The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us how challenging it can be to prepare for systemic risk. While not as common as other types of risk, systemic risk can trigger volatility or collapse an entire industry or economy. Certainly the 2020 pandemic qualifies as such an event.
The good news is that the insights gained from the pandemic can be used to update Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and help organizations greatly improve their ability to weather similar disruptions.
A BCP is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to your company. A written plan that details how your business will respond to and resume business after a major disruption is essential. Now is the ideal time to evaluate the impact the latest threat has had on your business and revise your plan to improve all future business continuity efforts.
While each business’ continuity plan must be tailored to its specific needs, there are some general lessons learned from COVID-19 that can be leveraged to improve your future preparedness efforts.
With the increased need for alternative work arrangements, many organizations had to immediately support a remote infrastructure, expand videoconferencing, upgrade cybersecurity and/or increase call center support. Continued infrastructure and technology investments to maintain business operations are critical.
2. Supply Chain
Disruptions in supply chains tested many business continuity plans. Now is the time to assess if additional/alternate suppliers need to be identified and to cultivate relationships to help mitigate and enhance material availability for future disruptions.
3. Safety Controls
Infectious disease threats typically require enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of work and public spaces. COVID-19 also created the need for masks, gloves and the ability to screen for symptoms of the virus in a number of industries. If not previously addressed in your business continuity plan, these hazard controls should be added and communicated to employees. All training efforts should continue to be documented.
Further, in quickly changing environments such as this pandemic, business’ must take extra measures to stay current with the evolving local, state, CDC and OSHA guidelines in order to keep employees safe and stay compliant.
Keep in mind that these same local and federal safety and health organizations may become especially vigilant regarding general workplace safety efforts and your response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the ideal time to update your BCP and schedule testing, if necessary.
4. Policies & Procedures
Policies and procedures will need to be revised to reflect additional risk control measures to keep employees and customers safe. You may need to create a remote worker policy and agreement. Other areas to consider in your plan include travel procedures, establishment of a crisis response team, identification of essential staff and documentation of expenses related to the interruption. Pandemic response plans should be added to your employee handbook and communicated to employees.
The need to quickly educate employees about new work requirements calls for increased communication, not to mention the need to communicate business operation changes to clients and vendors. Determine what communication requirements should be reflected in your BCP and make the appropriate revisions.
Documenting your experiences while fresh in your mind and using it to update plans, procedures and training will improve your organization’s resilience. Take time now to debrief, discuss what went well and what could be improved. Using these lessons learned to update your business continuity plan will help ensure you can endure similar disruptions in the future.
If you have any questions regarding your business continuity plan, please contact a member of our team.