You probably had a business continuity and disaster recovery plan ready in case of an emergency like a fire or storm, or loss of a utility such as power or gas. However, many of us are realizing that we will need a very different plan for resuming operations as social distancing guidelines are lifted.

The worst-case scenario has already occurred, with most industries’ employees unable to report to work, as well as the devastation of critical illness and lives lost. Our job as business owners is to develop a plan to keep core business activities afloat with limited staff and resources, so that we can continue to serve our customers and provide stability for our employees.

 

key points to consider before you begin to formulate your business continuity plan:

  • Pandemics are expected to occur in 2 to 3 waves, with breaks of 3-9 months between outbreaks

  • Each wave should last 6 to 8 weeks 

  • A pandemic can last up to 2 years with these cycles

Short-term, we need a plan to gradually resume on-site operations in a way that reduces exposure to lingering contagions, and is adjustable depending on the ebb and flow of any new wave of outbreaks. Your plan should cover both smaller and larger rates of absenteeism.

Long-term, we will need to redefine processes, expectations, operating models, and goals to become more flexible and adapt to the post-pandemic business environment.

 

What goes into a business continuity plan? 

The level of detail in your business continuity plan will depend on factors such as the size of your company and the complexity of your operations.

Your plan should cover the following:

 

1. Personnel

  • It’s likely that you’ll need to make alternate staffing arrangements to keep employees working from home when possible, and maintain operations with a significant percentage of your staff out sick at any given time.

  • Focus on cross-training, particularly if there are areas of your business which are executed by one or two employees, or even things that are currently managed by only YOU. Payroll and human resources are particularly important areas for cross-training to prevent issues with employee compensation.

  • Establish a clear chain of command to ensure that important decisions can still be made if key individuals are not available. Each person within the chain of command should have access to the information and tools they need to take necessary action, and your entire organization should understand who to defer to in the event that the usual hierarchy is disrupted. 

 

2. Protecting essential staff

  • Drastic changes to your workspaces may be required to keep essential staff safe. 

  • Sequester employees whenever possible by using individual offices and eliminating common spaces. Use protective barriers such as clear plastic dividers to protect employees with frequent customer contact.

  • Implementing smaller shifts can help space out employee workstations. Keeping consistent groups together for each shift and leaving time between shifts to sanitize work areas helps to minimize possible virus exposure.

 

3. Epidemic-specific employee support

  • While once more prevalent in food service or spa industries, EVERY business will need thorough hygiene training and easy access to supplies like hand-washing stations, hand sanitizers, and cleaning supplies. 

  • Make efforts to update and clarify sick leave and family leave policies, especially if you’re making changes or exceptions during times of global crisis. Establish remote-friendly EAP arrangements to help employees cope with grief and stress.

 

4. Communication

  • You may have employees that can fulfill all job responsibilities remotely. How will they communicate with each other and any on-site staff? 

  • Implement chat software and project management software to ease the pain points of remote team communication. You’ll also likely need new workflows to account for the inability to perform group huddles, in-person discussions, etc.

  • As you integrate project management and chat software, take the time to periodically assess, refine, and optimize your workflow and the ways in which you use your digital tools. Request feedback from your team to check for hot spots that need your attention.

 

5. Customer relationships

  • While many businesses understand the value of outbound communication—explaining how your processes are changing due to the pandemic and what that means for your customers—it’s important to also understand how your clients’ organizations are affected.

  • Take action to learn what’s happening in their businesses and industries. The information you gather will give you an idea of how those changes might impact your own operating model.

  • Stay in frequent contact with your clients—even those who have halted operations and paused contracts—to see if you can find new ways to be valuable. Perhaps a new challenge has arisen that your business is equipped to handle.

 

6. Legal obligations

  • Complete a risk assessment of existing agreements to be aware of possible legal ramifications due to non-fulfillment or failure to meet service agreements. Consult your legal counsel to ensure that you don’t make short-term adjustments which may be damaging in the long-term. 

 

7. Cash flow

  • Make financial plans for the next 30, 60, and 90 days. Complete regular client risk assessments to stay aware of your vendors’ and customers’ financial viability and how any risks can impact your business. Focus on cost containment and preserving your cash flow. Most importantly, keep a close eye on the changing business environment and be prepared to adapt.

 

It’s not too late to formulate a business continuity plan to carry you through this global crisis. Stay aware, stay positive, and know that we are here to support you in any way we can.

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