IDinsight built a data-driven framework to guide our teams on whether, when, and how to return to their offices.
IDinsighters join a team meeting from their remote locations. ©IDinsight/Subha Ganguly
On 13 March 2020, IDinsight, along with many other organizations around the world, closed its offices in response to the increasing risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the weeks that followed, half of our entire workforce relocated: roughly 20 per cent to new locations within the countries they work, and the other 30 per cent relocated internationally. For all of our teammates, COVID-19 has posed unique safety and security challenges that we needed to urgently address. As the pandemic continues, many organizations face the same question we are grappling with: when can teammates who relocated at the start of the pandemic go back to the places where they work? We developed a framework to guide the process of making this complex decision. We are sharing it in hopes that it will help others think through these challenging tradeoffs.
At the onset of COVID-19, IDinsight created a COVID-19 Task Force made up of Public Health experts (incidentally almost all of whom are women) who helped develop this framework around the following principles:
While there were many factors we could consider in building a decision-making framework applicable to every city where we work, we narrowed it down to the following three categories. Within those categories, we agreed upon indicators we could monitor in all of our office locations:
COVID-19 spread indicators:
COVID-19 care indicators:
Finally, we structured a clear and concise method for communicating return-to-office plans to IDinsighters around the world. Similarly to many institutions, we decided to use a traffic light system to indicate the spectrum of return-to-office scenarios in our different office locations.
Red: Many or all IDinsighters are not permitted to return. Analysis of COVID-19 spread and care, as well as operational indicators, suggests the risk level to teammates is not at an acceptable level.
Orange: IDinsighters who are legally allowed are permitted to return. Analysis of COVID-19 spread and care, as well as operational indicators, suggest the risk level to teammates is uncertain. IDinsighters can choose whether or not to return according to their individual risk appetites.
Yellow: IDinsighters who are legally allowed are encouraged to return. Analysis of COVID-19 spread and care, as well as operational indicators, suggests the risk level to teammates is uncertain. In order to meet the needs of client engagements and maximize social impact, IDinsighters are encouraged to return if their individual risk appetites allow.
Green: IDinsighters who are legally allowed are expected to return. Analysis of COVID-19 spread and care, as well as operational indicators, suggests the risk level to teammates is at an acceptable level. Limited in-person meetings and fieldwork may resume, with continuing reviews on a case by case basis given diverse contexts.
In building IDinsight’s return-to-office framework, we recognized the COVID-19 global pandemic creates highly dynamic situations, and there will always be some level of subjectivity in determining the statuses of office locations. That being said, we are committed to continuing to make data-driven decisions, as well as good judgment calls when data is inconclusive or unreliable. The safety of our teammates and the communities we serve is the foundation of all we do, and we’re confident this framework will allow us to continue building out our mission to combat poverty and improve lives around the world.
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