STEP – what does your new normal look like?

“The New Normal” is becoming the defining phrase for the recovery post coronavirus.  There’s an emerging agreement that life after this outbreak of coronavirus will be quite different to what it was just a few months ago.   But what does the phrase stand for?   And what does it mean for you?

There is the bigger, societal New Normal…but you need the best New Normal for you, and for your organisation.

At the time of writing there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.  A number of countries are starting to relax (ever so slightly) their lockdowns, but for individual employers the process of restarting their businesses is a step into the unknown. 

So, what are the key questions?

How can you plan and make sense of knowns and unknowns?  How do they ensure the safety of your workforce?  What do your staff, customers, suppliers, and neighbours expect from you?  How will they adapt to this new normal? Is their new normal the same as everyone else’s (clue: no, it isn’t)? Can you make your new normal better than your pre-coronavirus normal?

The virus is unprecedented, challenging, epoch defining; but recovery will still rely on the fundamental principles of being standards-led, risk-based, and systematic.

STEP – a framework for recovery

Working with our friends at TheSmartPlan we’ve developed a framework for plotting your recovery.  We call it STEP.   We believe that successful business recovery has a clear outlined plan, and this is clearly how governments will be getting their countries to their new normal.

We’ve added a link to the framework, but these are our thoughts on how it works for the post-coronavirus new normal


The overriding concern must be the safety of your workforce.  How do you ensure that they are able to return to the workplace without the threat of contracting coronavirus?

Those who can work from home should be encouraged to do so.  This is the best way of managing the risk.   For those that need to return to the workplace, you should consider how that will have to work.    That may mean cohort working to minimise the number of people who need to be isolated if required by a new outbreak.  Redesignating meeting rooms will increase the amount of distanced workspace available.

Staff working in offices will need to ensure that they keep their space clean, so sprays and wipes will need to be available.  Clear-desk policies will need to be enforced, and hotdesking is pretty much out of the question for the time being.  Agree the standards and ensure they are enforced. Other workplace considerations include zoning kitchens and toilet facilities, organising car-sharing for cohort workers to avoid pubic transport and continuing to develop virtual meetings with customers and suppliers wherever possible.


We’re all in this together and we see this from the community-led responses and the Thursday evening Clap for Carers.   We also see it from the scale of adherence to the lockdown rules.

We need to build in this commitment.

It’s important that when we’re considering our own recovery plans, we consider the needs and expectations of the people and organisations that we interact with; our staff, customers, suppliers, and neighbours.  What have they needed to do during lockdown?  What can we do to provide mutual support for the recovery?

By cultivating a culture of togetherness, we can ensure that our new normal fosters a greater understanding of what we need from each other at all levels.

Communication is the key to fostering togetherness.  Sharing colleague-led information using blogs, wikis and tools like Slack or Teams to provide answers to frequently asked questions.  Using social channels to share information with our business and local communities enables us to help each other.

Above all…sharing the experience.


Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be”, and that’s certainly true today.  When we emerge from lockdown it will be into a new economic and social environment that will still be evolving.  Many of the governing political and economic assumptions of the past decades have been challenged, laws have been introduced or amended, and our impact on the environment has certainly reduced.

It’s a new, developing situation, and we have to adapt and evolve to fit into it.  Not all organisations will succeed.

The new normal won’t happen all at once.  It will emerge in stages, just as our lockdowns will be lifted gradually, and our returns to work will be phased.

Have robust scenario planning with clear decision checkpoints for deployment.

Constant adaptation means that someone needs to own the recovery process; to be steering your scenario planning, decision making and solution deployment.  Organisations need to be honest with themselves about what they do and don’t know and develop contingencies and plans for different scenarios.

Not all decisions need to be made at once, but organisations will need to review their operational year to understand which decisions need to be made, when.  This will determine your resources required in terms of people, processes, and supporting technologies.


As much as safety is the overriding concern for a successful return, productivity must be the overriding objective.  Organisations have a lot of lost time to make up for, and demand for many products and services will be high and possibly complex.

Many organisations will have noticed changes in their productivity through the lockdown.  Some will have discovered increases in productivity from homeworking colleagues.  It’s important to learn these lessons quickly, understand what worked and what didn’t, and then to incorporate the positives into revised procedures and policies.  An independently facilitated review – similar to those carried out at the end of an ISO 22301 table-top exercise for business continuity – might be considered here, with outputs being managed through your continual improvement plan.

Understanding where to focus your efforts underpins productivity. Taking time to understand your customers and how their needs are changing as they build their new normal, will enable you to focus your own recovery more effectively.

Change doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and any changes that are implemented will have an impact on current policies and procedures, environmental commitments, information security, and your financial planning.  All of these should be reviewed as part of the transition into your new normal.

If we embrace the lessons of this coronavirus outbreak, we can make the new normal a better place.  Organisations know that they can be more agile, governments have a new perspective on their responsibilities, and individuals have a clearer understanding of what they really value.

STEP is our contribution to helping organisations emerge from their coronavirus disruption by providing a framework for the questions that need to be asked and the decisions that need to be made. 

STEP is available in eBook format.  You don’t need to register or share your details to download it.

It is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial ShareAlike Creative Commons license.  If you find it helpful, then please share it freely.  If you decide to build upon it, we ask that you share the resulting work on the same basis.  The license does not permit the commercial use of the content.

If you would like to discuss STEP, business continuity, or any other ISO management standards, drop us a note and we’ll get back to you.

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