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COVID-19 Contingency Plan?

And here we are again - talking about readiness, reviewing our ability to weather unpredictable challenges that show up, generally from external sources. They could be weather related (floods, fires, hurricanes), lawsuits (unhappy shareholders, injury), or … unwanted, unexplainable viruses that may be affecting supply chain, staffing and sales. All of these things impact our ability to have a sustained business – one that is in it for the long haul.

Often, when we think of our readiness factor, our only contingency plan is paying insurance premiums. But what about the hits that show up that are uninsurable, that touch the day to day workings of our business? These can appear in a number of ways - a poor culture that affects recruiting and retention, product defects that influence revenues and reputation, financial mismanagement or the ability to predict trends or outcomes that stem from our action or … inaction.

All of these issues have a direct social impact – once again, the operative word is social. I’m not talking about philanthropy or charity. I’m speaking about the things that affect the human beings within your company’s circle of influence, either directly or indirectly. As leaders, they should be on your radar and you should be acutely aware of how your company responds to them.

Lately, the headlines I wake up to daily concern the Coronavirus (COVID-19). I’m not going to comment on this fast traveling virus from a medical perspective, there is plenty of information available to you by people more qualified than me to speak about it. My question to you is – what contingency plans do you have in place when, and if, it arrives at your back door or within your radius of influence?

Although a lot of the larger companies have staff to monitor these types of situations, smaller companies and entrepreneurs are often juggling and multitasking, just trying to keep revenue coming in and the doors open. Even the loss of one pair of hands can be huge. Yet, readiness may be even more critical to their viability. Things to consider:

  • Is it time to broaden your sick leave policies? Can you take the chance of people coming to work sick because they are left with no other option? This may be especially true for hourly workers who are only paid for the hours they work. What is the makeup of your workforce?

  • If one of your options is to have employees (who might be quarantined from exposure even though not sick) work remotely, are they set up for success? Can they access the company network from home, do they have the right equipment, will they be compensated for supplies etc.? How will you keep productivity high?

  • Will you handle certain classes of employees that may be more at risk such as pregnant women or older men differently?

  • How will you respond to parents who may have to work from home because daycares or schools have been closed? Or, employees may find themselves supporting a family member or dependent that finds themselves in isolation or the hospital?

  • Can you revise your travel policies and conduct more meetings via video conference? If employees become ill on travel, how will this affect your workers compensation policies if claims spike?

  • How are you handling the return of employees that may be visiting offices in restricted areas? Is paid furlough an option? If they believe they have become infected, do you have a process in place for them to self-report? How will you assess other employees they may have come into contact with the infected person?

  • Are you providing training to all your employees about preventative measures and ensuring there is product to help them, such as hand sanitizers, tissues, air filters or masks? Have you upped your cleaning crew schedules to ensure surfaces are clean?

  • Do you have a communication plan reporting all actions you are taking to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace? Are everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details up to date?

At the end of the day, in order to have a sustainable business, you must have a business continuity plan. Your business thrives because of your people and you have a social responsibility to them and to their health and wellbeing. This is not about panic or over reaction. This is about being prepared and conscious of the best interests of all your stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, vendors, community.) This is about your continued success!

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