact. Rupert is the author of the industry's foremost thought-leading books, considered to be essential 'must reads' for all org design and workforce planning professionals: "Data-driven Organization Design" (now in it's second edition) and "Organizational Planning and Analysis".

Photograph of Rupert Morrison