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The Pandemic Forces Yet Another Major Organizational Shift

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
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Paul is a seasoned (basically old) freelance B2B content producer. Through the years, he has written more than 10,000 items (blogs, news stories, white papers, case studies, press releases and...

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  • Sep 8, 2021 9:00 pm GMT
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For many utilities, September represented the time when the workplace would return to the post pandemic New Normal, as employees who had been shuttered off to remote offices and their homes returned to office. The recent dramatic uptick in Covid cases forced two out of three energy providers (66%) to put those plans on hold indefinitely, according to a recent Gartner Inc. survey.

Managing the workplace since the pandemic struck in the spring of 2020 has been a tremendous challenge for energy executive teams. In an instant, they had to reconstitute the workplace. The virus was rapidly spreading, and the health care system was unprepared to treat it, so new social distancing rules and various government mandates were quickly put into place. As a result, employees moved out of the office in an instant, and virtual engagements become the norm.

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Implementing the changes required technology upgrades as well as rewriting business processes. Energy companies had to ensure that employees could access corporate resources remotely with relative ease, a difficult challenge considering that they had such a wide range of home networks and personal systems.

The Information Technology (IT) team had to deploy new tools and develop new security checks in order to keep corporate information safe. Utilities did not want to open their network to intruders and perhaps subject themselves to ransomware attacks.

From Positive to Negative

In the late spring of 2021, all signs pointed in a positive direction. Health care providers had access to rapid Covid testing, developed best practices to treat patients, and had vaccinated hundreds of millions of adults.

Most importantly, the number of Covid cases had dropped dramatically. On January 10, 2021, the US Center for Disease Control’s seven day rolling average of Covid cases peaked at approximately 254,000. On June 15, that number dropped to about 11,600.

But the virus morphed, and the Delta strain gained traction as restrictions were lifted. Therefore, the number of cases began to rise and reached about 157,750 on August 31, 2021. In comparison, the number was 41,500 on August 31, 2020.

Given the dramatic, ominous change, corporate executives rethought their plans for opening in September. Most felt it was in their employees’ and company’s best interest to keep individuals in remote offices.

What happens next is unclear. There is no sign of a slowdown in cases, and additional variants have been emerging. Also, historically, summer has been a time when viruses spread slowly. Infections increase as the weather gets colder, and individuals spend more time inside. Therefore, a return to the office soon seems unlikely. When the virus will be under control is also murky. Consequently, energy executives must be flexible in their short term and long term planning.

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