Omicron Variant Impact on Return to Work Plans

“A cause for concern but not for panic” 

This was the message President Joe Biden gave during a public address earlier this week. Omicron or officially referred to as B.1.1.529 by the World Health Organization (WHO) was introduced to the world on November 26th as the latest strain in an evolving health crisis that has gripped the globe since Q1 2020, with earlier reports showing cases in Q4 2019.

 As efforts around the globe have been underway to increase the number of vaccines taken along with private sector companies finalizing return-to-work plans that would accommodate all, the news of this new strand initially discovered in South Africa, with smaller cases found in Canada and Germany has some CEOs in a ‘wait and see mode as confirmation is pending on how existing vaccines will stand up to Omicron. 

A report by Barrons revealed a jittery stock market as the Dow Jones slid 400 points on Tuesday. Across the pond, the mood is similar as The Times reports today on fears looming for the FTSE. It is fair to say that many join CEOs in the wait and see viewpoint as companies already stretched thin with both headcount and mental capacity of its teams were just starting to see sunshine pierce through the dark COVID-19 cloud to only now have to brace for a possible impact with this latest variant news. 

How does this impact return to work plans for your company?

I agree with what many world leaders have stated that this is a cause for concern and not panic. Panicking aides know one and no situations as it brings more harm than help rather the approach, I’m coaching leaders through is to create a pivot plan to be instituted during any economic upheaval that brings turbulence to the market. 

#1 – Don’t change your plans 

It is an inviting notion to make a complete change of plans with this recent news. Maybe you are considering pausing the return to work or moving to remote work completely for those that can. The health and safety of your employees are a priority and following CDC or local government protocols will help you to navigate those waters. The part of the plan I would not recommend changing is to pause on business activities that can generate revenue growth. During the first phase of COVID-19 in 2020, I spoke with many leaders that instructed their teams to not sell until things ‘normalized’. Now, in our third or fourth phase of this global disturbance, we can all agree that the definition of normal has changed, and leaving white space on the calendar books for sales managers is a dangerous reality many are now facing. 

Your sales team needs to continue to do what it is that they are talented at doing. The conversations of course will take a different approach with more empathy and even offering to reschedule calls if needed as your prospects and clients are also trying to create an emergency plan of how to operate if things turn south. Your operations team should be looking at ways to provide additional exemptions or exceptions to clients that will need broader support.

The key is that business does not stop but it does expand outside of the norm to align with the needs of your audience.

#2- Protect and secure 

Interpol released a study in Q3 2020 revealing that cyber-attacks, although still prevalent in the consumer space, we’re on the rise within the healthcare and government sectors. Independent reports also showed that hacks within companies had increased over 40% with the massive introduction of work from home employees. 

Start to plan now for the cyber support your company will need to both protect the at-office employees and also those that may work remotely in a hybrid or complete off site work model. Included in the protection of hardware and software implement protocols and procedures for how remote employees are to engage online in a safe way while also educating them on risks to watch for. 

#3 – C-Suite Huddles 

When working with executive teams I coach my clients on implementing the 15-minute huddle. This is not a PowerPoint presentation or a meeting to plan for the meeting. It is a quick pull-up with critical decision-makers and influencers internally to layout on the table the problem at hand to work through an interim solution as the long-term answer is planned for. The huddle is also where CEOs can gain firsthand insight on what leader has their finger on the pulse of their department by displaying detailed insights about the units they oversee while also shedding light on those executives that may need coaching or assistance in finding a role or company that is a better fit for them. 

Outside of these three keys, there is a checklist that we provide our clients on how to navigate turbulent waters including a detailed section on keeping the people pillar, team comradery, and communication, intact during this time. If you would be interested in learning more about this schedule a call to speak with an advisor on our team.

Whatever decision you make in the face of challenging times remember to quickly and efficiently consider as many options as possible that are available and then move swiftly to make the right decision for your company while continuing to measure any impacts.

About the Author 

LaDawn Townsend is a CEO Advisor, International News Contributor, and Keynote Speaker with 20 years of experience working hands-on with decision makers to deliver strategies that create profitable and purpose-driven companies. She has been featured on KTN News and hosts Critical Conversations in the C-Suite on VOS Group TV. To learn more visit

Image courtesy of NPR News