Business continuty in times of crisis

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold, businesses are facing new and unprecedented challenges. Many companies are suffering economically and operationally as a direct consequence of the pandemic and in order to survive, they need to react to the new business landscape quickly.

Regardless the nature of the firm, all firms needs to evaluate its business as we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis. The most fortunate firm’s had previously to the outbreak of COVID-19 created a system and process for business recovery in the event of a threat towards the business. However, not all firms have such organized business continuity management and therefore, it becomes even more important to act fast but consciously.

Background

While the long-term outlook of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is still highly uncertain, all levels of the society – businesses, families, individuals – need to adapt to new, troubling challenges. For businesses these challenges include supply and demand disruption and for individuals, which a company’s workforce consist of, challenges such as social distancing and serious health implications.

Business continuity is crucial – staff must be protected and able to work effectively so they can contribute to the economy and society. Thankfully, solutions to keep employees safe meanwhile assure business productivity exist that can be rapidly implemented at scale.

This article suggests different ways of securing your business continuity in times where the crisis is a fact.

Business continuity plan for COVID-19

One way of maximizing your businesses resilience in an organised way is to conduct a business continuity plan (BCP plan). A business continuity plan is the process of creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential crisis for a company. A BCP Plan is usually part of a company’s risk management efforts and should, in best case, be in place before the outbreak of a threat towards the business. A proper business continuity management system can be Iso 22301 certified if it follows the requirements for international standards.

With COVID-19 being a fact and not a potential, but real threat toward businesses, a business continuity plan can still be useful to set up. The ILO Bureau for Employers has conducted a guide “The six-step COVID-19 business continuity plan for SMEs” that can help firms get back on feet from the pandemic and its consequences. The guide consists of two parts: a risk assessment to identify how large risk the enterprise is exposed to and a tool consisting of a six step process to build your own BCP. Both parts focuses on the 4P:s that ILO suggests should be considered specifically and separately: people, processes, profits and partnerships.

In the second part of the Business continuity plan for COVID-19 (by ILO Bureau for Employers) a six step process for building your BCP is presented. These six steps include the following:

1.  Identify your key products or services
2.  Establish the key objectives of your BCP
3.  Evaluate the potential impact of disruptions to your enterprise and workers
4.  List actions to protect your business
5.  Establish contact lists
6.  Maintain, review and continuously update your BCP

With the help of this guide, companies can structure their efforts and secure that the most vital business is continuing.

Link to download the plan.

Organizational Measures For Business Continuity

In times of uncertainty, ensuring the ongoing availability of resources within an organization is important to limit disruption to daily business operations and maintain appropriate internal governance.

Leadership and oversight: To handle a crisis effectively, it is important that senior leadership and their support functions remain available and continue their oversight when working remotely.

One of the most critical aspects in times of crisis is communication. The management team needs to be available for questions and concerns and provide the firm’s employees with sufficient information regarding the situation. The information needs to be clear, transparent and delivered to the employees continuously. This becomes even more vital as many companies are working remotely. The conversations usually taking place by the coffee machine or casual information sharing in the hallway is suddenly no longer possible why the communication itself needs to be supported with a set plan for how and where communication should take place.

The management team of a company should also share what consequences the business is suffering from the pandemic and how the recovery plan looks.

In addition to communication efforts, every company needs to assign a crisis group that holds the final responsibility for any activities related to the corona pandemic. This group should consist of people from several departments in order to secure that all perspectives are represented in the bcp plan and crisis management.

Data protection: One key aspect to consider as many start working from home is data protection. The IT department (if available) needs to take measures that protects data, documents and material when employees can no longer work towards the local server. Once safe procedures and storage of documentation has been set up the personnel should carefully be instructed on how to store and share data in a safe way.

Return to work: Even if digitalization has made remote working possible and much more efficient than ever before, many tasks and jobs rely on physical presence at the office. Therefore it is vital for every firm to set up a plan with the ultimate goal of conducting business as usual including returning to the office or workplace. With the future of the pandemic being unclear, measures need to be taken in order to secure a safe return to work. Measures such as gradually introducing employees to the workplace, dividing the work into shifts and implementing health testing are examples of what a company can do to prevent for the infection to spread within the firm.

Please see the article phased return to work for more information.

Testing as a part of the safe return to work
One important part of the business recovery is to secure that the employees are able to perform their jobs. Therefore, employers need to prevent for their employees to be infected with COVID-19. In order to do so, firm’s can implement testing programmes as part of their business continuity plan. Several types of tests can be helpful to secure that only healthy employees are present at the workplace. These includes temperature testing and testing for ongoing or previous infection. The different tests serves different purposes, please see below for information:

Temperature screening: Detects if a person has fever which can be an indication of an ongoing infection. However, not all persons infected with COVID-19 gets fever why this screening method is defective in its own.
PCR / Antigen testing: These tests identifies if a person is currently infected with SARS-CoV-2. If a company implements a testing programme using any of these tests, continuous testing of those not carrying antibodies towards covid-19 should be considered in order to fully control the spread at the workplace. Persons that tests positive with a PCR or Antigen assay should be kept away from the workplace for as long as the local government recommends. PCR testing typically requires more resources and time to evaluate why rapid antigen testing is considered more convenient to use as screening method at a company. The rapid antigen testing provides tests results within 15 minutes and can therefore be taken before entering the workplace and more continuously than if PCR were to be used.
Antibody testing: Detects if the person has previously been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The test result provides information if a person is immune towards being re-infected and can be used to map out the spread in a larger group such as a company or department. The test results can be used as material for workforce planning and to eliminate those that has previously been infected with COVID-19 from future test programmes.

The business continuity plan that a company usually set up does most likely not include plans for what tests to use in case of the outbreak of a pandemic. The decision of if to implement testing programmes, what test to use and whom to test is therefore likely to be one that many company leaders now face and need to sort out. For questions and guidance on what test to use, please contact info@noviral.se.