Reopening: Being More Than A Cog In A Machine

We’ve all been through a lot during the past year. And those who made it through relatively safe and healthy over that time are so lucky, since so many didn’t.

With vaccinations in the U.S. now surpassing 100 million in total and more than 3 million per day, the end to sheltering in place for nonessential workers is now mathematically in sight.

Businesses across America are preparing for reopening. For most cities, the changes due to reopening will be significant -- especially for New York. With the horror of the area’s early pandemic death rate, the high-density nature of the city, and the high usage of public transportation, reopening is going to be a traumatic change for many.

That this will be challenging is natural, and is an issue that we who run companies are learning about and preparing for. Science will lead the way in developing reopening policies and plans, but understanding and accommodating the very real and justified fears of so many will be critical to making reopening work.



Many companies that can operate remotely have determined to make their businesses permanent virtual operations. They have seen how intensely their workers can perform from home, and how happy so many are to be able to avoid commutes and spend so much time around their families. Plus, many of their folks have moved to other parts of the country or world, where they can enjoy different lifestyles.

Other companies are determined to bring their teams back together, believing their employees and businesses benefit from personal direct interactions and physical camaraderie. They believe in the benefits that their workers get from spending time together in denser, more urban environments, enjoying all the diversity, culture, food, music and serendipity of experience that tends to accompany those environments.

Which strategy is the right one? I think that’s going to depend a lot on each individual company, its market, life stage -- and on its best people.

For companies that are already large, have lots of offices and employees and teams tightly integrated together like cogs in a machine, operating virtually permanently might make a lot of sense.

For those companies, interoperable cogs in their machines are probably viewed as interchangeable, too.

But companies that are highly creative and development-focused, where people are learning and inventing, not just optimizing, may find that they are better when everyone is together -- particularly those that are smaller and have very cross-functional teams. Those companies may find people and teams are probably not tightly fit into their organizations like cogs in machines. They are probably more akin to teammates working together to win on the basketball court or hockey rink.

I don’t know where this will go for everyone, but I personally believe that the best companies will offer more to their people than just being cogs in a machine.

Reopening should also be about rediscovering, about social interactions, about being better together. What do you think?

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