As Coronavirus cases continue to rise, it is an important time for organisations to consider how they plan to continue their operations should key employees become ill, required to work from home due to isolation or other outbreak-related impacts across the community.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) business continuity planning
BDO has compiled a list of items that an organisation should consider and prepare for as part of their business continuity plan. Firstly, organisations should identify and gather a team of key internal stakeholders to form a ‘response team’ representing all business areas. The role of the response team will be to develop a plan tailored to your business. As part of this process, the response team should consider the following key action items.
1. Identify scenarios that may impact business operations from two different perspectives – people and materials
- People (inability to deliver product/service by staff or supplier): Consider employees and other people at the centre of your plans. It is certain that a pandemic event will impact your business – whether that is staff not being able to get to work or being unable to complete business as usual processes. Examine now how you can mitigate these impacts by considering:
- How would you operate with 50% of your workforce unavailable?
- If the number of cases spikes in your location, when would you close your business to the public?
- Communicate with staff frequently to keep them informed of your plans.
- Materials (unavailability of supply in and out of the organisation): Your existing business continuity plan should already consider the unavailability of your supply chain and have a plan in place. Review these plans and identify suppliers that are at risk based on the current or expected conditions. Review contractual coverage you have with your supply chain (suppliers and clients/customers).
2. Identify staff members to authorise the enactment of your continuity plan
When the need arises to activate, the process should be as clear and efficient as possible with clarity on who has the authority to activate the plan. All your staff should know this process.
3. Outline critical business processes and systems
What are the critical processes that need to operate in your organisation? Can you conduct your processes and access your systems if away from the office? For example, the ability to perform a payroll run if needed remotely, for 50% of your workforce to work remotely or for the leadership group to meet via videoconferencing from home if needed.
Plan and review these responses now.
4. Rehearse employee contact processes
Do you have a method to contact your staff easily and effectively? It could be a mass SMS tool, a distribution group created in your email system, the responsibility of managers to contact their direct reports, or intranet/website content. Test your method now and confirm that it works. Consider:
- Alerting staff to possibilities of being contacted in this manner
- Preparing approved wording for communications in advance
- Making sure employees know who they should contact in case of illness or travel.
5. Develop a communication plan
Have a clear communication guideline or framework complete with pre-prepared messages, taking into consideration the items identified above. The communication plan should consider who, when, what and most importantly, how to continue/restore business. This will give staff clarity, certainty and confidence in the organisation.
6. Consider health and safety processes
Just like normal flu season, consider employee and customer health and safety (e.g. sanitising wipes and liquid). Set expectations for employee behaviour when sick – should they take time off, work from home or work elsewhere. As flu season also approaches, consider benefits such as flu vaccinations for staff.
7. Discuss insurances
Have discussions with your insurers about possible business impacts. Make sure you understand what you are and aren’t covered for.
8. Know the location of important documentation and information
Are they in a drawer, filing cabinet or compactus in your office? What if you cannot easily get into the office or the office location poses a risk? Upload copies of critical information to secure locations in case needed.
9. Be aware of fraud
When attention is elsewhere, it is easy for humans to be distracted and click on that link in an email or not follow established precautions. This is a good time to remind and educate staff on internet scams.
Rarely do we conduct an activity perfect the first time. Make sure you and your staff document any response activity and actions taken. After the event, use the information to learn and enhance your planning to make your response better next time.
If you’d like more information about your approach to business continuity planning, please contact Mark Cushing or Scott Rowan from our Consulting team.
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