• Daria Golokhvastova, Lara Fries
  • Published: 14 July 2020

As the COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, for banks and other businesses around the world a successful return-to-work (RTW) is not simply about going back to business as usual. A workforce transformation is now required to remain sustainable and profitable. 

From early March 2020, the global economy has been confronted with unprecedented challenges due to the outbreak and quick spread of COVID-19. Businesses had to adhere to new safety standards and implement business continuity plans while facing utmost uncertainty. This highly demanding situation, however, also presented a unique opportunity to execute new working models and draw valuable insights for the future of the workforce organization.  

The digital nature of the financial services industry allowed most of our clients to rapidly react to the crisis by establishing efficient remote teams and adjusting their onsite setup. The upcoming challenge, however, is even bigger - to adapt the well-established working models in a way that allows to efficiently balance the demand for onsite presence and the necessity of remote work. Overcoming this challenge requires establishing and implementing a return-to-work strategy as well as mitigating risks by creating a more flexible, future-oriented workforce structure. 

A successful RTW strategy requires determining key challenges, setting clear goals and taking efficient and timely measures to ensure a business´s adaptability in the face of change. We examine these factors in the following sections. 


The key challenges our clients are currently facing can be clustered into four main areas of focus:

  • Transition strategy: Defining comprehensive and meaningful RTW success metrics while maintaining flexibility within the established RTW strategy.
  • Corporate governance: Identifying the right circle of decision-makers able to agree on a strategy early on and communicate decisions to the stakeholders and teams at the right time.
  • Government instructions: Regional variations in government provisions, timelines and varying interpretations require fast adoption and rigid communication.
  • Employee reintegration: Ensuring technology readiness of the business as well as psychological readiness of employees for RTW; clear communication of policies.


To successfully navigate the post-corona challenges, apply a comprehensive approach to developing an RTW strategy while ensuring early risk mitigation.
Transition strategy:

  • Apply a phased approach to RTW tailored to specific roles and locations and utilize a fast-follower strategy, considering lessons learned from global locations on earlier timelines.
  • Develop strong data, reporting and metrics. Consistently monitor progress of the transition strategy to be able to make quick adjustments as needed.
  • Find the right KPIs to measure the RTW success both in terms of execution (e.g. onsite readiness) and in terms of outcomes (e.g. productivity and staff motivation).

Corporate governance:

  • Establish central command and control structure with representation across departments and use taskforces with regional decision-making authorities to execute the RTW strategy locally.
  • Develop enterprise guidelines for reintegration of workplace, technology, and employee readiness, allowing for local interpretation.
  • Develop communication plans to accommodate the anticipated rapid changes.

Government instructions:

  • Consider government instructions a trigger to start RTW. However, the main drivers are: 
    • employee readiness AND
    • confidence in the specific workplace controls.
  • Create a checklist of variables to better track various government and health authority instructions and timelines (e.g. requirements for wearing masks, changes to the use of public transport, etc.) 

Employee reintegration:

  • Partner with expert medical and public health professionals to establish efficient safety and employee health controls (social distancing, temperature checks, etc.)
  • Ensure technological readiness for both onsite presence and remote work, i.e. availability of hardware and IT support.
  • Develop awareness of your employees’ wellbeing needs and minimize psychological risk factors. Monitor the employees’ ability and willingness to return onsite and offer support when needed.

The following checklist summarizes the necessary measures for each of the four focus areas. 




Considering what ‘the new normal’ in terms of the post-corona crisis workforce organization will look like, one thing is certain – firms’ working structures will need to become more adaptable to change. Ensuring business continuity and robust delivery under any circumstances is now more relevant than ever. Transforming the workforce in ways that are beneficial to the business, its clients and its employees is a great way for companies to turn this challenge into an opportunity. 

Contact us to find out more about what is required to prepare your business and workforce for the new normal, how to create and execute an effective return-to-work strategy and how to ensure your business remains adaptable, future-oriented and successful. 


Andreas Pfeil, Partner
T +49 69 9760 9106 
M +49 172 165 3932