Cleaning Is Now An Unexpectedly Central Feature In Corporate Risk Management
Before the pandemic, cleaning was something of an afterthought for businesses. Yes, they knew it was something that they had to do to keep their colleagues happy. But it was more an ancillary service. It wasn’t fundamental to their continued operation.
We are, however, entering a brave new, COVID-19-induced world in which the humble act of office hygiene is now the lynch pin of the entire operation. People want to get back to work, but they don’t want to feel like they’re at risk of spreading infection. Companies, therefore, will no doubt, have to institute new working conditions for employees.
The form that will take depends on the industry, but we could see extraordinary things. People might have to sit at their desks wearing face masks. They might insist on frequent cleaning around the office, not just in the morning. And some firms could wind up putting hand gel on every desk if that’s what workers demand.
COVID-19, therefore, is nothing short of a labor relations fiasco waiting to happen. Companies need to get people back to work to save their jobs, but they also have to convince them that the office isn’t a hazard. We could see the rise of industrial action based on the fact that companies aren’t doing enough to protect workers.
What’s incredible is that we see this already in some business settings. Amazon warehouses in Europe, for instance, have been on the brink of shutdown several times over the lack of PPE. Those packing and distributing parcels want the same protection afforded to other key works, but don’t feel as though they are getting it.
Public health workers have also complained of similar treatment. They need protective equipment, but, for whatever reason, industry can’t churn it out fast enough. At points in this crisis, there have been real risks of workers going on strike.
The changes ahead, therefore, are monumental. Leaders are going to have to consider cleaning and disinfecting schools, offices, and retail facilities at the highest level. This sort of thing is no longer the job of middle management. It is central to the strategic performance of the firm.
The Role Of Risk Management
Expect notions of risk management to change too. It is unlikely that companies will continue to look at uncertainty in the same way. Planning won’t just be about the risk of losing data or flooding. It will also include far more damaging pandemic scenarios where the economy suffers tremendous damage, harming demand.
Firms will also see risk as something much more systemic. The coronavirus isn’t just something that affected a single firm. It leached out and destroyed a big chunk of the economy. Whether it will return is currently unknown.
Risk management will probably involve keeping physical premises open. While working from home is great, it doesn’t allow people to collaborate in the way that they might in person. Physical meeting places are still essential, even in this brave new online world.
Expect, therefore, to see cleaning take a front and center position in the dialogue. Suddenly, it has become very important, indeed.
Categories: Outside Contributors