You can’t prevent or predict when coronavirus might impact you, but you can start preparing your business. A survey from CGA found that 83% of business leaders are producing hygiene guidelines for staff, 60% are producing guidelines on how to self-isolate and 61% are trying to minimise cash flow risks. Preparing in advance is key to mitigating negative implications of the virus.
A continuity plan aims to protect your people, your business’s information, cash flow and reputation. You should already have continuity plans in place as part of your general risk management. Now it’s time to tailor these to a potential outbreak of coronavirus.
Continuity plans could range from relatively minimal impact (such as a small number of staff members being off sick) right through to mass staff illness or even the temporary closure of the whole business.
Authorities such as the Financial Conduct Authority are expecting firms to have contingency plans in place to deal with an outbreak of coronavirus, ensuring they still meet their regulatory obligations. The FCA stated: “If firms are able to meet these standards and undertake these activities from backup sites or with staff working from home, we have no objection to this.”
Businesses must assess operation risks and how they’ll overcome these – plus put business continuity measures in place. This great continuity self-assessment from Ecclesiastical will help you prepare for any disruption caused by a coronavirus outbreak.
Stay up to date with official advice
The Government has launched an action plan stating four key phases to respond to the outbreak:
- Contain: try to keep the outbreak under control and prevent the disease from spreading
- Delay: slow the outbreak and minimise its impact
- Research: work on better ways to diagnose, treat and vaccinate against coronavirus
- Mitigate: provide the best care and support for people who become ill
Businesses are advised to monitor WHO, NHS and Public Health England for the latest advice and information. A select group of employees should be responsible for keeping up to date with updates and reporting this to the rest of the business. This is the most efficient way to share news and information.
Analyse your business
Start by analysing and evaluating how a coronavirus outbreak could impact your business operations. This process will help you identify operational risks.
For example, if your business requires employees to record telephone conversations with customers, how can employees work remotely? Trial and test new systems and technologies to ensure your business can continue as usual, even if a large number of staff have to work from home.
Evaluate how you can continue to function with a limited number of employees or without a physical office. If a number of senior leaders are ill or self-isolated, who will open your premises, deal with urgent problems or submit vital reports? Put contingency plans in place for all eventualities. Upskill members of the team where possible to ensure you aren’t entirely reliant on just one or two individuals.
Review your supply chain
If relevant, begin conversations with critical vendors and suppliers early to identify any potential issues with your supply chain.
Begin measuring and documenting loss as soon as possible. Understand where disruptions may occur, and update plans to minimise the impact of these disruptions.
If needed, begin to identify sourcing products or services from alternative suppliers. You may need to change or delay the services or interactions you’re able to offer your customer. Communicate this to your customers as soon as possible – being transparent and honest from the outset will help you both work together to find the best solution.
Promote good hygiene
Most people know the following:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, or frequently use hand sanitiser
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid close contact with ill people
- Seek medical advice as soon as you have respiratory symptoms
- Continue to follow good food safety practices
However, you still need to do your due diligence in the workplace. Make sure key hygiene advice is shared with your employees.
You should routinely clean your premises, including cleaning all frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant. It’s also a good idea to provide disposable wipes so employees can wipe down commonly used surfaces before use (such as computer keyboards, door handles, remote controls etc).
If an employee or visitor becomes ill or contracts coronavirus, businesses are advised to deep clean the premises in order to prevent other staff getting ill. If someone falls ill while on the premises, isolate them from others as soon as possible and advise them to call 111 on their personal phone. Then, create a plan of action to get the individual home while minimising interaction with other members of the public.
Look after your staff
Employees will now receive statutory sick pay from the first day off work but it is at the discretion of each business whether they offer full pay for staff if they must self-isolate without the option of working from home. It may be worth amending your sickness absence policy for a limited time. Ultimately, self-isolation will help to contain the virus so employees shouldn’t feel pressure to come into the workplace and potentially spread infection.
Ill employees should be encouraged to stay away from the business premises, and advised to contact 111.
Produce self-isolation guidelines so employees know what to do if they need to self-isolate. Review and modify your HR policies if needed to allow greater flexibility to standard day-to-day working procedures.
Make the most of technology
You will need the right tools, technology and security measures in place to allow employees to work remotely.
Start preparing sooner rather than later, in case you do need to close your business premises and a large number of employees need to work from home. Make sure you have the right equipment, security and infrastructure in place for staff to be able to work remotely. This includes reviewing your security and connectivity to ensure the system can support a larger number of people working remotely.
Find practical solutions in advance so you aren’t left in a panic trying to find last-minute work arounds. For example, if you need to arrange conference call facilities, this should be done far in advance of a coronavirus actually impacting your business.
You should also consider how operations will continue in the absence of IT services, and make sure this is planned for.
Communicate with your employees
Your employees should know your business’s plan. Send an all-staff email and put posters on-site explaining your business’s stance on the coronavirus outbreak and how you plan to respond to it.
You should also prepare a working from home policy, which ensures your employees know how to safely and effectively work from home.
Make sure there is an up to date contact list of all staff members and their emergency contacts. This will allow you to communicate key changes to all staff if needed, whether they’re in the office or not.
It’s important to provide good advice and transparent information, without inciting panic. If a member of staff or a recent visitor has confirmed coronavirus, it may be appropriate to share this information with the rest of your team. Don’t name the infected individual in order to protect their confidentiality, and provide practical, authoritative advice that will reassure your staff and calm anxieties.
Examine key functions and processes
If you have several office locations, prepare a strategy that enables tasks to be transferred to different offices.
Do you need to upskill some employees, or transfer key skills? If a number of important staff members are absent, you need to ensure your business can operate as usual. This means transferring knowledge and information so other employees can ‘takeover’ if needed.
If your business relies on regular travel or important meetings, consider how you may reduce travel via public transport. Postpone or rearrange non-essential meetings, or make use of video-conferencing technology.
Risk assessments are key
Examine the threats to your business brought about by coronavirus, such as staff illness. Identify ways to improve your workplace to minimise these risks (such as sending ‘at risk’ staff members home on full pay). Keep track of employees’ personal and business-related travel plans. Travel restrictions or self-isolation advice may impact employees who have travelled abroad, and businesses should be prepared for this.
Keep an eye out on our social media channels for the latest updates on coronavirus and its potential impact on businesses. If you have specific questions about your insurance policy, download our coronavirus information piece.