The rate at which coronavirus has spread throughout the world and the impact it has had on a global scale over the past few months has certainly been unprecedented. While most companies considered themselves to be resilient, safe and forward-thinking, this pandemic has made many reassess their emergency response plans and take fast and urgent action to put new systems in place to protect their staff, customers and business.
The social distancing measures, followed by national lockdown, has resulted in the majority of companies being forced to close or at least dramatically reduce their operations in order to reduce the spread of the illness among employees and the risk of contracting it.
Importance of business continuity plans
Several businesses have not prepared for this situation, nor have they included a response to a pandemic in their previous crisis management plans. However, if there is something Covid-19 has shown us, it is the importance of having such contingency strategies and business resilience, so that organisations can continue to survive even during the most difficult periods.
Companies have had to make changes and take important decisions at very short notice, whether that includes choosing whether to close entirely or to put their staff on a rota so fewer people are in the building at any one time.
Indeed, major retailer Next decided to close its online sales operations, as well as its stores, to keep workers who would have to pick, package, and send the deliveries safely. It made the decision quickly, as only two days before it had tried to encourage employees to stay in the warehouses by offering a 20 per cent rise to those willing to come in.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reported by The Metro as saying Next had “listened very carefully”, adding: “It is clear that many increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate.”
While retailers such as Next might not have been able to predict this crisis or have it included iin their previous emergency plans, they were able to draw on company policies, ethics and beliefs to make a quick decision to maintain their morale responsibilities to staff members.
- Emergency Health Service Planning
It could be argued that no industry requires a more stringent emergency response plan than the health sector, and the government is striving to create new strategies to protect as many staff as possible to maintain service levels during this difficult period.
The Department of Health has issued the next phase of emergency health service planning for Covid-19, which includes how to prioritise patient care, quickly discharge those who are medically fit, dramatically limit hospital visitors, and reconfigure hospital services.
Richard Pengelly, the Department’s Permanent Secretary, wrote a letter to Trust chief executives to ensure they understand the importance of the plans.
He wrote: “Our health and social care system has never been more needed nor more under pressure than it is today. Right across our system, from top to bottom, people are shouldering this burden and doing all they can to prepare services for the full impact of Covid-19.”
It is clear that for any healthcare plan to be effective, all Trusts need to be on board.
He added: “In some cases, it is recognised that this may mean that other services are temporarily reduced as the focus is on providing essential services and helping those most at risk access the best possible treatment.”
Mr Pengelly added that clinicians should split patients into priority groups, with those with the least severe conditions having their treatment delayed for up to three months while urgent care and treatments are given top priority.
Healthcare managers need to take heed of the plans and make sure their entire workforce understand and implement it. Consistency is key here, particularly with guidelines changing all the time, which is why hospitals and all care centres need to adhere to the updated strategy.
- Business continuity plans
While it is hard to look past each day at the moment, companies should try and create business continuity plans to ensure they survive this crisis and can build and strengthen their operations once it is all over.
Your recovery procedures should include keeping critical functions operating; allowing staff to work remotely so they retain employment and loyalty, and are able to maintain operations and creating ideas and strategies on how to re-launch the business after the threat of the pandemic has ended.
This could include considering a new distribution channel; introducing different services or products that might be increasingly in demand or altering your flexible working strategy to reduce ill-health among employees in the future.
Use this period to create audits, gather learnings, retrieve data, and gather de-briefs from employees about what has been effective and what recommendations they would suggest for future business continuity plans.