With the COVID-19 outbreak yet to reach the peak many companies already look for a future pandemic business continuity plan. Let’s look at what it should cover.
Once this outbreak is under control, there is no doubt things will change. One such change will be the awareness that pandemics are possible and that we should do everything in our power to have a plan in an emergency like that. Establishing a framework that you can refer to in a crisis helps you to avoid panic and retain a certain degree of structure. It’s a part of a recovery process. We should not waste time and learn how we can take action as soon as things will resemble normality.
Before talking about pandemic planning for business we must first understand what business continuity is. Sometimes referred to as business resilience, it is an ability of a company to withstand changes however disruptive they may be and continue operating. This practice deal with the threats to the organization, their prevention, and recovery from them.
The global situation is unprecedented. There is no one correct strategy to follow. The small business pandemic plan will be different from that of an enterprise. You need to take into account the specifics of your organization, industry, and location. However, continuity planning usually consists of at least four steps. Risk assessment, impact analysis, strategy development, and testing/maintaining.
The human relations department has a crucial task on their hands particularly at times of uncertainty. It is to communicate with the employees and guarantee their well-being. The business continuity plan for a pandemic must cover all the details of sick leaves, family emergency leaves, and other similar situations. Communicate the policies on payment and the ability to work remotely if necessary. A lot of organizations will have to alter their policies during the time of a pandemic so make sure the staff is aware of all the alterations.
One crucial change that you must consider is the work-from-home (WFH) policy. Even if your business doesn’t normally offer such benefits, a pandemic requires people to stay at home regardless if they are ill or not. If the nature of your work allows it, then all the potential short term productivity dips will pay off in the long-term when the peak of a pandemic is over. Allow your staff some time to adapt to a new way of working as well.
It’s crucial to keep track of which employee is WFH and which still has to come to work. Establish effective methods of communication with each. You may find that at such time you’ll have to use the services of an employee assistance program (EAP) to aid your staff with their well-being.
For larger companies, it is beneficial to have a properly trained reserve workforce for crucial tasks just in case the situation will require extra hands on deck. Contractors or even recent retirees may be a saving grace in a tough situation.
Last but by no means least, your HR department must always have up-to-date information on all the health and safety acts and employment legislation that is applicable to your business in the times of pandemic.
All of these tasks can be accomplished or made easier via HR software. Everything from performance monitoring to learning management has specialized tools. Tasks that you can perform in person require additional technological help to do remotely.
To prepare your management for a pandemic, allocate some time to set up guidelines for the process of making important decisions. Who will make them, what they will be, how will it be realized - the answers to all of these questions should be documented.
One such decision may be whether or not your company stays open for the duration of a pandemic. How long could your business sustain itself without an influx of new clients? You should be prepared to continue with your core processes for several months. Business intelligence software, preferably with AI functionality, is a must-have when it comes to such crucial data analytics, decision making, and strategic planning. There is no room for error, the future of your company is on the line. It may sound alarmist but it doesn’t make it less true.
During that period, managers should ensure that every employee is aware of their role and their tasks. Remote work or work under stress can easily cause disarray but if there is a good workplace culture already in place will help to mitigate that. Also, keep in mind that recovery after a pandemic also takes time. Just like that, productivity won’t bounce back immediately.
While the well-being of people is always of paramount importance, the company property also has value. Just like your physical office should have security measures when no one is there, intellectual property is also in danger when everyone works from home. Educate your staff on the topic of cybersecurity and set up VPNs for your staff if you handle sensitive data in your field of work.
In difficult times of isolation, few businesses can operate the way they used to. Companies must adapt and find new ways to organize their processes. Pandemics affects all industries. However, there are some similarities like conference calls, for example.
Assess your business processes. Which ones can you conduct from home? Internet connection matters now more than ever. You can hold online meetings through software like Zoom or Skype, work with schedules and reports through Google Docs and so on. The more alternative or universally accessible ways to do your job you have the better. Even quick-service restaurants and cafes have found ways to stay in business by introducing delivery options.
