As organizations struggle through the COVID-19 crisis and move toward reestablishing operations, proper planning is essential as they prepare to reopen. Hopefully, the organization has a robust “all hazards” Business Continuity Plan in place that addresses these steps. Sadly, many do not. However, there is still time to get a plan together to safely reestablish operations. This brief overview will address just a few simple things to consider. To turn operations back on, all organizations should take into account at least three main considerations: Workplace Protection; Reestablish an Maintain Supply Chain Stabilization; and Communication with Stakeholders, Clients, and Customers.
Protecting the workplace for employees, customers, clients, and visitors is crucial. In short, leaders should take great care and put much thought into how they will keep everyone safe.
Clean and Disinfect
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a great resource and has a list of relatively simple steps organizations can take to clean and disinfect their facilities.
It is vital to adequately protect anyone who will be coming into your spaces. This includes employees, visitors, vendors, customers, etc.
Personal Protection is a general term we use when discussing other policies and procedures businesses and other institutions can implement to reduce the threat of infection. The first thing to consider is how to implement Social Distancing guidelines and procedures. Social Distancing, the “6 Foot Rule”, is a crucial part of your plan. Many organizations can implement video conferencing and leverage other telework technology tools procedures to help protect employees and, in some instances, even clients. Part of any organization’s plan should be to analyze which employees need to be on premises and who can continue to work from home. For example, many payroll and administrative positions can still effectively work remotely without interrupting business operations. However, most organizations do not have the luxury of allowing everyone to telework. In short, keep as many employees working remotely as possible.
The first step in implementing Social Distancing practices is to provide customers and employees with more information. The CDC offers a number of printable fact sheets that can be displayed to inform everyone about the need for social distancing and how diseases like COVID-19 are transmitted.
Organizations should also give thought to how they will reduce physical contact. Do what you can to limit physical contact between people at your location. Of course, shaking hands is out, now. Many businesses have implemented some ingenious yet simple ways to maintain social distance while continuing to serve clients and customers as well as give vendors, such as delivery people, access. Simple things like removing half of the chairs from your reception area, limiting the number of people that access your space, and utilizing plastic or plexiglass partitions help reduce physical contact.
When it comes to personal protection, nothing beats washing hands and continually cleaning surfaces. Simply put, be obsessive about hygiene. Also, if you utilize a cleaning service or have in in-house janitorial staff, define the expectations you have regarding cleaning and disinfecting.
Does your business or organization require employees to travel? Give some thought to on implementing a comprehensive travel policy. First, we recommend organizations skip any conferences or other non-essential travel. If employees get sick because of travel or meetings, the organization could have some liability issues on its hands. If travel is essential to operations, CDC, again, has some advice on reducing risk while traveling.
REESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN
Businesses and most nonprofits cannot operate if the supply chain is disrupted. A supply chain is the system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in supplying a product or service. Your organization relies on a supply chain to operate and may even be part of another organization’s supply chain. This can be an extremely lengthy and complicated discussion which we will address at a later time. Hopefully your Business Continuity Plan has already addressed this in detail. The American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) has an excellent reference title Supply Chain Survival During COVID-19 that we find very helpful. APQC lists four important things to consider when developing your strategy: map your supply chain, monitor and measure your situation through close communication with vendors and suppliers, create scenario plans, and check your contracts.
Lastly, if you do not have a plan now and are putting one together on the fly, take the time to prepare for the next crisis. Develop a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan. If you need some help, we know some people that can help.
Communication with Stakeholders, Clients, and Customers
There is a myriad of suggestions on how to continue an organization’s marketing and customer experience goals during the COVID-19 crisis. Our focus, however, is on the continuity and safety side of communications. Do your employees know how to work safely and keep your customers, clients, vendors, visitors, and others safe? Are customers and clients informed and confidant you can keep them safe when they visit? Are your partners and other stakeholders within your supply chain confidant they can continue to serve you without putting their own employees at risk?
Once an organization makes the decision to reopen, even if on a restricted basis, the organization needs to communicate its plan moving forward to everyone and do so in a way that it not only instills confidence and limits fear but conveys the important safety information your customers and clients need to reengage with you. Communications should include a clear explanation of what your organization is doing to manage operations, keep customers safe, and explain the expected path to full recovery.
Let’s face it. If you have weathered the COVID-19 crisis and plan to restore full operations, you are essentially in a situation similar to the rebuilding phase after any natural or manmade disaster, which we are sure is addressed in your Business Continuity Plan. The key rule to remember is – silence is NOT golden. People need and desire information. As with everything, your communication plan is unique to your organization, your community, and your internal and external customers. Therefore, give some thought to the questions in the mind of your specific audience. For example, if your business is a restaurant, fully explain to customers the steps you and your employees are doing to ensure customers’ safety. At the same time, educate your employees on your efforts to ensure they are safe as well. If you are an educational institution, your audience may be comprised of teachers, staff, students, parents, and the surrounding community. Each group has differing specific concerns but share one overall concern: can you keep me and my family safe?
Finally, a few resources to help various types of organizations during the COVID-19 crisis:
For businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a resource center with several links to valuable business continuity and recovery resources here.
Educational institutions can access a number of resources at the U.S. Department of Education’s guide, COVID-19 ("Coronavirus") Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel.
CDC has an extensive list of resources to assist medical facilities with information for healthcare professionals.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a comprehensive guide to information for first responders.
Every organization must develop a well thought out plan to return to being fully functional again while focusing on workplace protection; Reestablish and maintaining supply chain stabilization; and communicating with stakeholders, clients, and customers. The main goal is to keep everyone safe while keeping your organization operating.
If your business or non-profit needs assistance with your business continuity and security planning, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org