This week’s PMA virtual town hall focused on the reopening of the economy: what factors should be taken into consideration before, during, and after reopening? The two most important components that continued to come up were the health and safety of the community, and the need for flexibility – both in the government’s guidelines, and in businesses.
Factors to consider before deciding to reopen
A few of the important aspects that need to be considered before reopening the community are the rate of infection in the communities, and the capacity of the healthcare system. Flexibility comes back to bid here, and it was emphasized that there needs to be a balance between consistency and flexibility. Some communities have different needs than others, and so there needs to be a flexibility in the guidelines and in the overall plan to ensure that each community gets what they need. This flexibility also extends to being open to reinstating the existing rules if it becomes necessary.
Develop a plan to limit contact and risk
Within businesses, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration. First is the intensity of the contact within the business. Second is the number of contacts that may be involved. Finally, the third is what physical or operational changes could be implemented to reduce the risk involved. For retail stores, this would translate to online shopping options, implementing curbside pickups, limiting the number of customers in stores, as well as limiting the person-to-person interaction between customers and employees. These risks and possible solutions are something that need to be considered sector by sector and need to be incorporated in the plans for reopening.
‘New normal’ will need innovation in businesses
An important theme throughout all of this is that there will be a ‘new normal,’ even when everything has reopened. For the hospitality industry, for example, there need to be clear guidelines in place to ensure the safety of the workers as well as the visitors. It’s impossible to test everyone who visits a hotel or a restaurant, and therefore it is critical to be able to recognize those who are ill – and it needs to be clear that the visitors also bear responsibility for ensuring this safety.
For businesses, there also will be a new normal. The need for flexibility in operations is something that has been brought up every week in these virtual town halls, and it remains an important factor for businesses to succeed in these unprecedented times. When offices reopen, there need to be guidelines in place that will limit exposure in the workplace – this can be done through social distancing, education and training, as well as physical reorganization to make it easier to implement these factors.
A crisis is a defining moment for companies and the reopening of the economy is something that can only be done gradually, and it can only be done if everyone continues to work together to reduce the risks.