Over the last few days, we have had dozens of clients ask our team for insight into how other clients are reacting to the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a matter of information sharing, we thought it might be useful to summarize how your peers in the market are reacting. Hopefully this information can be used to inform your own decision-making process.

What We Are Seeing

Office Operations

Many of our clients have reported that they will:

  • Continue business as usual, however almost all have expressed that they are closely monitoring the situation for official guidance from authorities.
  • Encourage remote work, where feasible for employees.
  • Permit visitors (such as consultants and vendors), however will encourage remote working and telecommuting where possible.
  • Implement flexible work hours and work-from-home policies to account for childcare or unique family care situations (e.g. where schools have been temporarily closed).

A limited number of our clients have temporarily closed their offices. For the most part, these clients can fully operate their business with a remote workforce with limited or no impact to overall operations. As of today, office shutdowns are scheduled to be 1-2 weeks in duration and subject to update as the situation develops.

Several clients have also expressed that they are using this as an opportunity to test their remote work capabilities.

Travel Policies

Many of our clients have issued the following travel guidance (unless otherwise stated by authoritative guidance):

  • Encourage business unit leaders to limit travel to “business-essential” travel only.
  • Prohibit travel to high-risk areas unless an explicit exception has been granted by company leadership.

The above information is anecdotal based on the firms we have interacted with over the last couple of weeks, but I hope you find it valuable in your own decision-making process. If you have any questions or would like to share feedback, please reach out.

How Are You Responding?

As you can see from a few of the actions being taken and plans enacted, our clients have begun to successfully navigate this globally reaching black swan event. Their resource allocation to establishing and implementing robust business continuity management systems (BCMS) within their organization has paid dividends. It pays to be prepared.

By taking the time to focus on key areas required to successfully operate their Business Continuity Management System (BCMS), they have not only avoided possible catastrophic interruptions in business operations but have also been able to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on additional organizational responsibilities. Those responsibilities include the health and safety of their teams, communication plans to both internal and external stakeholders, and managing interruptions in the supply chain that have been the result of global supply line delays.

To mitigate the impact of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, here are a few things we recommend completing over the next few days and weeks to ensure you are adequately prepared:

Review and Update Policies and Procedures

As part of a mature business continuity environment, you should routinely review and update your governing policies and procedures to ensure adequate coverage. Policies and plans to maintain in your BCMS include but are not limited to:

  • Reduction and Prevention Plans (BIA, BCP/DR testing, training)
  • Response Plans (communication, crisis management planning, escalation procedures)
  • Recovery (resumption of business functions)
  • Restoration and Return

As organizations change through mergers, acquisitions, or general operational activities, they may find that their plan no longer ‘fits’ and does not address their current environment. Having a formalized update and review process will ensure your organization is not relying on a mismatched plan.

Test Your Plan

An untested plan filed away for your next compliance audit will not serve your organization to the extent that a fully examined and tested plan would in the face of an emergency. Many have encountered this unfortunate fact over the last few days. A great way to test your plan with minimal interruption to the business is by conducting tabletop exercises with key stakeholders. An overview of the process of planning and executing effective tabletops may be found here.

Train and Communicate with Your Staff

An informed workforce is an effective workforce. Communicating the organization’s plans such as work-from-home procedures to your staff before an event will ensure they have the information necessary to continue supporting business operations. This will allow your team to make preemptive decisions about key elements such as childcare, travel, and communication avenues.

These steps require the foundation of an established and operating BCMS, something some are discovering they do not possess. While the best time to build your BCMS environment is during periods of relative calm and well before the processes are needed to be utilized, the second-best time is today.

If your organization is at the beginning of their journey towards a mature BCMS, or if you are looking to further mature your existing program, please request to speak to one of our qualified team members here. We’ll guide you in developing a robust BMCS that your team and customers can be confident in.