More than half of companies (51%) around the world have no plans or protocols in place to combat a global emergency, such as coronavirus (COVID-19), a study by global consultancy firm Mercer has shown.
Commenting on the role of businesses during times of ambiguity, Nuno Gomes, Head of Career at Mercer MENAT stated: “Organisations must understand that the workforce comes first. When outbreaks such as coronavirus occur, it is important to think fast rather than react fast. There are three steps companies can take during times of uncertainty which are to protect, evaluate and contain the situation.”
Many employees rely on their employers to monitor and assess the situation and share key findings with them, meaning that organisations have the opportunity to support their colleagues which includes:
- Gathering information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and government entities, while fact-checking the news and sharing information frequently
- Following government guidelines
- Reviewing business continuity plans (BCP) and ensuring they are up to date
- Listening to the concerns of the workforce
- Treating employees equally and considering impacts to different populations. For example, while expatriates could be evacuated to their home-country, local employees may remain. Consider this impact
- Providing protection or prevention supplies
“In addition to the negative impacts we have seen on businesses, the coronavirus outbreak has caused a great deal of emotional stress for people. It is important that organisations learn from this situation by ensuring they are prepared for any possible crisis that may occur in the future. This is where implementing a solid business continuity plan comes in to play, and one that focusses equally on operations and the workforce,” added Gomes.
Implementing a BCP enables ongoing operations while ensuring that the organisation is least affected when facing a disaster, whether it is a cyberattack, earthquake or a medical epidemic, such as coronavirus, that is impacting businesses globally. The survey revealed that 27.2% of companies do not have a BCP plan in place, while nearly 24% are currently in the midst of drafting one.
The survey also found that working from home or working remotely will remain a crucial factor for companies, with nearly half (42%) currently encouraging employees to work remotely, particularly in highly affected areas. An overwhelming 92.2% of companies have said that working from home remains their option of choice during an office closure.
Most companies are monitoring the situation with WHO and local government advisories, while remaining cautious of the possibility of evacuating employees and their families from areas affected by the virus. In the event of an evacuation, two-thirds of companies (63.4%) surveyed stated they will continue with employee allowances in varying durations and depending on the employees’ role within the company.
According to the survey, businesses have vastly reduced unnecessary travel and are weighing in on banning travels globally, particularly to areas highly affected by the virus. More than 80% of the companies that have required employees who recently travelled to highly affected areas apply an isolation period, where they work from home, are still paying their employees for the duration of the quarantine, reiterating companies focus on maintaining employee health and safety.