The second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is now beginning, differs from the first phase in the following points. (Based on JDMT’s 3-phase model for managing pandemics in companies)
- Organisation, tasks & measures
- Employee loyalty & trust
Whereas in Switzerland the first phase lasted three and a half months – including the recognition of the emerging danger and the organisation under the official regime of extraordinary situation and measures – the second phase is expected to last four times longer, namely 14 months. This second phase describes the time between the initial easing of the tensions until the comeback to a normality, then followed by (the 3rd phase) preparation for a next pandemic takes place. The second phase will be characterised by an on & off regulatory response to the flaring up and disappearance of COVID-19 cases.
In most cases, companies do not have crisis management bodies that are solely responsible for these kinds of situations. Therefore, members of the crisis team had to perform extraordinary duties in addition to their traditional activities, which proved to be demanding given the approximative three-and-a-half months phase with increasing work in March. Companies will now have to ask themselves to what extent their crisis management bodies are prepared for the second phase, or to what extent they need additional development or reinforcement. JDMT considers a command and staff organisation similar to the doctrine within the Swiss Army to be suitable for the second phase. And JDMT is convinced that in the second phase the workload demanded from the crisis management bodies will not lessen during this phase but will just be different.
While in the first phase there was an impressive unity and agreement both nationally and internationally regarding the need for extraordinary measures, the government put in place restrictions with enormous consequences for the life and freedom of all individuals. In the second phase it will be much more difficult to maintain this unity and unanimity. Why should a flower shop remain closed when the butcher shop is open? Why should people be restricted in such a way when the number of cases in hospitals is much lower than feared? And why should children continue to be denied social contact with other children, given the observation that children are not particularly at risk, knowing that they need social contact for their good development?
This loss of unity and unanimity will also be observed in companies. And depending on further development, additional tensions are likely to arise elsewhere. If, as a result of the expected on & off official measures, measures have to be implemented, revoked and reactivated within the company as well, the management bodies in the company run the risk of losing credibility, which in turn could have a negative impact on the future well-being of the employees.
In principle, it can be assumed that the COVID-19 pandemic will diffuse itself with periods of escalation and de-escalation. Considering the high contamination rate of the virus and the lack of a vaccines in the foreseeable future, the government will have to maintain certain suppressive measures to allow the health services not to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 related hospitalisation. If, in this context, the COVID-19 intensity does not clearly improve or worsen in a given period of time, but fluctuates, the support of the population and of the company’s employees will be drawn out even further.
For all these reasons, JDMT is convinced that companies must set the following course for this second phase:
- The company’s management bodies must prepare themselves for an extension of the crisis until at least spring 2021, with a particular focus on the pandemic and strategic issues relating to the company, with an emphasis on leadership
- The crisis management bodies should make sure that their organisation and resources are organised and managed in such a way as to ensure impact, efficiency and sustainability at least until spring 2021
- For the operational tasks of pandemic management in the company (rules and regulations, FAQs, advice and information for employees, pandemic logistics, etc.), specialist support must be sought, e.g. a Pandemic Operations Centre such as JDMT offers