It’s all about preparation and not panic when it comes to business resilience
Now more than ever, businesses need to adapt. With the COVID-19 outbreak declared a national state of disaster in terms of Disaster Management, contingency planning has become a critical factor within business worldwide. This kind of preparation is useful in any event, whether it be for coronavirus, inclement weather, or train or bus strikes. It might keep managers awake at night, but it shouldn’t have to, especially as there is plenty that businesses can do now to prepare for operational resilience.
To help your business, we offer workplace advice on four areas to focus on, along with actionable recommendations, so your teams can try to keep operating no matter what’s happening in the world.
Work from home policy
If your business uses cloud technology, your employees can work from the comfort of their homes if there are business disruptions, and you can trust in the knowledge that your people will stay productive. Your finance team, for example, will be able to stay on top of managing cash flow and invoicing by accessing accounting software even if they’re not in the office.
Amid global events, many businesses around the world recognise that flexible work is beneficial (http://bpcc.org.pl/uploads/ckeditor/attachments/14371/IWG_report.pdf). According to 82% of employees for organisations offering flexible working say they’re more productive, while 58% say it improves job satisfaction.
The best policy is one where a culture where home working at any time is normalised for employees where it’s a realistic option.
- Adopt social distancing and implement remote working strategies
Consider the need for a work-from-home strategy for those areas of your business that can support remotely. Part of this could be to adopt cloud computing – and it doesn’t have to be a lengthy process to do it either. Having your data stored in the cloud rather than individual devices means information can be accessed anywhere if you have an internet connection. By adopting cloud computing, your employees will be able to work when and where they need to. Another component of this takeaway is encouraging employees to take their laptops – if they use them – home each evening in case the business or its environment has to close following an outbreak. Essentially, you need to equip your staff to work wherever they find themselves – in the office, at home, or even out on the road if they visit clients.
- Put the right tools in place
Do you have the right ones to ensure your employees can still be operational if they cannot make it into the office? Do they have access to laptops, work phones and adequate internet connectivity?
Technology is essential to ensure your people stay connected in situations such as this – not only with the company but your customers too. It will ensure work can happen in real-time and collaboration can take place across functions seamlessly. In the very short term, if you haven’t already adopted cloud computing, then tools like shared file service Microsoft OneDrive or the chat/meeting tool Microsoft Teams can be put in place. These will probably be part of your existing Microsoft Office subscription, so should bring no additional outlay.
- Avoid non-essential travel
Travel of any kind, including freight transport, can be affected. You may have considered travel bans within the business which, for sales staff, can be a severe blow. However, the same technology that enables remote working can enable them to continue to do their job via virtual meetings, rather than face-to-face. Unfortunately, there’s very little to get around freight transport and other logistics problems. Still, the situation can be helped by ensuring your suppliers and customers are in-sync about what’s feasible under the circumstances. Check your existing contracts for clauses that might deal with events such as this to work out where you stand legally.
Work advice and communication
Keeping your people connected, engaged and updated is critical when business continuity is concerned. Having the right mechanisms in place and using them at the right time is crucial to ensuring no panic or misinformation is surrounding what they should do.
You also need to keep lines of communication open with your customers, clients and suppliers. Let them know what they can expect of you and be sure you know what you can realistically expect of them.
- Establish communication channels
Have channels that allow you to send written updates and mobile updates in time-critical emergencies. You might want to put in place Coronavirus workplace posters explaining what’s happening in your business and to give advice. For your employees, consider introducing a teamwork hub that fuses group chat software with collaboration tools to enable teams to work and be updated together. Again, tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack are useful for this. Ensure email addresses (personal and company ones) are correct as well as mobile numbers. Do you have a company newsletter that you can tap into or an intranet?
- Maintain regular updates
Send regular (establish what you think regular looks like) updates – but importantly not too many, which could not only worry rather than reassure employees, suppliers and customers/clients, and annoy them especially if you are not saying anything new.
Create a workplace plan for emergencies
Take the opportunity to build-out what we’ve discussed above to create a contingency plan that’s fit for any similar level of the world event that might impact your business, your employees, your suppliers or your customers.
Here are five suggestions for how to get started.
- Assign an owner: all plans need a single point of contact and a single person who “owns” the plan and can delegate. This needn’t necessarily be a senior member of staff. But people need to know who it is. This person should be the critical sense-checker for the plan – the person who ensures the plan makes sense, and that nothing has been assumed.
- Invite input from all sources: the granularity of the plan will depend on your needs. You may decide that each function or department within your business needs its plan, for example. You may even decide that individuals should create their own plans. But they should all sync-up and be combined into a larger workplace plan.
- Consider your entire ecosystem – from supplier to customer/client: your plan might include a list of alternative suppliers for certain essential resources, to be used if your existing supplier becomes unavailable. It may include specific plans on how to treat individual customers, especially larger and/or more important ones.
- Make this a living document: don’t create it once, and then forget about it. Ensure your plan is reviewed periodically, and don’t be afraid to make changes should they be needed.
- Communicate: once the plan is created, ensure it’s available to all – and that all know what it is, where it can be found, and what it means for them.
Strong technology roots and good communication processes mean your business can continue to operate effectively even when challenged with incidents out of your control. Couple this with a supportive flexible-working culture, which empowers and enables colleagues to make the right decisions, and you’ll find that companies don’t have to slow down in a downturn.
COVID-19 Business Advice
We are here to support you during this time.
We’ve gathered information and resources to help navigate this situation. You can also find out about support for Sage solutions, including enabling home working.