The Covid-19 pandemic raises a number of very significant issues for business continuity and even business survival. These issues include employee availability, supply chain disruption and social distancing. As companies return to full operations post-lockdown, they will have to adapt to a new normal with new ways of working and significantly changed business operating models.
Traditional business continuity responses, such as moving to a back-up site will not work during a pandemic. The problem will be with people being unavailable this time rather than technology being unavailable. Unlike a standard business continuity events, where restoring technology is the greatest issue, during a pandemic, technology can provide the solution.
There are a number of very specific pandemic related business continuity issues:
- The first issue is employee availability. The UK government has estimated that up to 20 per cent of the workforce could be absent at any one time through sickness or quarantine. A report by Deloitte suggested that employee absenteeism in a pandemic situation, even if not actually sick, could raise this percentage to around 45 per cent. This impacts on productivity and deepens the challenge of managing supply chain disruptions.
- The second issue is supply chain disruptions. China, for example, generates around one quarter of the world’s output, including generic medicines used in the NHS and parts for mobile phones and computers. The previously unthinkable closure of national borders will have a profound and long-term impact on supply chain planning for businesses everywhere.
- Social distancing measures that have now been introduced meaning that employees who can work from home will be expected to do so, and those offices that do re-open will potentially have only 15 per cent attendance. Business operating models will have to change as a result. The same is true of environments such as: hospitals, airports, transport hubs, stadiums, entertainment outlets, warehouses, factories and schools.
- There remains the possibility of a catastrophic impact for a business where there is a local outbreak, involving employees, customers or even family members, which could lead to individuals being quarantined and premises being closed. Equally the possibility of subsequent waves of infection will make planning for uncertainty and unpredictability key business issues.
A significant element of the new normal is going to be employees working from home where they can do so. There are benefits to this for both the employee and the organisation. Less time spent commuting, less exposure to risk of infection and a more agile and resilient workforce.
But there are dangers too, that the employee may not be working in an appropriate work space, for example. Organisations have a duty of care to ensure that employees have a safe place to work as well as protecting corporate digital assets and complying with Information Security, Legal, GDPR and other requirements. Completed properly, the return to work at home will be accompanied by a site survey and risk assessment of the home office environment.
Some companies are planning for no more than 15 per cent of employees to return to the office to work over the next six months. Working from a laptop at home is within the zone of acceptable workspace, working on classified material from a laptop at a coffee shop is not.
The objective of employee monitoring is to identify three things, all of which will have an operational impact and will help you to fulfil your duty of care as an employer:
- Is your employee unable to work because they are symptomatic, isolating, shielding or exercising caring responsibilities?
- Is your employee unable to work for Covid-19 related or non-Covid-19 reasons?
- Is your employee able to report to work and if so where are they located?
A number of our customers are using Crises Control to remotely monitor the health and wellbeing of their employees during remote working. They have told us that Crises Control is a vital tool for them to keep track of and support their teams during lockdown. They are combining the Crises Control platform with other available tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom to keep their operations going and their employees safe at the same time.
As the world moves into a post-pandemic stage, in the so-called new normal, many organisations will permanently adopt new operating methods discovered under lockdown.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, enterprises must make plans to prepare their own businesses to mitigate and respond to the disruptions incurred in this and any further pandemic scenarios.
They should detail a series of incident scenarios associated with a pandemic, including
employee infection and quarantine, building closure, service interruption, working remotely and supply chain disruption. Alongside each different scenario they should prepare:
- Pre-prepared messages to employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
- Recommended protocols to be followed to respond to, and mitigate, any incident type.
- A list of actions to return to business as usual as quickly as possible.
The objective of this pandemic planning is to:
- Mitigate and contain the impact of the pandemic upon the company’s business objectives.
- Enable the business to continue to operate, perhaps in a reduced capacity, over a period of time.
- Speed the return to business as usual as quickly as possible, potentially in a changed market environment.
The Business Continuity Institute has conducted a survey of their members to assess how they see the response to Covid-19 developing and what opportunities might result. This has been published in Coronavirus – A Pandemic Response (2020). This research found that:
- 68 per cent of their members saw more homeworking opportunities for staff
- 66 per cent of members saw business continuity and resilience receiving more attention at board level
- 64 per cent of members saw improved processes going forward for grey swan events
- 63 per cent saw improved technology resources for their business
- 59 per cent foresaw better communication processes in place for their company
To address the new reality, Crises Control has produced a white paper entitled “Helping your business to survive through COVID19 and beyond”, with advice for companies on how to meet the challenges ahead in the new world and take advantage of the unique opportunities it provides.
Shalen Sehgal, founding member Crises Control