It's difficult to think of an area of everyday life that isn't affected by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, and business is no exception.
It's natural for employees and corporate leaders alike to feel anxious about the future. However, by keeping the issues in perspective and working calmly to draw up a plan, businesses will be best placed to weather the approaching storm.
If you have an existing business contingency plan, now is the time to review it to make sure it's still fit for purpose and tailor it to the specific case of Covid-19. Here are some tips to make sure you're as prepared as possible:
Clear communication is always important in business. In a time of crisis, it's crucial. Employees may be anxious about their health, their families, and the financial implications if they are unable to work in the usual way.
Communication should be as clear as possible, with little room for interpretation or confusion. Strike a balance between providing much-needed information and avoiding unnecessary panic. When discussing Covid-19 specifically, base any advice on official guidance from expert organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
If you're transitioning to a home working model, ensure all employees know who to contact for technical help and updates on their workload. If possible, this should be worked out before any changes occur; the first days of the new routine are more susceptible to disruption, so minimising this is the key to a smoother transition.
Updates should be timely, clear and regular. Have a plan for how each individual will be contacted for work matters whilst at home.
Areas of Strength and Areas of Difficulty
It stands to reason that some departments and business functions will be able to adjust to a remote working model more easily than others. Identifying these as early as possible means you have more time to work out a plan for the trickier job roles.
Remember to take workplace stress into account. Change on this scale, even of a temporary nature, and living through a pandemic can aggravate existing mental ill-health conditions. Employers have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all staff. Make a plan to keep lines of communication open and make sure nobody feels isolated. If you are able to offer significant flexibility in terms of working hours, this can help anybody feeling burdened by unexpected extra childcare duties or looking after older relatives.
People who work remotely have some advantages under normal circumstances, but during times of crisis there can be extra challenges too. Acknowledge this may be a big transition for some workers and draw up plans to support them through it.
As people become used to remote working, it can be a benefit: people might find they are more productive and refreshed without commuting and more comfortable in their home environment. Some short-term teething difficulties are worth pressing through to keep your business up and running throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
Since it is a big change for people who are usually workplace-based, it is worth considering extra training on remote working to get people through the transition.
Plan for the Long Term
Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure how long contingency measures will need to be in place. It's entirely possible they could last for several months. Likewise, in a fast-moving situation such as a pandemic, everything can shift from day to day – so normality could return earlier than expected, too.
It's possible that a review of your company's sick pay and compassionate leave will be needed to get your staff through this difficult period. Should schools close in your area, people may need extra flexibility in working hours for childcare reasons. As far as possible, employers should try to meet these requests and have back up plans in place for cover if needed.
Business Continuity Plans
Writing a business continuity plan (BCP) that incorporates all of these elements will go a long way to ensuring you're as prepared as possible for the effects of Covid-19.
It also has the purpose of making sure everyone knows what to expect should social distancing measures like widespread working from home be introduced. In a time of uncertainty, this can have a reassuring effect on staff.