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IBM shares return-to-workplace playbook as COVID-19 restrictions eases

As it continues to monitor and assess the COVID-19 pandemic, IBM has announced the first phase of its return-to-work strategy with the release of the Return to Workplace Playbook for its 350,000-strong workforce across the globe. The company has begun to implement a staggered return-to-work plan in the Philippines and other offices globally.

While the guidelines are intended for its employees, IBM is also keen on sharing the principles behind the playbook with its customers and business partners. The playbook was the result of data-driven, evidence-based practices, and policies that IBM initiated as countries and regions begin to ease quarantine and lockdown protocols surrounding the pandemic.

The company has also been closely monitoring public health advisories from various governments, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control to ensure that the playbook sets a consistent standard across all IBM offices.

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IBM expects the playbook to be finetuned as it begins its first phase of implementation. The changes may be applied to succeeding phases based on the results of continuous assessment of market-specific health and policy landscape.

The guidelines are built around seven practical and actionable business imperatives: empower a remote workforce, engage customers virtually, remote access to everything, accelerate agility and efficiency, protect against new cybersecurity risks, reduce operational costs and enhance supply chain continuity, and support health providers and government services.

“It’s important for us to work alongside our clients so we can all build strategies that will adapt to the challenges that lie ahead. These business imperatives will definitely help them strengthen their resilience even further,” said Rommell Silva, COO, IBM Phils.

IBM Institute for Business Value

The playbook uses learnings from a survey conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) in April involving 25,000 adults in the United States. The survey asked respondents how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them in terms of work, transportation, shopping, attending large events, among others. Results revealed that almost half of those surveyed believe in implementing social distancing in the workplace, as well as the importance of remote work arrangements, training, and physical and emotional health.

Silva acknowledged the similarities of the results of the survey with that of the current IBM Philippines setting, emphasizing the importance of meeting the needs of their employees, customers, and business partners while observing the protocols of the national government.

“We expect a larger number of employees to return to their respective offices as we slowly transition to new normal conditions. This is precisely why companies must know how to complement their safety guidelines for their stakeholders with that of the government’s protocols without compromising performance and productivity. This playbook will definitely help us navigate through this changing environment,” Silva said.

About 95% of IBM’s global workforce from 175 countries has been working remotely since the middle of March. The first phase of the playbook includes a readiness checklist that applies to employees with on-site work settings; employers’ preparations and procedures for the workplace, and preparations and processes for employees, clients, and visitors.