Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to transition to remote working schedules for their employees, update their procedures, and stay up-to-date on the ever-changing status of the pandemic to know what to do next. These are uncharted territories, and each day is a learning process.
As with all major changes and disruptions, businesses depend on their senior management to help guide the business through confusion, conflicts, and challenges. And the COVID-19 situation is no different. From the beginning to the middle and later at the end of the pandemic, senior managers have had and will continue to have an unfixed role in the management of the pandemic response.
As businesses begin to reopen to in-person operations, senior management will have a new set of responsibilities to ensure that the business is able to smoothly transition from their temporary work-from-home setups back to their collaborative office setups. We’re going to go over what some of those responsibilities might look like, but we are also going to review what we’ve learned will be expected from senior managers in the event of another pandemic from beginning to end.
At the start of a pandemic
Once a pandemic is confirmed, senior managers have four key roles:
- Be the sense of calm: In chaotic times, things can get frantic in a hurry, especially if the employees are looking to the managers for answers and the managers are looking as worried as the employees. Even if senior management doesn’t have all the answers, it’s important to be as transparent as possible while also keeping everyone out of panic mode.
- Stay up-to-date: Senior managers should remain up-to-date on all news updates, regulation changes, shelter-in-place mandates, and any other pandemic-related information that could affect the business, employees, stakeholders, or customers.
- Explore solutions early: It’s important that senior managers not take a “sit-and-wait” approach. Many businesses that used this approach during COVID-19 did not survive into 2021 because they were just hoping it would blow over rather than creating a backup plan. Instead, businesses must immediately start exploring new potential business avenues and creative solutions that will allow the business to continue to thrive even during uncertain times.
- Positively prepare for the worst: In addition to creating new avenues, senior leaders must also prepare for the worst. This means planning what will happen to prevent layoffs, what will happen if layoffs must occur, etc. No one wants the worst-case scenario to occur, and planning for it doesn’t mean you’re being pessimistic. It means you’re potentially saving your business in the event that the worst does occur.
In the middle of a pandemic
Once a virus has spread far enough that the situation is deemed a pandemic, senior management must do three main things:
- Ensure all employees know what’s expected: All employees should be kept up-to-date throughout the entire process and should be immediately notified about any role changes, changes in responsibilities, schedule changes, location changes, procedure updates, etc., so that they can plan and act accordingly.
- Keep records: It’s important to keep clear and well-documented notes for various reasons. One of these reasons includes staffing. Just as in regular times, some employees may require disciplinary actions up to termination, and a pandemic can make that process very difficult, especially when proper documentation is not accessible. Proper record keeping will also ensure the company is still profiting and hitting documented goals.
- Update your strategy: Because a pandemic causes constant (if not daily) uncertainty, it’s important to constantly re-evaluate the situation to ensure the business is taking the right steps in the current environment to be successful.
At the end of a pandemic
After the pandemic has come and gone, the transition back to “normal” will be a long road. And things may never be the same as we once knew it to be. That’s why it’s important that senior managers do the following two things once the pandemic ends:
- Determine how operations will proceed: Many things will need to be considered. Will the number of employees need to change? Will jobs remain remote? Has the business structure or products changed? All of these things (and many more) will have a major impact on how the business continues to operate, and they should all be considered and evaluated.
- Determine the reopening phases: If the business plans to reopen to full-scale in-office work, it’s important to do so in phases to tweak the process and procedures as more employees are gradually brought back into the office.
There are many more steps that will need to be considered and taken, but all of these steps will help senior managers continue their business towards success.