The Coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves through the business world and yet despite so many obstacles having suddenly appeared, the show must go on. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to guide your business and its workforce through the murky waters that have started to drown the UK economy.
You might already have a business continuity plan (BCP), but you have probably realised that whilst you planned for an event which involved moving your workforce to another location, you most likely did not plan for a situation in which none of your employees could leave their homes to attend work – that is, unless your employees are deemed key workers.
Equally, your business might be in its early years of development and perhaps it has never had a business continuity plan at all.
During these unprecedented times, businesses must create or review their BCP as a contingency plan will help many SMEs survive the Coronavirus pandemic. The effects of this global outbreak could last many months and for some businesses, the impact may be felt for years afterwards.
First, your business must diligently create its business continuity plan and as soon as it has, it must work to immediately implement it.
The aim? To operate as normally as possible whilst protecting your employees. Your business continuity plan should give an overview of your organisation, all of its interested parties, how the plan intends to protect the business from loss of production and how long the plan will take to complete.
Create A Crisis Management Team
Your business will need to assign certain members of staff to form a crisis management team. These individuals will be employees that are trained to respond to a crisis, such as the one businesses are currently facing and these members will be trusted to make important business decisions on behalf of the company.
Generally, senior and middle management usually make up a crisis management team and the team itself will be responsible for communicating any contingency measures that will take place as a result of the BCP. The crisis management team will need to lead in times of uncertainty, so it is essential that you identify employees with strong leadership skills.
Members of your crisis management team should be responsible for activating the business continuity plan and where necessary, escalating it in response to urgent changes.
Communicate Regularly with Your Workforce
You will need to implement a communications strategy that aims to keep all employees in the loop on a regular basis. Any communication shared with the wider team at your business regarding COVID-19 should be accurate and as up to date as possible.
Communication should come via various mediums, including written updates sent as emails but also phone calls or if possible, video conferences.
There should be a communication protocol for employees who need to bring to attention that they or a colleague might have Coronavirus. For businesses that are still operating due to falling into the essential work category, this is crucial as you will need to enforce self-isolation for those suspected of having the virus but also those who have come into contact with the individual.
With your employees confined to their homes for most of the day, your business should increase communication efforts to ensure that all employees are coping amid the outbreak. For isolated employees, regular communication is critical if they are to remain motivated and in good spirits.
Key Person Risk
An important part of your business’s BCP is the key person risk analysis. You need to identify the key workers in your business – by key workers, we mean the ones who, if they fell ill with COVID-19 or were not able to work due to looking after someone else, would cause a huge delay in day-to-day operations.
For example, if you have only one employee looking after the IT infrastructure of your business, you need to review what would potentially happen if they could no longer work (think: systems go down), how you can plan around it (is anyone else able to step in) and how you could mitigate any risks if they were out of work for some time (could you hire an agency to support your business instead).
Ensuring the Safety of Employees
Remember that your employees are at the heart of your business and without them, you simply wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. Look after them and in turn they will help look after your business.
If your employees are not essential workers, your office should be closed, and all employees should be working from home.
If your business has been allowed to remain open, you must take active measures to protect your workforce.
Should there ever be a suspected case of Coronavirus for someone who works at the business site, you will need to ensure that the premises is deep cleaned to prevent the spread of the virus.
Make A Risk Register
Your organisation will need to identify all critical business activities that must continue in the event of an emergency. When considering the current pandemic, your risk register should take into account the key activities your business must undertake in order to continue operating, with a focus on any tasks that might be difficult to complete given the mass quarantine ordered by the government.
If your business identifies key business activities that will be impacted at some point due to the lockdown, you must find a solution now before it becomes a problem at a later stage.
Equipment and Additional Resources
Given the nature of the COVID-19 situation, remote working has become a necessity for the majority of UK businesses, so it is important that your employees have everything they need to work effectively from home.
You will need to consider whether there are enough devices, such as laptops and monitors, for your entire employee base to work from home as efficiently as they would in the office. Also, if printing documents and getting them signed/sent over to the relevant parties is an important part of running your business, you will need to provide equipment such as printers and scanners to ensure the continuation of this.
For more SME advice regarding the Coronavirus situation, take a look at the additional resources on our Coronavirus Hub.
2 April, 2020