This illustrates the importance of digital transformation for business as a whole. For the longest time, its main benefits were mainly increased performance and efficiency. However, now it can be a matter of whether or not you can do your job at all.
Postpone face-to-face meetings and unnecessary travel. Online video conferences work just as well as long as the connection is stable. However, if your business is among the essential and requires people to be at the workplace then minimize the contact between your staff and customers. It’s not the most high-tech solution but an acrylic window in front of a front counter employee legitimately lowers the health risks.
Minimizing contact with the members of the public is not enough though. Changes should be made to the team arrangement as well. Smaller skeleton crew units working different shifts helps you retain a degree of productivity while still providing a safer working environment. Fewer people there are at any time aids in maintaining the distance between workers and easier.
Shifting to another schedule completely may end up being confusing, especially if it changes frequently. Having a management system that keeps track of such matters enables every member of your team to adjust easier. In addition, you will never lose track of who’s available when.
Having flexible work options is no longer a luxury or a bonus. It has become a necessary practice in the face of a pandemic. Without such a policy in place, you may find your organization disorganized when WFH remains the only option for the company’s survival.
This type of flexibility ensures that most of your employees will already have the required infrastructure to facilitate remote work in case of a pandemic. That way, you can transition into a company-wide WFH-mode smoothly. We realize that it’s not a universally applicable option for all types of businesses but sequestering essential staff can still be an option.
Since the need for remote work will be inevitable you must do everything in your power to guarantee it’s efficiency before the pandemic starts. The three whales to always keep in mind are communication, trust, and technology.
Remote work eliminates face-to-face interaction with people, which tanks the effectiveness of communication. That’s why you need to adopt quality over the lost quantity. Don’t ruin your coworker’s concentration by excessive idle chat during work time. It’s also important to keep your employees up-to-date with the situation. If your company faces difficulties during the outbreak communicate it clearly and openly.
Trust is essential in times of a pandemic. It may make sense to you to overcompensate for the loss of control you had at a physical office. There is plenty of employee monitoring software available. It certainly has plenty of benefits. However, you should understand that when people are forced to stay at home, a sudden introduction of a Big Brother-type software will not be welcome by a large percentage of your staff. If it’s necessary, however, start implementing it into their process gradually during calmer times and clearly communicate why it is needed.
Introduce technological solutions to common problems. As we have pointed out throughout the article, the software is your friend in this difficult time. Most of it can run on any home PC as long as it is not an expensive enterprise system where you need to pay extra for each new installation.
Use the information from the COVID-19 pandemic for future planning. Listen to the stories of your employees. What has helped them and what could be improved. Keep all of these suggestions in mind when creating a pandemic business continuity plan in the future.
To provide you with an insight into how it can be done look no further than our company. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Digital Skynet made sure we could guarantee that we can still provide our clients with software development regardless of the situation. We’ve always had a policy allowing our employees to work from home one day a week. To retain the efficiency of our work we have developed our own business intelligence system for internal use called IBISS.
As a result, when the outbreak began all of our departments already had the necessary infrastructure to work from home. At first, we allowed our staff to voluntarily switch to WFH-mode with the mandatory transition coming later due to the decree of the government. This gradual shift has helped us iron out all of the issues before the whole company was forced to encounter them.
During the pandemic, our work never stopped. We continue to develop custom software and support our clients in this difficult time. We’ve introduced new elements to our work process too. For example, a daily conference call to update each other on the day-to-day matters and not lose the sense of community and teamwork we have at Digital Skynet.
There is no telling how long will it take to recover from this coronavirus outbreak. The effects of it will be felt for years to come. One of them is the increased awareness and preemptive measures to minimize the damage. A pandemic business continuity plan, new WFH policies in most organizations, and software to facilitate all of that will be the new norm.