As the world continues to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic, reality is setting in for both workers and business owners. With a vaccine and approved treatments still months or more away, it's clear we will begin to reopen our economic engine in a risky environment. But we can take this opportunity to learn from and help one another, and incorporate the new processes we've developed during the pandemic to make our businesses and organizations as efficient as possible.
Our military has operated in risky environments for years, and we can learn the basics from them. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein defines the skills needed to operate as the “Ability to Survive and Operate.” It's what we must do now — develop these skills in our own workplaces to successfully navigate the COVID-19 environment here in Central Florida.
Goldfein's advice is simple: Make good choices about where you'll operate and take the necessary precautions to do so safely. Your actions could include:
• Take what you need — mask, gloves, disinfectant, etc. — every time you leave your home or office so you are prepared for any situation or emergency that might arise.
• Have a plan to maintain social distance during your outing, whether to work, the grocery store, a golf course or some other place.
• Don't take unnecessary risks, no matter what the circumstances.
• Stop what you're doing immediately if something unplanned happens that puts you or your family at unacceptable risk.
Ford Motor Co., for example, is taking steps that go far beyond social distancing and disinfecting work stations. The company is taking each person's temperature before employees enter the manufacturing plant for work, according to CBS News. They also give each worker a watch that will buzz when they come within 6 feet of a co-worker.
The important point to remember now is that risk still exists for contracting COVID-19, but knowing how to manage that risk becomes your most important tool. Given the expected cyclical nature of the virus, we will be living with these conditions for a while — long after many of us return to work again full time. So minimizing risk is critical.
Locally, business and organizational leaders must decide how much of their operation will re-open in the weeks and months ahead, and what that will look like. They also need to determine how to incorporate what they've learned so far, and what others are doing to manage risk and keep everyone as safe as possible.
There is much we've learned already, things we can take advantage of as we move forward. Thankfully, some executives and leaders used their “down time” to update strategic plans, make new relationships and help others in need. They also learned:
• There's always a need to refresh guidance to the workforce, whether it's strategy, processes or training.
• Businesses can create new partnerships, shared systems and the like to lower costs, increase productivity or even just help out the smaller company that supplies critical parts for your business.
• Leaders can communicate with agility, setting up meetings in hours rather than days. Managers can meet with someone using Zoom, saving time and money as the new normal sets in.
• Smart executives can use new technology to teach current employees and conduct orientation sessions for new recruits.
Moving forward, all of us in Central Florida and around the world will be challenged to incorporate the coronavirus and its impact in our business strategies, including how we attract new companies and retain the ones already here. We are fortunate to live in a resilient area with effective leaders who adapt quickly. I have no doubt that our diverse economy and community will thrive again as we move forward.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jake Polumbo is chairman of the board of the Central Florida Development Council.