Reducing the impacts of coronavirus on your business
Last updated on March 10th, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shown that a problem as archaic as disease remains incredibly disruptive for businesses. Whilst modern medicine and quarantine procedures have reduced the loss of life, the impact these global outbreaks have on supply chains and business continuity is still largely unmitigated.
The economy and the business world have been rocked by this, starkly highlighting the necessity of business continuity plans that not only cover technology failures and natural disasters, but also social disruptors like diseases.
What are the impacts of coronavirus on businesses?
1. Quarantined employees
With the UK Government predicting up to 1 in 5 employees being off sick at the peak of coronavirus, the risk to businesses is clear. Whether your employees fall ill with the virus, are quarantined or are caring for someone quarantined, disruption will occur.
Absent employees have an obvious effect on general productivity and the bottom line but they also present other specific problems. Tasks or communications the employee is responsible for could get stuck in limbo and the increased workload for the remaining employees can strain relationships and increase stress.
Whilst no one is expecting an employee to be working from a hospital bed, for those detained in quarantine or perhaps caring for a child whose school is quarantined, remote working allows them to continue contributing even whilst out of the office.
Remote working can largely be achieved with Office 365 since it includes many apps by default for remote and collaborative working. Teams allows for video conferencing as a replacement for meetings, Yammer lets employees stay up to date on company activity and SharePoint and Office Online allow employees to share and edit files whilst out of office.
Additionally, adopting more cloud-based applications or acquiring remote-desktop capability through Veeam or Windows Virtual Desktop can also increase your remote working abilities further and better prepare you for disruption.
2. Ill employees
But to cope when employees are taken seriously ill, your business needs a complete responsibility chart covering major responsibilities. This allows you to rapidly identify duties which need to be taken over and prevents tasks falling through the cracks.
It can be time-consuming to evaluate all the tasks within your organisation and it may not be possible to do it immediately. Therefore, you should start by identifying which tasks are critical for day-to-day operations to continue and determine responsibility and accountability for those tasks.
If you identify any single points of failure, what can you do to reduce the impact? Is there someone else in the department who can start learning how to support those tasks? Can the employee create some guides for others to use? Tools like accountability charts can be useful for identifying where tasks live and who to escalate to if multiple employees are ill.
3. Inventory shortages
As seen with companies like Apple and Land Rover taking millions off their predicted revenues, coronavirus has laid waste to underprepared global supply chains and had powerful financial shockwaves.
But you don’t have to be a big player to be disrupted. Smaller businesses are being hit just hard by supply chain kinks because they don’t have the money to survive a revenue halt or restriction of cash-flow.
Resolving inventory bottlenecks in the long-term requires diversification of your supply chain to eliminate single points of failure. But for a short-term change, you can document any alternative suppliers in your business continuity plan for future resilience to supplier disruption.
Secondary suppliers should already be in your business continuity plan because there’s always the risk that a supplier has a fire or goes bust. But this is the time to add it if it’s missing.
4. Market value reductions
Markets become volatile during periods of uncertainty such as an outbreak and your company can be severely hurt if panic gets hold. The travel and manufacturing sectors have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus, but all sectors have suffered.
Notable victims include Apple (lost £35 billion), Mastercard (lost £17 billion), United Airlines (lost £930 million), and FlyBe whose pre-existing perilous situation coupled with the coronavirus has been forced into administration.
Critical in reducing the damage to your company value and investor trust is to clearly communicate your plans for mitigating the risk. Showing you’re in control of the situation and have thorough plans, eases investor concerns and proves you’re capable.
Of course, you can’t communicate your plans if you don’t have any plans, so that’s the first thing you should put together. Then build a strategy for communication which includes the core message, who will be communicating it, how it will be communicated and who it will be communicated to.
5. Damage to trust and reputation
Imagine a scenario where a prominent client requests your virus response plans. Whilst saying you don’t have a plan is unlikely to end the relationship there and then, it will create doubt about whether you’re the most trustworthy partner to do business with.
Creating a client-facing document which outlines the steps in your business continuity plan without going into the sensitive details is essential to resolve a situation like this.
This document should include critical information such as:
- Plans to continue operations with a skeleton team in the case of large-scale employee illness
- Backup or alternative suppliers for critical components and product stock
- Remote working tools available to the workforce
Being able to immediately send a document like this to clients when they request your response plans shows you as an incredibly capable and prepared partner and instils greater trust between you.
We’ve been assisting businesses to de-risk their operations since 2005 – making us the perfect partner to improve your stability during a period of uncertainty.
Some of the ways we can help you include:
- Migrating you to Office 365 and providing support on how to use the included collaboration tools essential for productive remote working
Additionally, our free risk assessment templates let you identify and reduce the risks an outbreak or other disruptive events can pose to your business. Download your free templates below.