Covid-19 Global Pandemic Declared

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It’s official, as of Wednesday 11 March, Covid-19 is declared a global pandemic!

Whilst not unexpected and, let’s be honest this declaration doesn’t actually change much, it confirms what we’ve probably known for several weeks and months – that coronavirus is here.

It is still unclear as to the level of affect or impact it may have and how to respond (the World Health Organisation (WHO) for example, hasn’t changed the advice it is giving to countries as to what they should do).  But there’s now no doubt it’s going to affect you as an individual, an employee/employer, your family, your friends and just about every other facet of normal life too.

We’re sure you and your organisation has been considering when to take action and how best to minimise any impact.  Securing expert input in planning your response can be of real value in optimising your plans, As such, with our significant expertise in the areas of business continuity, planning and preparedness, URM can provide you and your organisation with some high-level expert guidance.

However, in the meantime, where do you start?

URM stands by the mantra, often used as a high-level approach in developing a business continuity response and applicable to any disruption or incident – ‘Welfare, Delivery, Reputation’.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Welfare

The first step should always be to consider the welfare, health and safety of your staff or workforce and, in the case of a pandemic, the wider community. As a result, it is best to make use of the excellent resources available, these include:

NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Government

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

WHO https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

It’s important to not only consider your current response, but how it should adapt as the situation develops.

Employee trust in your decision making is critical.  Your staff will expect you to put their welfare first and, in a high-focused scenario such as this, won’t forgive you if you don’t!

Delivery

Secondly, you will want to consider your service delivery and contractual obligations throughout this period, particularly in the context of what must be done and what can be rescheduled, postponed or cancelled.  You can do this by reviewing previous assessments, such as business impact analysis or risk assessments. Otherwise, you will need to consider a whistle-stop review of which activities need to be maintained to meet your business obligations. This will essentially involve establishing exclusive strategies and plans for dealing with a pandemic, taking into consideration the following:

What roles and responsibilities are needed? For instance, will you assign a team to deal with this? Who will lead your response and do they have the necessary authority /skillset to make key decisions?

Do you need to work in a fixed location, or can your staff work from home? What level of staffing can you cope with/do you need?

What triggers or scenarios you might be faced with? For instance, government-imposed movement restrictions, significant staff absence due to caring responsibilities

What strategies or solutions might help?

Once you have considered the above, you can draw up plans utilising the answers to these questions. These will provide the essential information to enable your business to respond to developing events.

Finally, drafting new, or reviewing current procedures for BAU operations will be essential in this potentially prolonged, highly people-focused scenario.

Whilst conducting this review, you will also need to bear in mind your suppliers and their ability to support your response.

Reputation

Last, but certainly not least, an organisation’s reputation must be considered throughout its handling of any pandemic.  For example, insisting staff continue to come to work against the government’s advice (i.e. when a member of staff has been advised to self-isolate) will create negativity in an already incredibly challenging situation. Equally, not responding sensibly and sensitively may quickly become the subject of a social media outcry and backlash. However, failing to stand by commitments made, or contractual obligations to deliver, when customers are relying on your service to support their own response, will damage your credibility not only during this outbreak, but longer term.  Communication management and media handling will be more crucial than ever.