The Backup Plan, Part 2: Once COVID-19 is over, what’s next for your business?

In Part 1, we discussed how best to manage the unfortunate situation when a person or people in your organization contract COVID-19.
Part 2 is a little more positive. Let’s talk about how best to ramp up your business when COVID-19 runs its course and we are back to (close to) normalcy again.
First, I have no clue when this will “end.” I don’t even know what “normal” will be even look like. This is our company’s fifth week of working from home. And if I had to pick a Super Bowl square of when we’ll be back in the office, I’d say August 3rd. What do I base that on? Tea leaves, really. Looking at data and projections like these. Understanding that the CARES Act has a four-month window, so maybe businesses and people are subconsciously looking ahead that far as a “return-to-normal date.”
I do think there will be an easing to normal. Restaurants and theaters will open but be limited in seating. Non-essential businesses will reopen. We will social distance until a vaccine is found. Still wear masks in stores and most public places. Grandkids visit grandma, but be careful hugging!
Meanwhile from an economic standpoint, debate over whether we will have a V-shaped or U-shaped recession recovery continues. But no one really knows for sure. Like my dad facetiously said, “If you want a job where you can speculate without having to be right all the time, go into economics.” Despite my limited economics background (two classes in college, decades of budgeting), I tend agree with this assessment that contends there will be a period of contraction, followed by “a partial bounce back and a long slog.”
And while we’d love to get back to normal in a hurry, ramping up your organization requires patience, foresight and the ability to adjust.

1. Define your new normal.
Is it being the same company you were before in terms of goals, revenue, head count, mission, vision and values? Do you see opportunities to refocus on other priorities? How were you trending before COVID-19 hit? Map out two new normals; the one you really want, and one you really expect. You don’t have to be right–-you can always adjust as events happen––but it helps to have a target to shoot for. It gets leadership and teams going in a more concrete direction. Plus knowing there is a normal ahead should help to elevate engagement.

2. Make your company whole again.
It was virtually impossible for any organization to avoid the detrimental effects of COVID-19. Well, maybe Zoom and Purell. The one thing we all share is that business this time is not business as usual. Actions unimagined just a few months ago became the norm. No travel. No trade shows. Budget freezes. No bonuses. Pay reductions. Mandatory time off without pay. Furloughs and layoffs. It was a bingo card of difficult decisions as companies looked for ways to save now and be ready for the future.
Like a puzzle, it’s difficult to put everything together all at once. It’s a piece at a time, starting at the edges and working your way in. My advice? Undo the difficult adjustments you made in the same order until you get to your new normal goal. Perhaps you started conservatively and worked your way up from there. Do the same here. If your first step was travel restrictions, add those back in first. And so on with deliberate speed.
3. Make a timeline. Sort of follow it.
The best laid plans… something something. Getting back to normal after COVID-19 relies on a series of events that take place at varying rates. Supply chains opening. Furloughed workers getting back spending power to help drive the economy. Re-establishing networks. Because of the uncertainty, create a timeline with a four- to six-month range. Put your “back to normal-ish” date in the middle, and populate a calendar of pre-and post-normal actions you’d want to take. Then follow it as best you can.
4. Balance the return
If you were an essential business with staff on-site, then going “back to work” doesn’t change too much. But for the scores of companies doing work-from-home now, going back to the office is like the first day of school on steroids. What is this strange yet familiar place? Did I leave a half-filled coffee mug on my desk the last four months? To ease back in, consider a modified back-to-work schedule, such as a rotated return so the office isn’t 100% full. Three days in office. Two days work from home. Rotate the next week. You allow for easier social distancing that way too.

5. Celebrate the return
Seriously. Have a little morning party that first day back. Mimosas and donuts. You’ve earned it.

6. Prepare for a potential relapse
There’s a chance we get back too soon and COVID-19 resurfaces after new cases had dwindled. This happened during the Spanish Flu epidemic 100 years ago. Be prepared to work from home again, which shouldn’t be as difficult since you’ve been there before. But consider being more prudent with the cost-saving measures. By then, the worst should be behind us. 
No matter what, focus on what’s in front of you, keep an eye toward the horizon, and control what you can control. You won’t be able to make the perfect decisions each time. But you’ll be able to make the best ones.
Every business is different. Every return to normal is different. Our SOLVE approach is designed to help you tackle your biggest challenges, and your return to normalcy certainly qualifies. We can look at your situation from a different angle, find creative solutions and apply them to your business goals.
Contact Ben Brugler at to learn more.