Pandemic Diaries: Water Utilities’ Perspectives and Crisis Response (VOL. 5)

by Rebecca Shanahan
Wave Blue
Dec 03, 2020

During the early months of the pandemic, representatives from all management levels within WaterStart member utilities convened regularly to discuss challenges and potential solutions to the Covid-19 crisis. These discussions are summarized in five volumes titled Pandemic Diaries and will be updated as the pandemic evolves and, eventually, resolved.

VOL. 5: Post Pandemic Recovery

The challenges that occurred due to the abrupt changes required to address the pandemic are evidence enough to justify the effort to document best practices and pre-plan a well organized recovery plan and post-pandemic workforce.  The WaterStart member utilities have suffered a complete redefinition of what a new working normal is and the effects of which may not be fully known for years to come.  It is therefore important to bring each organization back to, an albeit new, normal as smoothly as possible.  The following are a few items noted during the WaterStart member Covid-19 calls that rose to the top of various discussions regarding a post pandemic recovery.

  • Many staff will want to continue working from home, indefinitely and the utilities should consider this a viable option.  For those that will return to an office environment, the return must be in phases.  These phases need to be well thought out and documented.
  • Continue to recognize and consider staff’s mental health as many will have anxiety returning to the workplace. Allow staff input into identifying the phased approach.
  • Maintain the recommended social distancing guidelines and are properly communicated. Attached are two documents related to cubicle spacing to consider upon staff returning to an office environment.
  • The maintenance crews returning will feel the affects of a mounting maintenance workload. Work will need to be prioritized and optimized as to not create burn out.
  • A complete assessment and evaluation of migrating future work processes with cloud-based applications must be completed to allow for social distancing and efficient communications when another pandemic arises.
  • Continue to ensure buildings are properly flushed and disinfected as staff is phased back in and occupancy increases.
  • Fully document any newly implemented cost-cutting initiatives.
  • Address weaknesses in supply chains, especially as it relates to PPE and other essentials, manufacturing and suppliers.
  • Update existing pandemic or crisis response plans with lessons learned and consider adopting an emergency management software.
  • Maintain records and continually document staff’s at-home internet access and capabilities.
  • Evaluate staff redundancy in training to ensure complete coverage prior to the next crisis.

Please check out this video from our member’s only webinar to hear updates from utilities from 3 continents on the status of their pandemic response!  

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