Vaccines and the Future of Work: Planning the Return to the Office
2021 has started with a swathe of good news as countries across the world rollout a range of COVID-19 vaccines. It adds to a sense that we can see a way out of the maze people have faced over the last 12 months.
This is clearly good news, but in many ways, the challenges – and opportunities – that the pandemic has presented will continue long after the final vaccine dose is administered.
There remains much uncertainty surrounding the economic, political, and health implications of the Pandemic. Will people be willing to work in the office? Will companies remain flexible about their staff working from home? How will all the temporary systems and processes used to support home working be absorbed back into the corporate IT framework? Many more questions will emerge.
How companies navigate this complex landscape will be as significant as any issues they faced in 2020. Whatever their approach to this, flexibility will be at a premium in terms of managing their balance sheet, their investments, and – most importantly – their staff.
Recent research conducted by the University of Chicago suggested that 22% of work hours will be delivered from a home location, up from 5% before 2020. The elimination of the stigma of working from home, staff’s unwillingness to return to the office, and the need to use the technology and skills invested in home working will mean that office life will unlikely return precisely as before.
Vaccines bring the hope of a return to normal into sharp focus, and companies now need to crystalize their many ideas about returning to the office.
What do you need to consider? Here are just a couple of areas to look at:
The biggest challenge a business will face is the need to manage two working environments, not just one. The highly controlled office environment will need to complement the much less well defined and controlled home working environment. Staff will need to be made aware of and abide by a range of policies covering staff conduct, health and safety, document and IT security, travel and expenses, and much else.
Defining, updating, and monitoring compliance with multiple policies in a much more complex environment may require businesses to review their current processes. Long-term working from home highlighted to many companies how many of their systems and processes were a fragmented blend of different applications, featuring many manual or paper-based processes.
Now is the time to consolidate these diverse systems into a robust and proven platform that utilizes a central policy repository that drives policy creation and approval, training, assessment, and compliance reporting. Naturally, one needs to ensure that these capabilities are available to everyone wherever they work.
Supply Chain Risk Management:
Plenty of effort has been put into ensuring your internal business and processes have become more resilient in 2020. Have you invested time and energy in making sure your supply chain is equally robust?
Several lessons emerged in 2020 about how best to manage key vendors. Firstly, it is not just about managing the vendors where you have a direct relationship. Their supply chain is also important, down to the 4th and 5th tier suppliers.
Secondly, according to our customer feedback, as well as research from the Association of Supply Chain Management (ASCM), having a decentralized supply chain management model – where the day-to-day business managers are involved in managing the supplier relationship – has ensured greater resilience compared to applying a more centralized vendor management model. A centralized model would typically involve the procurement function dictating the customer-supplier relationships.
Decentralized models allow for deeper commercial relationships, which help identify and resolve potentially serious issues more quickly. A best-practice approach to delivering a resilient vendor risk management environment will include vendor analytics capabilities, 4th, and 5th party monitoring, concentration analytics, and automated reporting.