COVID-19 Stories: New Website by Michigan Ross Prof Provides Guidance to Businesses on How to Reopen Safely During a Pandemic

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As more businesses start to reopen while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a professor at the Ross School of Business is helping them do so as safely as possible.

Scott Page, John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management and Williamson Family Professor of Business Administration at Michigan Ross, has developed a website featuring 20 strategies that leaders of organizations can use to resume operations while preventing further spread of the virus. The strategies Page proposes are based on his expertise in theories of networks and complex systems.

The site, called “A Leader’s Toolkit For Reopening,” lays out conceptual frameworks and then explains the specific reopening strategies for organizations, all of which are aimed at achieving three basic goals:

  • To  maintain or improve core business functionalities
  • To reduce the spread of the virus
  • To help employees create meaningful work experiences

“I started assembling the toolkit to explore whether systems thinking would add to advice that organizations have been receiving: disinfecting, distancing, and purchasing masks and PPEs.  As I worked through the logic, I became convinced that a systems view added value.  A lot of value,” said Page. 

The detailed intervention strategies include how to create spaces for safe interactions and collaborations; what to do if someone tests positive for the virus; and how to create a culture of decontaminating, which involves limiting the amount of objects people come into contact with to prevent virus transmission. Each one is explained clearly to be easily applied in the real world.

“The site lists twenty possible strategies,” said Page. “Some, such as ‘replace frequently touched public goods — coffee machines, printers, etc… with private goods’ — are straightforward. Others — such as ‘create and isolate a backup team for critical tasks’ — might only be obvious after you failed to follow them. A smart leader will identify five or 10 organization-specific strategies. “

The website is designed to be adaptable as more information becomes available on the virus. The introduction to the site notes, “Reopenings are occurring during a period of uncertainty. Information about how the virus spreads, how long it remains on surfaces, and who is most susceptible changes daily. For that reason, this site emphasizes general tools and strategies that can be adapted as our understanding of the virus improves.”

In addition to developing the reopening toolkit website, Page has also published a series of YouTube videos on how mathematical models can assist in understanding the spread of infectious diseases. Page said the videos in the series, “Understanding Epidemics,” explain the models policy makers and business leaders use to inform their decisions, such as understanding the true fatality rates in an epidemic.

Check out Page's toolkit for reopening