The Return-to-Work Process: Private Sector Versus Public Sector

Every organization across the country is in the midst of asking and answering the question “How do we get back to work?”

Reconstitution planning is and will not be simple, and the exact shape it takes for an organization will depend on that organization’s operations. How should private and public sectors approach reopening, and what differences will planners need to keep in mind?

The Differences

The process needs to be approached carefully and thoroughly planned out. As the beginning of the pandemic made clear, COVID-19 takes a mile for every inch it’s given. This means that organizations in both the private and the public sector need to consider pandemic prevention measures as they eagerly plan the return to the office.

The nature of unique operations in each sector will necessitate different approaches to reconstitution, however.

One of the biggest differences organizations will need to account for is their ability to adapt in response to the pandemic, and if anything can be done to both maintain normal operations and the safety of employees simultaneously.

The private sector will have much more flexibility. Many pieces of reconstitution plans within the private sector can be conditional; each condition will be an appropriate response to the current state of the pandemic in a given geographical area.

Depending on the nature of the governmental body, there will probably be less maneuverability. Agencies and other entities have fixed operations, ones that will either be hard to adapt to the pandemic, or impossible to do so. Some agencies will still need to interface with the public often, and their employees will need to interact in-person to fulfill their job responsibilities.

Back-to-Work for the Private Sector

The very first question private businesses should answer when planning for reconstitution is “Do we need to return to the office now?”

It’s now common knowledge that a second wave of COVID-19 later in 2020 is possible (and likely according to some). Because of this, if a private business can remain largely remote (or totally), it most likely should. This will limit the exposure employees have to face on a daily basis. Preventing infections is a large, downstream effect, meaning businesses could return back to a true normal faster because of the positive effect staying home has on a community.

Secondly, a large-scale, whole-organization return will be impossible. Waves, or shifts, of controlled groups of workers will be the first return-to-work effort. This will enable organizations to implement effective social distancing and limit infection possibilities within their facilities.

This also means reconstitution plans should incorporate the continuing support of telework. Doing this will ensure your organization can be as productive as possible during the pandemic and the slow transition back to the office.

The business side of an organization can’t be forgotten during reconstitution planning either. Within the plan, set in motion the process of evaluating whether or not your organization can apply for disaster loans, as one could help recover some of the losses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyze insurance policies and see if any claims can be made also.

The impact of the CVID-19 pandemic is also widespread. Evaluate any existing relationships and partnerships and ask whether they can, or need to, continue. Also take a look at your organization’s supply chains and see if any restructuring is necessary.

The Impact on the Public Sector

Some of the principles of reconstitution for the private sector also apply to public sector entities, like guidelines regarding the observation of social distancing in the office and telework.

Certain public entities do have to interface with the public. Their operations aren’t nearly as flexible as those of organizations in the private sector. Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, the employees of these entities must still perform their jobs’ duties.

Reconstitution plans for government bodies and other public sector organizations need to factor this reality into their plans. This may mean continuing to isolate employees from each other.

Most government bodies and other public sector organizations will also still be responding in some fashion to the pandemic. Reconstitution plans will need to figure out how to work not only the standard operations of departments into the re-opening strategy, but how to continue supporting the personnel and teams actively responding to the pandemic.

Factor in the relationships departments may have with other local organizations involved in the response to the pandemic, such as local hospitals and healthcare providers. Other organizations that should be included in planning are schools, public transportation, public works, police, and fire (to name a few).

Resources for these bodies are critical; just because an entity is returning to the office doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. This includes channels or other means for each stakeholder to coordinate and ensure a more through and sound response.

Returning to Work

While the idea is simple, reconstitution is a complex process that will require careful attention from planners across all industries and sectors.

However, the disparity between the operations of public sector entities and private sector organizations means each side will need to factor different principles into their plans. Before finalizing reconstitution plans, sit down and analyze your organization, find what exactly your plan needs to account for, and understand the ins-and-outs of the return-to-work process.

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