Are we all behind the planning curve?

Behind the scaremongering and media hype there is a clear potential for the current COVID-19 Outbreak to have an increasingly disruptive impact on businesses, events and society at large over the coming months. Those affected by the virus may be absent for longer than a traditional ‘flu type illness and/or need to manage caring responsibilities. Government planning at a national and local level is well underway and the scenario should not come as a surprise – a ‘Flu Pandemic has been within the top four risks on the National Risk Register for a number of years.

Fortunately, existing resilience arrangements will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your response and will improve your ability to recover to a new normality following a peak in identified cases and more widespread impact on society. Some IT, site specific Facilities, Security and HR arrangements should be revisited and checking against the specific aspects of an infectious disease but should not require significant adjustment. Insurance policies should be revisited due to specific exclusions that may apply to this type of (now known and notifiable) communicable disease and the likelihood that the consequences of the outbreak may not be covered under business interruption policies.

During our Training and Exercises we always advise Clients to take a prudent and over-cautious reaction when deciding how far to escalate their Crisis response – in our experience, having horizon scanning and response arrangements in place is preferable to a knee jerk response following events. It is far easier to stand down arrangements than to rapidly need to invoke them after COVID-19 has directly affected your workplace, supply chain and/or Event(s). We recommend implementing your plans now – we are doing so within our business and supply chain. In this note we provide common sense detailed tips and resources for you to consider and measure against your arrangements.

Planning assumptions and resources

Central Government advice and World Health Organisation (WHO) information should always be the primary reference for information that informs your decisions and actions. Current data provides us with the following initial planning assumptions from academic research and previous ‘Flu Pandemic planning models:

  • 20% of staff being absent at a time at the peak (with worst case scenario 80% of the population as a whole being affected) with some models indicating absenteeism increasing this percentage. Staff may be absent for an average of two weeks depending on personal impact.
  • Plan for prolonged disruption (starting point of a 15 week duration) within which there will be a peak.

We recommend your planning considers the following four priorities:

  1. Protect your employees during this time of business as unusual through proactive planning, sustained and transparent communication and strengthening support mechanisms.
  2. Stabilise your finances and establish various impact models and revise forecasts accordingly. Adjust ways of engaging customers and suppliers to maintain the viability of the business.
  3. Review your supply chain arrangements in depth to understand dependencies, stock levels, priorities and service level agreements.
  4. Rehearse your arrangements for reasonable worst case scenarios to ensure that your Plan is viable and known by all relevant managers.

Focus on the following specific areas when reviewing your critical business functions and adjusting your plans and events:

  1. Staff activities: skills, support, previous employees societal impact
  2. Stakeholder engagement and Staff Communication
  3. Delivery of products, services, events
  4. Financial and Commercial impacts
  5. Processes and activities
  6. Premises and Equipment
  7. IT Systems and Data

Supply chain resilience To inform your existing business continuity planning we can support you with a range of tools and services including:

  • On-site kit and checklist which aligns to WHO and UK Government advice on resources for case(s) presenting in the workplace
  • A detailed action list for planning and personnel planning tool
  • Plan review (remotely/on site) and development
  • Crisis Management simulation to stress test and rehearse plans, processes and personnel. Contact us today to discuss your arrangements and how we can help.