In view of the recent stricter measures to curb COVID-19, all non-essential business and services are resorting to working from home arrangements. This is a good time to begin relooking your office policies and measures in case of future pandemics. Does your company have a business continuity plan (BCP)? How should you manage operations during this period of uncertainty? In this article, we’ll learn about what your business can do to manage your operations during health pandemics and also on how to better prepare for the future.
What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?
Like the name suggests, Business continuity (BC) refers to maintaining business operations or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption. Business continuity plans outline procedures and instructions a company should implement and follow during times of crisis. It looks at the continuity of the company as a whole.
Why does a BCP matter?
Regardless of the size of your business, it is important to retain your customers and clients and ensure that your business is able to run smoothly. Securing your business for the future is important also for your employees and instilling consumer confidence in your client base. Consider crafting a BCP to help your business in the long run.
In times of health pandemics, having a BCP also helps ensure you reduce the likelihood of forming a new cluster and spreading the disease at the workplace. It is also essential that you also keep a lookout for your staff’s health and safety during these times.
Steps your Business Should Be Taking
1. Appointing a Business Continuity Manager (BCM)
A BCM helps ensure that employees are familiar with the business continuity plans and comply with them during this period. They are likely to be someone involved with Human Resources and must also be familiar with the roles and responsibilities of a BCM. Forming a business continuity team could also help in this situation. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) these responsibilities include and are not limited to:
- Actively monitoring development of the virus outbreak and work with management to disseminate messages to employees with clear instructions when measures need to be activated
- Educate employees on the latest available information on the virus. Brief them on the need for infection control measures and the preventive procedures that have been set in place
- Collate updated contact information of all employees, including their home address/home telephone number/ mobile phone number. BCM also has to ensure they are contactable by all employees. Employees are to contact the Business Continuity Manager if they are admitted to hospital with suspected infections for contact tracing purposes
- Ensure that the company has appointed at least one designated Point of Contact (POC) (may be the Business Continuity Manager), who will be responsible for liaising with MOH during activation of contact tracing processes at the workplace.
These are a few important pointers for a BCM to take note of. There are of course many more roles and responsibilities of a BCM, do be sure to read up more on the details from MOH here.
2. Ensure You Have Flexible Work Arrangements for all Employees
Having flexible work arrangements means ensuring that your employees do not need to come into the office unless necessary during the duration of the pandemic. In fact, make it commonplace for your employees to be able to practice work from home (WFH) arrangements so that they are able to get used to the new measures. Telecommute whenever possible in order to minimise contact. Other measures also include splitting your workforce into Team A and B and splitting up their work schedules to reduce the risk of infection between both teams.
In times when there are no worries of a health pandemic, conduct WFH exercises whenever convenient to slowly ease employees into the arrangements to help them get used to things. The goal here is to get your employees to be familiarised with the changes and make the transition smoother. Doing this can help in lessening the amount of hiccups along the way and also assist in your business being able to operate as usual.
3. Managing Your Employees Needs and Providing Them Support
Since your employees will most likely have to work from home, schedule weekly meetings and catch ups to check on everyone’s work progress. You should also be understanding and open of everyone’s situation, others may be more affected by the pandemic and may have difficulty in adjusting to the new arrangements implemented. Chances are, some of your workers may be working in less than ideal environments where their family situation or even new home workplace setup can prove to be a distraction.
In which case, make it a habit to host check-ins with your employees to see how well they’re coping whenever convenient for you. In meetings, set clear expectations and objectives for the week. This way, everyone will be on the same page when it comes to deliverables and deadlines and this could assist in getting work done effectively. Should someone need more time or an extended deadline, try understanding where they’re coming from first and then go into discussion with them.
Make sure to use a variety of different options for communication, sometimes doing things through e-mail may not be technically feasible and you should explore different modes of communication. For example, doing check-ins through video conferencing or even using fast chat communication platforms like Telegram or WhatsApp could prove to be more effective as well as helping establish a more personal connection with your employees. Of course, you should discuss this first with your team to see which method works best.
4. Planning Ahead for When the Pandemic Blows Over
Once the pandemic is over, it is good practice to examine the impact it had on your business and conduct an analysis of the health of your business. Discuss with your team steps you can take to help minimise losses as well as how you can bounce back and recover. This step may require quite a bit of time and discussion but it is essential in order to help your business get back on track.
Take this time to also begin preparing your plans in case of another health pandemic as well as reflect on the effectiveness of the strategies you undertook during this time period. Did certain measures help? What areas were lacking? How could you have better prepare in case a similar situation happens again? There is never a BCP that is truly complete since we can only anticipate so much but it’s always good to keep planning ahead for the future.
With that said, as we go through this period of uncertainty it’s okay to face several issues and challenges as we all struggle to stay afloat during this time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry, take a deep breath and try to do your best. You’ve got this. Stay home and stay safe everyone!