Bain’s CEO reveals the 6 questions he asked before reopening the firm’s offices — and how all leaders can use his plan for a safe return to work

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Manny MacedaCourtesy of Bain & Company

  • Manny Maceda is the worldwide managing partner and CEO of Bain & Co., a global consultancy that’s earned spots on both national workplace rankings and diversity awards.
  • Maceda is helping global teams advise clients on office reopening plans during the pandemic. 
  • He’s also in charge of Bains own return-to-work efforts.
  • The firm recently brought employees back to work at offices in China, Copenhagen, Berlin, Zurich, and more. 
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Maceda shared the exact questions he asked before reopening Bain’s offices, and the steps he recommends other leaders follow. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Bain is among a list of leading consultancies helping companies reopen offices during the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm has about 10,500 consultants advising clients on a number of important issues during the pandemic, and Manny Maceda, Bain’s worldwide managing partner and CEO, is at the helm. He’s also in charge of the firm’s own efforts to bring people back to the office. 

Maceda joined Bain as a consultant in 1988. Throughout his 32-year tenure at the firm, he’s had roles as chairman of the Asia-Pacific region, global leader of Bain’s potential-transformation group, member of the firm’s board of directors, and now worldwide managing partner and CEO.

Several Bain offices around the world — including ones in China, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Zurich — have reopened over the past few weeks. 

Bringing the workforce back safely is a rather messy and complicated problem for both Bain and its clients, Maceda said. 

“I’m not just a consultant,” he said. “I’ve been a consultant for a big chunk of my career, but I am a CEO too. I’m finding that companies are not just asking for my advice as a consultant, but they’re asking what Bain is doing. We’re not guiding our clients into doing anything that we’re not trying to do ourselves.”

Maceda shared the six questions he asked before reopening Bain offices. 

What are the lockdown measures where my office is located?

Be well-informed on US state and international policies of coronavirus response, especially if you are leading a company with various office locations, Maceda said. 

The US states, for example, are reopening differently. In fact, some states like Arkansas, Iowa, and Wyoming never actually issued statewide stay-at-home orders since the outbreak. Spain, Italy, and other European countries are also easing into gradual reopening plans but at different paces, Business Insider previously reported.

Things are changing by the minute now. Maceda explained it’s crucial that leaders stay up-to-date with accurate and relevant information. That way, you can make timely decisions for your workforce. 

Employers should also understand the role they play in keeping employees safe, and make a distinction between the government’s responsibility and your duties as a company leader, Maceda said. 

He explained that in some countries, people can depend on the government to ensure testing and safety. “But in other countries, leaders are thinking that they might have to do it themselves.” 

Which employees am I bringing back?

It’s unlikely that all employees will return to the offices at the same time. Leaders should identify which employees need to get back first in order to work, or do so more productively, Maceda added. 

“The answer to this varies depending on the type of industry you’re in, and the type of job employees have,” he said. “Each job is so different based on the amount of health risk that your employees would be in, versus the actual intrinsic demand for that job to be done back in its original workplace. That’s why this is not a one-size-fits-all.” 

Though Bain has reopened some of its global offices, Maceda stressed that more than 95% of its workforce is still remote. The CEO further explained that leaders should question whether bringing employees is necessary, or if they can still function remotely. 

What are my employees’ thoughts on reopening? 

Bain is conducting continuous surveys on how the global workforce feels, Maceda shared with Business Insider. 

“Right now, it varies quite a bit depending on where people are located around the world,” he said. “There’s about a third of the workforce that doesn’t want to go back. They just don’t feel safe. There’s a third that can’t wait to go back, and a third that’s in between.” 

Ask your employees how they feel about returning to the office before making any decisions. 

How will I keep people safe once the office is reopened? 

To prevent an even bigger outbreak, employers will need a steady supply of medical equipment, coronavirus tests, and a new set of social distancing standards. You’re going to need some money set aside, a budget, and new company policies to make this happen.

“This opens up an entirely new set of issues and questions,” Maceda said. 

Employers need to find suppliers for face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment. 

You may also need a new office layout with physical barriers and six feet distance in between cubicles, or a contact-tracing tool to track employees who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

How will we interact with one another going forward? 

Virtual collaboration and remote work might change employee behavior in the long-term, Maceda said. 

“The intrinsic value of physical interactions when consultants are developing strategies is that you build trust,” he added. “You build relationships, and that matters. You’re cocreating or working in the same conference room, and overtime you get to know people, align with people, and trust people.” 

Bain has adopted virtual collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to work better with teams and clients remotely. The firm is realizing that a lot can be done even if employees aren’t physically colocated in a room. Maceda predicts that virtual collaboration and remote work will continue to be a part of Bain’s culture after the pandemic. 

“We’re changing our essence of strategy there — a part of our interaction will always going to be whatever the latest technology is,” he said. 

How can we, as a company, make a difference in the fight against COVID-19?

Maceda added that the relationship between health authorities and corporate leaders has strengthened. In turn, companies have become more vocal about their corporate purpose, and how they can drive positive change toward recovery. 

“The minimum to which what you should do is try to understand, and the maximum is to try to influence in some way,” Maceda told Business Insider.

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