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5 May 2020
Concerns over the effect of Covid-19 on employee welfare, global supply chains and local operations are front of mind for businesses. Even if you perceive the threat of coronavirus as low on a personal level, the development and implementation of risk management policies and procedures during a pandemic may help your business during potentially tough times ahead.
Despite advances in medicine and improved infection control practices, the Covid-19 outbreak, along with the Zika pandemic and Ebola virus and Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreaks in the last decade – are stark reminders of the social, economic, and geopolitical dangers posed by rapidly spreading disease. These outbreaks have disrupted normal business activity in far reaching ways.
Establishing a business plan to navigate a potential outbreak, epidemic or pandemic is a balancing act that requires business owners to look beyond their own personal perceptions of the risks. While heightened media attention might be considered hyperbole at a personal level and the panic buying an unnecessary and disproportionate reaction you don’t need to get swept up in, the reality is most businesses will be affected regardless.
How employees and customers react to an epidemic or pandemic has a direct link to your business. Will there be interruptions to distribution and supply? What are the flow-on effects from other businesses? How much complexity will future precautionary health procedures add to normal business practice?
Also, understanding how ongoing border restrictions, health-related employee stand-downs or supply chain issues might impact on your operations are all very important.
Preparation is key to minimising disruption so you’re always best to take a considered approach and make a plan.
While global health emergencies of these types are constantly evolving in nature, establishing strategies that cover your business’ emergency response, business continuity, crisis management and communications will be key to moving through the disruption and looking forward to business life beyond the crisis.
Identify critical people, process and technologies that have the biggest negative impact on your business and create recovery strategies to minimise any disruption.
Check your business continuity and pandemic procedures to ensure your organisation is prepared if your employees become ill. Your continuity plan should include the measures you will take if an employee is impacted and how to accommodate employees who don’t have the ability to work from home where relevant. It should also include a plan to address any employee who is at risk of infection.
Work with your supply chain partners to ensure you have a back-up plan should there be a breakdown along the line. Trade credit insurance could be a worthwhile consideration in this respect.
Share information and official updates from organisations (such as the WHO or government agencies) with your employees so they are up to date with credible sources of information.
Encourage them to speak up if they start to develop symptoms and reassure them that self-reporting is safe.
Educate your employees on your continuity plans and procedures so they know what to expect if your company is impacted. Issue travel advisories and make sure they understand the resources available to protect them. Ongoing communication about the pandemic will help your employees feel informed.
Government guidelines for operating businesses under different alert levels will impact how you operate within your physical workplace.
Establish procedures for dealing with customers and vendors who physically need to visit your premises. Review staff rosters and make decisions around staffing numbers required: are you able to reconfigure your office environment so staff can perform their roles with more space around them?
Increasing the frequency of office cleaning programmes and providing more personal hygiene products like hand sanitiser and masks for your employees will also be important.