Rotation as Contagion Mitigation

New research from London Business School and the Kellogg School of Management explores “rotating” personnel

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Dubbed England's Independence Day, pubs, museums, barber shops and restaurants were among those businesses that opened their doors as lockdown measures were eased on Saturday July 4 in the United Kingdom.

The abiding concerns about health and the spread of Covid-19 will remain for many, while confusion over social distancing is likely to grow. And while the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calls for sensible behaviour and mitigation practices such as the frequent washing of hands, wearing face masks, and so on, the definitive mitigation measure may in fact be a process as opposed to a practice, or measures of prevention.

A new study from London Business School, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and CERGE-EI, ‘Rotation as Contagion Mitigation’, finds that many organisations such as schools and businesses, should consider exploring the idea of “rotating” personnel to minimizes the spread of Covid-19.

The paper uses mathematical models to offer concrete advice about how to best to organise such a rotation plan. Professor Andrea Galeotti from London Business School, Jeffrey Ely, Professor of Economics and Director of the Northwestern University Center for Economic Theory, and Dr Jacob Steiner from CERGE-EI, found that if organisations are able to keep close track of infections and respond nimbly to outbreaks, the optimal strategy is frequent rotation.

This means, for example, dividing staff into two groups, and having each come in to the office on alternating days. For organisations that are slower to conduct testing and adapt, the optimal strategy is little if any rotation; for example, dividing staff into two groups, having one group come into the office for a month straight, then another group for a month straight, and so on. Surprisingly, the study finds that if the rotation groups aren’t strictly maintained, with just a few people swapping groups after a couple weeks, this doesn’t have a large impact on the spread of the disease.

In other words, even if you can’t perfectly implement your rotation strategy, it will still be much better than no rotation strategy, and it will help to get businesses up and running, and greater surety around a return to something like normal life for millions of people.

In conclusion, therefore, there are two other principal points the authors feel should be considered. First, at the outset of a disease outbreak, the main instrument available to decision-makers to contain the epidemic is to regulate and shape meeting rates. Strict social distancing measures are highly successful in flattening the contagion curve. Second, there are associated economic and social costs linked to flattening the curve in this manner and therefore it is important to design smarter mechanisms that can shape social interaction to minimise the likelihood of new outbreaks and, at the same time, resume and maintain economic activities over time.

For more information on the soon-to-be-published paper, ‘Rotation as Contagion Mitigation’, contact London Business School’s Professor Andrea Galeotti, on agaleotti@london.edu, or call the Press Office on 07511 577803

The paper, Rotation as Contagion Mitigation, can be downloaded here:
https://bit.ly/3e2WjDT