In addition to the adverse health and humanitarian crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners globally are contending with larger-than-life challenges. These include, but are not limited to, economic recession, psychological issues, plummeting customer demand, regulatory modifications, interrupted supply chains, and general uncertainty.

The American economy might be reopening, but 18.9% of workers in occupations such as retail or food services, may not have a job to return to. There is a growing need for strategic solutions to these and more coronavirus-induced business problems.

While ad hoc solutions have come in handy in the past, we have not been through such a pandemic and the effects therein before. That is why we need to lay the perfect groundwork for recovery and return to normalcy.

According to management theorist Henry Mintzberg, the 5ps (Plan, Pattern, Position, Perspective, and Ploy) allow an organization to implement a more effective strategy. I have adapted Henry’s framework to formulate five strategic questions to help you prepare for the gradual return of your business after the pandemic.

1. Position: What is (will be) my position now/after the pandemic?

It is impossible to make sound strategic decisions if you don’t first understand the position of your business now. 

Ask yourself:

  • Who am I in the market right now?
  • Apart from dealing with COVID-19, does my business have new competitors? 
  • Can I shut down operations now and come back after the pandemic unchanged?
  • If I reopen with some losses to recover, will I regain my footing?

Many businesses are questioning their ability to retain their positions after the pandemic is gone. Others, like home office equipment manufacturers, are executing their growth strategies and reaping immense benefits. As many people are justifiably terming COVID as an existential threat, for others, it is an engine for growth. Now, more than ever, collaboration tools and communication platforms have gained prominence. Whether it’s the adoption of these technologies or pivoting business models to accommodate them, executives need to consider customizing their recovery strategies on innovative blueprints.

2. Plan: What is my bounce-back plan?

Just as the people behind the building and scaling companies are different, so are the plans they come up with. Each company’s return to work plan is unique. Different locations have their own requirements, naturally requiring different plans. 

In general, however, return to work plans should be formulated with the following factors into consideration.

  • Workplace location
  • Number of employees
  • Ability to ensure social distancing
  • Employee use of public transport

Keep in mind that with time, recommendations, guidelines, and orders are expected to change. For example, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. For big companies, forming a return to work planning team composed of multi-disciplinary experts is recommended. It is also a good idea to keep in touch with external advisors to your business. Return to work plans should be carefully created and proof-tested to prevent future virus outbreaks.

3. Perspective: How will the identity and culture of my business change?

The way you see yourself from within the business, how others see and experience you, and how you view the world in relation to your business are all part of what makes up perspective. Since the pandemic is affecting humans and they are the main resource for most businesses, culture and identity will change.

After the crisis, new relationships will have been formed, and many others broken. At the end of a crisis, people always remember who was who when everyone needed help. If your business was known for good things before the pandemic, you ought to focus on sustaining the good reputation. One sure way to achieve this is by being supportive of your employees right now when they need immediate solutions.

By being part of the long-term solution, it is possible to influence your team towards efforts of eliminating the virus completely and being prepared for the next big thing. It is possible that perspectives will change as time goes. Some social issues like stigma, bias, and xenophobia tend to accompany a crisis. It is, therefore, imperative that business leaders approach these challenges professionally and innovatively.

4. Pattern: What can I learn from the past in readiness for tomorrow?

The wise know what history repeats itself. What we are seeing today in the business today happened during the great recession. Only that now, it is a whole different spectrum as the great recession affected markets, but coronavirus is taking a toll on the people who keep the markets running.

While 8.6 million jobs were lost in the entire recession, 20 million were lost in April of 2020 alone. Businesses that have gone as much as shut down a department due to COVID-19 are suffering. It even seems like a tall order for the companies that have completely shut down to come back and regain their previous positions after the pandemic. The good news, however, is that just as some businesses survived and flourished after the recession, so is it expected after Coronavirus has passed. 

COVID-19 can be a point of elevation for your company. By adopting specific strategies such as focusing more on your clients and fixing other areas of your business now when there is no attention, a quick recovery will be attainable. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t might be decided by how well companies learn from the past and act smart.

5. Ploy: Is this the time to use plan B?

Knowing when to quit has never been as good as knowing what to do to solve a problem. Since all business owners all thinkers, they can also be good at creating just the right alternative to a strategy that won’t work for the current crisis.

Now might be the time to rethink your whole business model, or part of it, like employee well-being.

However, your course of action should be focused on first tackling COVID-19 related problems. If you start too many projects now, you may not gather enough resources to succeed without straining other areas of business that still require special attention. Future-proof your company against possible outbreaks by adding up to date health guidelines to your next move. 

Bonus Question: When Should Employees Return to Work?

As opposed to the almost half (42%) of the entire US workforce working remotely at the moment, as many as 108 million Americans cannot work effectively from home. Employers across the country want to know how and when their employees, those working remotely and those who have lost their jobs, will get back to work. 

The WHO recommendation for return to work provides that nonessential employees return when there is a record of a sustainable decrease in the rate of positive tests, community transmission has decreased sustainably and health systems capable of accommodating a spike in the number of new cases. 

It is important for companies to be prepared to implement a variety of pre-planned timelines curated depending on the local state of things. Efforts should be focused on the areas of business where remote work is not sustainable. Also, in the spirit of development, companies could look into the possibility of redesigning workplaces into personalized spaces that allow workers to follow health guidelines easily.