How can you best prepare your business to have up to half of your staff go off sick in one go, lose access to your offices, and have your markets and supply chains go into meltdown for months?

That is not a question any of us would have dreamt of asking at the start of the year. But the rampant spread of Covid-19 around the world has made this a real prospect for many businesses, which need to plan and manage their way through this, taking the steps to build their organisational resilience and minimise the impact of the pandemic on their employees and their business.

There’s a lot of information and advice out there regarding steps to stay healthy and safe. And your inbox is also likely to be filling up with messages from larger companies telling you how they are changing their services and what will be different about their operating procedures in the coming months. This is their business continuity plan kicking in. Larger companies will be busy re-working these, from incident management responses and disaster recovery plans to ‘pandemic plans’.

But what if your organisation doesn’t have the same depth of capabilities to develop a full-blown business continuity plan, let alone one that is tailored to coping with a global health pandemic? If you don’t have a plan, it’s hard to know how to act, what to do and what to focus on, and this can lead to a different kind of risk – where you react to things as and when they happen rather than being prepared. Chances are the different parts of your business will end up doing their own thing, when now – more than ever – you need to keep focused, coordinated and calm.

To help you start your thinking about developing a business continuity plan for your business, here are some of the things you will need to consider to keep your people safe and healthy, physically and mentally, to get you aligned and ready for increasing levels of disruption, and to minimise the risks to your business.

Governance and decision-making

Before you do anything, you need to put controls in place to ensure that you stay aligned as a team and are clear on who is going to do what, and who will be making key decisions. Key actions to consider are:

  • establishing a Covid-19 working group or project team to manage your response
  • agreeing roles and responsibilities
  • setting up regular meetings to make decisions together and monitor progress
  • managing communications.

Risk, readiness and impact assessment

This work will help you understand your level of exposure to the impact of Covid-19. Key actions to consider are to:

  • agree impact level definitions, to provide a consistent set of criteria to assess risks
  • undertake risk and readiness assessments, to understand the different risks and how prepared you are to manage them
  • carry out an impact analysis, to understand how your business will be affected as scenarios change.

Planning and implementation

Using the insights and understanding gained from the risk, readiness and impact assessment, you will be able to design plans to deliver the goals for the business. Key planning actions to consider are:

  • readiness plans to prepare you to take action
  • action and communication plans to minimise the impacts
  • test plans to ensure that the plans will work when carried out for real.

As the risks and impacts begin to play out, you will begin to implement your plans and will need to ensure that work is being carried out as expected. Key implementation actions to consider are:

  • status updates and reporting
  • plan issue and risk management
  • communication

There will be incredibly challenging times ahead for all of us. Undoubtedly, you will have taken some steps towards planning for Covid-19, but the more you can do to create coordinated and comprehensive plans, the better prepared you will be.

Ralph Tait, partner, mindyasa.com