Home

COVID-19 Action Guide: Beyond the Great Lockdown

Emerging stronger to a different normal

This report supplements the COVID-19 Action Guide we released a few weeks ago. We will continue to update our assessments as conditions evolve. See our current collection of business research on this topic.

All around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away lives and jobs, damaged industries and enterprises, and turned the unimaginable into the usual.

All around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away lives and jobs, damaged industries and enterprises, and turned the unimaginable into the usual.

Download the report
This report supplements the COVID-19 Action Guide we released a few weeks ago. We will continue to update our assessments as conditions evolve. See our current collection of business research on this topic.
A return to normal, whenever it comes, will be a different normal. What we do right now will define the future, and yet making decisions and acting with assurance has never been more challenging.
But even though each day brings more uncertainties, there are definitive actions that can improve our resilience and strength. A framework that outlines a path forward, lending clarity amid the uncertainty, can make the difference between organizations that thrive and those that don’t.
It's time to prepare for a different normal. Focusing on seven business imperatives can help organizations build strategies to address new challenges that come in the wake of COVID-19.
This special report provides such a framework, organized around seven key imperatives that will be useful for any organization’s executive team. These seven areas are:
  • Empower a remote workforce
  • Engage customers virtually
  • Remote access to everything
  • Accelerate agility and efficiency
  • Protect against new cybersecurity risks
  • Reduce operational costs and enhance supply chain continuity
  • Support health providers and government services.
This guide is practical and actionable, offering a set of activities that should be addressed immediately, if they haven't been already. It also suggests longer-term consequences and persistent changes that COVID-19 has brought to industries, companies and individual habits. These changes require actions now to ensure companies adapt to what will be a new, different kind of normal.
There’s much to do and it will seem daunting. The entire executive team will need to be engaged. Our different normal will include new habits—organizational, social and cultural. Each leader will have a role to play in preparing the organization for a successful future. Let’s get to it.
Additional content

Related insights

IBM CMO Michelle Peluso created a practical guide to help marketing leaders navigate COVID-19. It outlines five steps to take and principles to apply while taking them.

Save

Between early March and early May, IBM X-Force observed a more than 6000% increase in coronavirus-themed spam. We have tips to help organizations protect themselves.

Save

Supply-chain resiliency starts with proactively planning and preparing for future disruptions. AI and other technologies can make supply chains more dynamic and responsive.

Save
Imperative #1: Empower a remote workforce
Suggested leadership assignment:Talent leaders and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs)
Read time: 4 minutes
Among the many economic costs that COVID-19 has exacted, the workplace impacts have been among the most significant. The already-considerable challenges of human capital management in a typical work setting—leadership, workforce engagement, productivity, skills—have been moved into uncharted territory. The current global crisis is acting as an accelerant for massive, instantaneous change—the ways we work, how we communicate with each other and our teams, how we learn and innovate—all of these have been completely transformed in a matter of weeks.
The work of the CHRO has never been more important—or more difficult. Sustaining communication, collaboration, capabilities and culture in a virtual operating model is now the work of HR leaders around the globe. How are they shifting to a full “work-from-home” model that keeps the workforce engaged and productive, setting up virtual agents on the fly, keeping track of essential workers in the midst of a crisis, and standing up a robust online learning platform, all while simultaneously planning for re-entry and an unknown new normal?
One of the essential first steps must be addressing employee health and safety. New IBV research indicates that employees working from home are most concerned about their own and their families’ health. For many companies in crisis mode, this has meant shutting down offices and workplaces, rapidly identifying essential workers, and implementing remote work policies with the associated tools and technologies.
But empowering a healthy remote workforce goes beyond providing network-access tools and group-meeting software. Equipping employees to work productively outside a traditional office is also a cultural challenge. For example, how can leaders reflect the values of the company to employees working in their homes? How can teams be equipped to work together when physically separated? How are organizations communicating with the workforce globally and locally?
"Communication is key. Be aware that what leaders think they’re communicating isn’t always being perceived the way they intend."
Leaders who focus on building trust, flexibility and resilience into an adaptable workforce culture are helping their employees be the best versions of themselves—both physically and mentally—whether they are working face-to-face or screen-to-screen. At Citrix, the Chief People Officer has noted that increased public and targeted communications about both the known and unknown have helped instill a sense of calm among their workforce, enabling employees to stay focused and productive. Some organizations have turned to virtual assistants and chatbots to promote frequent and consistent messaging. Even before the current crisis, Siemens enabled an AI chatbot for its HR function called Carl that was answering one million employee queries a month. Virtual assistants can be set up quickly, making them an attractive option for many organizations at this time.
Communication is key. Be aware that what leaders think they’re communicating isn’t always being perceived the way they intend. Our research shows that 74 percent of executives say they are currently helping their employees learn to work in new ways, yet only a third of surveyed employees said the same: a 36-point gap. Clearly, we need to build feedback loops into all interactions.
Here are the near-term measures that talent leaders and CHROs should have in place now to help their remote teams be productive and engaged:
  • Digital channels and information services that provide employees with 24/7 information, and crisis-related answers to COVID-19 and workforce questions
  • Clear identification and authorization of essential employees
  • An assessment, with their general counsel, of any legal implications or liabilities associated with current or revised policies for their organization
  • Revised policies that specify remote-working expectations and flexible working arrangements with visible, clear support of employee mental health and family obligations
  • Safe passage letters for essential employees to allow them to travel to critical sites in the event of ongoing travel restrictions
  • Identifi