A First-Hand View: How to Return to Work

A First-Hand View: How to Return to Work

NACD Private Company Directorship

A First-Hand View: How to Return to Work

October 25, 2020

By Mike Lorelli

As soon as the US Center for Disease Control issued guidelines, Accent Foods—a private-equity backed microcap company in Austin, Texas, where I was CEO when COVID-19 hit—immediately moved to a rotational physical work schedule for critical functions.

The senior team came in over the weekend and moved work stations six feet apart, retrofitting conference rooms with workspace cubes and desks.  On July 28th, Google announced that it would allow employees to work from home until at least July 2021. Many companies originally pegged return-to-work plans to Labor Day, then moved the peg to January 2021, then spring, and now many are following Google’s lead.

So, let’s take stock of what we know about workforce facts and notable opinions as they relate to operating in a safe environment within your respective board company, as well as to the substantive implications for private (and public) company directors.

 Here is what CEOs and human resources experts are telling us:

What This Means for Operations

Put yourself in your team’s shoes. Some of the agenda items that make up the new-fangled workday may include operating in a rotation where each employee works in the office two days a week.

Start to think in three buckets: employee safety, client safety, and legal and liability issues. Why not be on the leading-edge and share your own employee safety best-practices with your customers?

Other likely outcomes: 

 Board Implications

So, if you are a private-company director, put on your best “noses in, fingers out” hat and talk to your CEO about the following topics (with a caveat to private equity: your actual mileage may vary. PE directors and officers are expected to be more involved). 

So, yes: It’s a whole new world. “The old way” is never coming back. The new normal is now the normal. Microsoft, another mega publicly traded company, announced on October 9th that most employees could work from home half of their regular schedule, indefinitely. Microsoft Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said in one statement: “Work schedule flexibility is now considered standard for most roles.”

Private and smaller-cap company directors and officers can and should still take cues from the giants because our employees will expect similar announcements from us. Google was prophetic.


Mike Lorelli was a PepsiCo president, twice, followed by five private-equity CEO engagements. He serves on several boards, including NACD’s Connecticut Chapter. Reach him at MKLorelli@gmail.com.