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Ready to be Ready

With the CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated individuals can go Mask-Free, the process of entering a post-pandemic world is beginning. As parents of toddlers know, it’s almost like slowly taking down the baby proofing. You're ready to be ready to live "dangerously".

Think about it: When a couple has their first baby, their lives are forever changed. The soon-to-be parents start to turn their cool spare bedroom into a nursery, they crawl around on hands and knees and put bumpers on all sharp corners, they put locks on the cabinets, they purchase gallons of Purell to sanitize everything…in essence they try to babyproof everything for this new child entering their very adult world. But slowly, as the baby turns into a toddler and a preschooler, the baby proofing comes down…

In a very alternate-universe kind of way, life post-pandemic world feels very similar, slowly taking down all the safety measures we quickly, and intensely, put in place. We have all become accustomed to wearing masks everywhere, washing our hands 100 times a day, and sanitizing every surface. Companies that never thought they would allow for a remote workforce adjusted within days in March 2020 when our lives were put on hold. We went from working in the office five days a week, to working from home remotely, overnight. Now we must slowly loosen up, but perhaps keep those new protocols or habits that are beneficial for other reasons. So how does that affect our “return to normal”?

Corporate office users are grappling with whether they will be returning to the office full-time, working remotely, or working with a hybrid model. In February 2021, Salesforce took a bold step and announced a “work from anywhere” approach. Google is taking a different approach and installing expanding balloon walls, team pods with moveable furniture, and circular meeting rooms (Campfire) that integrates remote and in-office employees for face-to-face, but not fully in-person meetings.

Manufacturing operations changed their processes to accommodate for social distancing and mask wearing, and some converted their lines to manufacture altogether new product lines, like PPE and sanitizers. Companies also installed temperature checking devices and purchased masks as part of their health protocols. Some facilities already investing in automated equipment for their distribution centers had a leg up on their competition by not only benefiting from maximizing their order fulfillment processes but also ensuring employee safety by maintaining social distancing. One example is Kroger’s partnership with Ocado for robotic warehouses for its grocery order fulfillment.

Change is a constant, but with the impetus of 2020’s changes on the decline, what companies choose to keep, evolve forward from, or return to, will be an interesting thing to see in the upcoming months and years.

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