On Wednesday, 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the global spread of COVID-19 a pandemic.
WHO last declared a pandemic 11 years ago in 2009 for H1N1 (swine) flu, although this time the economic ramifications appear to be much worse. It has far-reaching implications within businesses too — affecting operations across an entire organisation for months and presenting a direct threat to the workforce.
Our own Federal Government has said that the economic ramifications of COVID-19 already outweigh that of the Global Financial Crisis – the human element, the social isolation and the health of the community further compounding issues around supply chain and mobility.
This is new terrain for many organisations and it is unclear what the next few months will bring. Given this unprecedented global situation, it is an opportune time for businesses to assess and adapt their business continuity plans to ensure the smoothest ongoing service possible.
Review your business continuity plan
First and foremost, it is important to understand if your organisation has a business continuity management plan for pandemics and how it relates to this situation. A conversation with the executive and operational leadership teams to workshop potential scenarios will ensure all angles are covered.
Consider including a run sheet for each key stage of the crisis and a checklist with clearly defined actions as part of the plan.
Put people first
In preparing for pandemic risk and developing or evolving a response plan, ensure that people come first. A people-centred approach will improve your business resilience as a result.
Risk assessment and communication are key
A risk assessment and communication plan are vital elements of any incident response plans. They ensure that you have factored in all possible scenarios and that employees understand what is required of them.
Though not exhaustive, these are critical elements to consider.
- Mission-critical services and products
- Key personnel and operations
- Business functions linked to high-risk geographies
- What can be suspended and for what timeframe
- Expectations around absenteeism
- Infected staff coming to work
- Cascades, call trees and emergency communication channels
- Expectations of employees day-to-day
- Remote working expectations: how will employees contact each other, staff, suppliers if they are not at their place of work
- What happens in the event that key employees are not available?
- Defined roles for public relations, internal communications, marketing, risk and legal
Validate your plan
To build confidence in the plan, it is important that your organisation understands how it fits this situation and where there are gaps that must be prioritised and managed.
This is a broad-reaching event that will highlight your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. Your incident response plan needs to be tailored and it must:
- reflect the risks specific to your organisation and industry
- ensure executive, frontline and operational staff are actively engaged and understand their role
- enable the response team needs to work together in a well-orchestrated way
- highlight opportunities to improve how your business operates.
Mistakes may occur, but a well-rehearsed and communicated plan will buy a lot of forgiveness.
Maintain a cohesive, informative approach
A united front and clear, consistent messaging will ensure your employees and your clients are across what is happening with your business.
Some clear actions to do this include:
- Displaying visible leadership
- Protecting your brand
- Assembling a response team
- Communicating effectively
- Documenting events as they occur
- Reflecting and implementing improvements
As a business, there is a lot to consider to keep your business running in a time of crisis. A clear plan of action will help alleviate pressure, provide direction to leadership and employees alike and ensure optimal service to clients.
We have tools available to help you assess your current procedures and we’re ready to support you to improve and test your plans.
COVID-19 Business Checklist
The questions in this checklist are designed to help businesses develop their response plan for COVID-19. This type of planning is critical and often doesn’t feel urgent until it is. If don’t have one already, this checklist can help you start to build a disaster response plan for your organisation to use now and in the future.