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Research

Preparing for Reopening and Workforce Reentry Under COVID-19

Uncertainty over COVID-19 spread, workforce safety, and demand is not deterring a resilient manufacturing industry from beginning preparations to restore operations to a new “normal” level amid the pandemic. Manufacturers Alliance polled its members to help manufacturers benchmark current conditions, assess planning and readiness for return to work, and prioritize emerging workforce safety policies and practices.

Key findings include:

  • High confidence to fully reopen – respondents report confidence in preparedness to execute effectively on critical return to work policies under COVID-19, including: screening, use of facial coverings and PPE, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, workforce safety communications, telework, and travel restrictions.
    • Coronavirus testing requirements is a critical exception in preparedness.
       
  • Uncertainty of COVID-19 spread, slumping demand, and workforce safety top management challenges.
    • Capacity utilization is lower for 9 in 10 companies during the pandemic, and over half of executives report moderate to extreme change in number of factory employees working regular hours right now.
       
  • Industry consensus is emerging on must-have safety practices at facilities – 89% are requiring 6 feet of distance between employees, and more than two-thirds are banning outside visitors except for deliveries.
    • New work arrangements include reinstating employees in stages, rotating teams, staggering start times, and customizing hours and shifts, among other creative solutions.
       
  • Policy setting is mostly centralized but implementation varies by facility – about 90% of companies report documenting screening protocols, for example, and the standards differ by facility for 46% of them.
     
  • Government guidance, demand levels, and other metrics are key indicators to proceed – 74% of approvals for return to work will require CEO sign off with a longer tail of internal and external stakeholders.
    • Return to work in the Asia-Pacific region offers important lessons on key protocols, leadership, and government roles.

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