Andy Williams, VP Business Development & Quality Assurance, Safehotels :
Coronavirus, 2019-nCov, has now reached Italy and is anticipated to spread across Europe. Despite the fact that pneumonia kills thousands each year, the unknown nature and apparent exoticness of the new virus is creating public panic.
The public are also employees of companies and when people fear for their health one of two things happen – either companies come second, and they stay at home, or they look for companies for help and advice.
As the virus spreads employees start to become anxious about their job as well as their own and their family’s health.
This is where the importance of business continuity planning comes into play for all sizes of companies in all sectors, especially labour-intensive business and business that rely on travel and face to face meetings.
The old saying, those who fail to plan are those who plan to fail is never more true than now. If you do not have a pandemic business continuity plan already in place, now is the time to start.
Here are some priority points to consider and help decide what is business critical and a priority to get your company a through a short, medium or long term coronavirus pandemic escalation.
• Information: Ensure your management teams are provided with factually
correct and consistent information and advice on the virus from an accredited medical organisation or government agency: not social media or the general news media. Bad news and poor information increase panic, correct news and good information reassure and calm. Prepare FAQ’s for employees and links to information services as described.
• Well-being and support: Be proactive in providing accredited advice on
preventative hygiene and recognising symptoms relating to the virus for all
employees. Include regular updates and allocate a team to respond to enquiries from employees in both written and verbal format.
• Supply Chain: Forecast both your personnel and product supply chain for
worst case business disruption and best-case business resumption in the short, medium and long term. List out what is business critical and minimum to the business without cutting too deeply into the bone that you are unable to walk and run quickly again when business returns to normal
• IT Infrastructure and Cyber Security: if the solution is to redeploy employees to work from home and remotely. Ensure the IT infrastructure, cloud storage and bandwidth capacity are in place for employees engaged and prioritised for remote working business critical functions to do so. Mandate and provide easy instructions on setting up and using VPN’s. Provide refresher training on Cyber and Information security.
• Equipment and Utility Servicing: If you have equipment and utilities due
annual servicing or preventative maintenance, do it now while the service is available, especially for air conditioning in anticipation of summer weather in a hot climate if the disruption is medium term.
• Pandemic Essential Supplies: Order handwash disinfectant and other
pandemic essential supplies now, before there is a rush on their supply if the situation is looking medium term. You can never have enough handwash disinfectant
• Scenario Planning: With your management team, conduct scenario planning for worst case impact of pandemic in short, medium and long term. Ensure scenario plans take into account all these points and any others specific to your business to keep it running, treading water or surviving in contingency mode until business is back to normal.
When business is back to normal, those who travel first will be welcomed the most.