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There is a lot of talk about Exit Strategies in relation to COVID19 right now.

Whilst the UK Government hasn’t communicated their plan yet, they will have been working on it for a long time in parallel with their initial response strategy for controlling the pandemic.

In crisis management theory, response is one of four key areas of focus; the other three being preparation, (response) recovery and mitigation.

For many businesses the response phase will have included the rapid deployment of workers to home, stabilising operations and financial positions whilst quickly establishing new ways of working.

With this initial response now complete, leaders can begin shifting some of their focus to what comes next and the recovery phase; otherwise known as an exit strategy.

From a human performance and cultural perspective, there are three ‘recovery areas’ which I encourage you to start thinking about.

#1 Knowledge Capture

Lockdown and home-working has forced us all to work in drastically different ways. It has disproved many myths about home-working, productivity and communication. And at the very same time it has opened our minds to different ways of working that we’d never considered.

Whilst many of us may have thought ‘things will never be the same again’, that’s probably not going to be entirely true. Unless we make a conscious effort to identify, capture and reflect on all the lessons we’re learning, we’ll simply slip back into our old ways of working.

In some instances that will be fine. In others it would be akin to trying to put the genie back in the lamp.

#2 Embed

Once we’ve captured the lessons, we must think about how to embed them into our culture. How do we ensure they become a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the future that improves the performance and wellbeing of those we lead?

One thing is for sure, this won’t happen all by itself, as if by magic. It will take smart, forward-thinking leaders to make this happen. And if we don’t make this happen, we gradually slip back to how things were before.

#3 Reintegration

This embedding process will be easier for those who continued working within our organisations throughout the lockdown period than for those who were furloughed (stopped working).

Research conducted at UCL tells us that it takes around 66 days for a new habit to form (for most people). The upside is that if we’re forced into working from home for anything near this timeframe, that will be a huge help in terms of establishing those new SOPs. The downside is we may also have started to embed some new unhealthy habits too.

But what about our furloughed colleagues? They will be returning to a business, department or team that may bear little resemblance to the one they left. Processes, customers, suppliers, ways of working, products and services could all have changed.

This being the case, we must start thinking about how we quickly reintegrate them back into the business. We would be negligent in our duty as leaders if we simply allowed them to come back in at 9am on Monday morning and crack on.

We need to be working on the reintegration plan for our colleagues now. And in doing so we should consider their wellbeing as well as their performance and productivity.

Stay safe, stay well and #LeadOn.

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