Current thoughts for business owners on the CoronaVirus Pandemic
As most of Europe is preparing to shut down their economies for the foreseeable future, those businesses which deal with overseas companies need to recognise that supply chains will, most likely, be disrupted. You need to factor this into your plans when managing your stock levels.
Businesses should consider how the economic slow down will affect their businesses. If you are manufacturing face masks or sanitisers, you are likely to be very busy, but most businesses may not be in such favourable positions.
- Breaking News is that the World Health Organisation has confirmed that the Corona Virus Covid-19 is officially a Pandemic. A Pandemic is defined by the WHO as the worldwide spread of a new disease.
- The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the 11 March budget, proposed extra spending of £12b in total with over £5b for the NHS and £7bn set aside for business and workers. How this will be allocated will become clear in future weeks and months.
Step Guide to CoronaVirus Planning for Business Owners and Leaders
1. Be CoronaVirus Ready – Make a Start!!
Whilst everyone should follow the Public Health England (PHE) advice, this generally relates to individuals. But business owners need to be aware of how they can minimise the impact on their business and control the effect of the virus.
- Allocate someone senior to “own” the issue in your business. They must have the responsibility, authority and budget to implement decisions in your organisation.
- Create or Update your absence policies. Staff need to know what is acceptable absence, whether it will be paid, if they can work from home (more on this later), what is expected from them, and what support they can expect from you.
- Have a daily check on the World Health Organisation www.who.int and Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
It’s Good to Talk
The key thing which all businesses can do is talk … to their staff, customers and suppliers.
- Create a communications plan – Agree what messages to give to staff – make sure it still fits with the Public Health England advice, as this may change as the Covid-19 impact changes.
- Make sure you keep the messages the same to everyone – both internally to staff and externally to your customers.
- Make sure your messages reassure and not alarm. It is essential to keep everyone calm.
- Talk to your key suppliers and find out how they are affected, what it means to your supply chain and how you can help each other through the crisis.
- Monitor the situation with schools – your staff may need to be away to look after schools.
Keep It Clean!
It’s essential that cleaning regimes are enhanced during the current situation.
Identify Key Staff
In most businesses, there are ‘islands of knowledge’ which are shared between a few people, for instance, typically IT and Finance Teams. Be aware that Covid-19 may affect groups of individuals, rather than 1 in 4 people evenly across the business. A key part of managing risk in your business is to ensure that the knowledge needed to keep your business moving is obtained from these people.
- Find the “Islands of Knowledge” in your business
- Make sure that the knowledge is written down in procedure documents
- Split the teams to different locations to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.
- Cross-train other staff on the key processes. Make sure you are not vulnerable to a full team outage.
Working From Home
Office-based businesses, especially, are often able to allow some staff to work from home. This can provide a great Business Continuity option, but there are some challenges you need to be aware of.
- Make sure your staff have an appropriate place to work (do they live in shared accommodation with little control over space?)
- Do they have a separate office/room away from distractions (noisy kids, barking dogs, partners vacuuming, etc)?
- Are they customer contact staff? If so, are you comfortable the customer experience will still reflect ‘how’ you want your business to be received?
- Make sure staff are clear on the expectations of working from home (hours worked, agreed flexibility)
- Will you be paying for (or contributing towards) additional costs, broadband, electricity etc.
- Are they insured to work at home? Is your business insured for home workers?
- How will you deal with IT equipment failures, can you cope with remote accessing IT equipment?
Prepare and plan for the impact of Covid-19 hitting your organisation
- Prepare your first aiders and management personnel to recognise the symptoms of the CoronaVirus
- Identify the areas you can suspend in the short term to concentrate available resources in key areas.
- Identify your staff who are particularly vulnerable – with underlying health issues, dependants, etc.
- Ensure any actions you take follow Public Health England and UK Government advice.
- Prepare communications for when a member(s) of your team contracts the virus
- Prepare communications for if a member of staff becomes critically ill or even dies.
- Consider what would happen if YOU are incapacitated or die!
Most business owners have never experienced a true pandemic outbreak … we don’t yet know the true impact it will have but one thing is clear – all businesses need to plan and prepare as much as practical. If you need professional help then call this in urgently – leaving it could just make it too late!