Guest Commentary: It’s not back to business as usual

The terrorist acts and the international repercussions affect everyone, and businesses are affected in a myriad of ways.

Leadership and strategic issues that need to be addressed in the aftermath cut across a variety of personal functions.

With employees. First is the critical need for leader’s visibility and personal involvement in the lives of their employees – in front of their employees, to show individual attention, caring, and sensitivity to the emotional upheaval people are going through.

Flexibility and understanding around employee focus and work patterns is required. How are employees addressing travel and work schedule – are they compelled to stay closer to home for the initial period?

Questions. Are they more concerned about workplace security? Are decisions about real estate and office locations coming up in discussions with employees?

Leaders of organizations may find a lot more on the table to be openly discussed, and potentially modified, as a result of the events of last few weeks.

Adjustments. While the leader must head the return to work and focus on the future, some things may need discussion and potential adjustments.

* Is it reasonable to evaluate the company’s travel policies in the wake of the events of last week?

Certainly, organizations involved in certain face-to-face businesses such as service calls have no option to being on the job with clients. But must all meetings be conducted face to face with travel to a common collection point?

Interestingly, among sharp declines in U.S. stock markets, teleconferencing products surged 10 percent to 50 percent in terms of stock value and usage.

Work travel. For those in urban areas, and others, telecommuting will become an attractive option to reduce the amount of travel for employees, increase contact with personal lives, and many even alleviate the stresses associated with location in particular forms of real estate.

* In multi-sites organizations, where there is often an expectation of relocation from one plant or one site to another, relocation decisions may become more complex in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Relocation. Are employees going to be willing to dissolve community and friendship ties as willingly? Is the relocation decision going to be as easy now given some employee’s security concerns?

How is management going to respond the more complex set of considerations that employees engage in?

* There is also the evaluation of safety and security procedures – physical security of the human resources inside the company, as well as data security regarding information.

Many companies are going to be tightening down on access rules into a worksite, for visitors too.

Up and running. Many of the companies in the World Trade Center were able to patch their information networks and be up and running Thursday, when the bond markets opened for trading.

That was possible only because of back-up systems and data warehouses where the storage of data was location-irrelevant.

Many more companies will view their information security as a critical component for valuation, and take it even more seriously.

And, with regard to physical safety, all of us will be evaluating our emergency procedures – both as companies, and individually.

Are we prepared for the worst-case scenario and would we be in a position to maximize the safety and survival of our employees even under the most dangerous of circumstances?

Not business as usual. Business is getting back, but it shouldn’t be business as usual. Let’s pause and examine and attend these worthy business and managerial issues.

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