A Time Of Transition: Key Considerations For CEOs After The Pandemic
By Roger David, CEO & President, GSR Brands
A new year always brings hope for a bright future ahead, but the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic coupled with an increased national political divide have left many with a sense of unease and uncertainty about what 2021 will bring.
The prospect of better days ahead, however, still exists. Vaccine distribution is helping accelerate hopes we’re past the pandemic’s apex. Additionally, many economists predict a better economy this year with a faster-than-anticipated GDP growth to be about 6.4% (up from 3.6% last year) to help unemployment fall to 4.8%.
What do these two things mean for CEOs as we come out of the pandemic? Plenty – but chief among them should be critical considerations to prepare your business to transition to a post-COVID world, including:
- Considerations in choosing to mandate or not require employees to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace, and what risks are associated with the choices.
- What workspaces will look like in the future, especially in the wake of so many shifting to remote work during the pandemic.
- Services or policies employers should deploy to make the return to work (RTW) process better for all.
Determining how to best answer these questions and other considerations aren’t easy. That’s why it’s essential to review the information available in weighing the pros and cons of RTW policies so you’ll ultimately make the best decision for your employees and customers alike as you progress to a return to normal – or whatever normal will be – post-pandemic.
The Pros and Cons of Mandating Vaccines
As soon as it was announced COVID-19 vaccines were coming, many CEOs began asking the same question: “Once they are more readily available, can I require my employees to be vaccinated in order to return to the workplace?” The short answer is yes; you probably can. The question of whether you should, however, comes with complications that need to be considered.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released information regarding vaccine mandates, noting all policies must comply with existing laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers must not only account for employees with health issues that could become sicker after taking a vaccine (and if not taking it is a reasonable accommodation), but those that have religious objections to doing so as well.
On the other hand, not requiring employee vaccinations could result in lawsuits, too, for failure to provide a safe and healthy work environment – especially if a customer can prove one of your employees made them sick. With 30% of the public still reluctant to get vaccinated, mandates could pose several issues, to say the least.
One alternative worth exploring might be following the lead of companies incentivizing vaccinations by offering extra pay, paid time off (PTO) or other benefits for employees who get a vaccine.
Whatever your decision, determining it now is the right proactive move to make sure you have plenty of time to plan, communicate and implement within your organization.
Consider Re-Thinking Your Work Model
Google has announced it won’t have employees fully return to its California offices until this September – and things will be quite different when they do. The Silicon Valley business will operate under what it calls a “Flexible Work Week” where employees will be on-site three times a week for “collaboration days.”
Of course, many industries (like mine as a CEO of two fast-casual restaurant brands) don’t have remote work options for some or all workers, which tended to be among those hit hardest by the pandemic. Determining what course of action is best for your organization is why many see the role of the CEO to be that of a facilitator rather than one with definitive answers and directing an organization from the top down.
While limited in-person service, drive-thru, no-contact pickup and delivery helped keep many in the restaurant industry afloat, the revenue lost in the last 11 months is significant, to say the least. Other businesses have reconfigured offices and storefronts, developed apps and online stores and generally figured out new ways of doing business. They’ve developed rotating shifts, flexible schedules and service changes to ensure safety. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing should be off the table when it comes to helping your employees (and in turn, your business) make their return to work (or return to full-force) safe and sensible.
Be the Leader People Need You to Be
Despite these challenges, there is good news as most financial experts predict the economy will rebound this year. However, CEOs must temper expectations about what that will mean for their specific industry. QSR Magazine, which covers the quick-service restaurant industry, estimates people will eat 63% of meals away from home this year, up from 45% in 2020. However, that figure was 67% pre-pandemic. A 4% difference still represents a $50 billion loss to the industry. Knowing this information for your industry can ensure you’re making smart decisions that will set your organization up for the long-term.
Don’t forget to continue to address the mental and physical health needs of your employees, too. If your employees aren’t healthy and well, your business will also undoubtedly suffer. Be proactive about having sick leave policies in place until we’re past the pandemic, and make sure mental health is viewed with the same importance that physical health is. It can pay dividends for your organization.
Maya Angelou said it best when she said to “hope for the best (but) prepare for the worst.” Leaders need to start now on RTW plans that are flexible, rooted in fact and not opinion, and aren’t based on boom-or-bust projections. Making tough decisions come with being a CEO, but a good CEO is a leader in tough times. Be proactive as you make informed RTW plans and your stakeholders will see why you are the right CEO for this time and what lies beyond it.
*Originally posted on Forbes.com.