Article by Makeen Advisors
It is hard to escape the news about COVID-19. Statements by leading health authorities and actions taken by governments across the globe underscore the significance of COVID-19 and the importance of having a perspective and understanding how to deal with it – both as an individual as it relates to protecting oneself and one’s family, but also as a business. The objective of this note is to provide a thought-starter for organizations on how to do this. We believe there are three dimensions to this analysis:
- Awareness and Prevention: What are the measures that we should take as an organization to create awareness amongst our staff and for outbreak prevention?
- Scenario Planning and Preparedness: Are we sufficiently aware of the various scenarios that might emerge in the context of this virus and do we have a plan in place to address them?
- Incident Management: If anticipated scenarios materialize, are we as an organization responding as per response plans developed and tested?
Even though it is easy to get lost in the breadth of publications out there, fortunately, there are a lot of strong and trusted resources for awareness and prevention that can be referred to inform decision-making. Examples include the WHO (here and here
With regard to scenario planning and preparedness, in light of the fast transmission speed of the virus, and the massive actions taken to curb its spread, it is critical that each organization has a perspective of how to deal with a number of scenarios (which are real and already affecting a large number of people), including:
- Suspected / confirmed cases of COVID-19: Does the organization have access to expertise and a process in place to identify staff that are affected by this virus, and what to do after an infection has been identified? This relates to healthcare provision for affected staff members and their families, healthcare provision for colleagues, as well as for the impact on work.
- Rising concerns about COVID-19 amongst staff: It is hard not get impacted by what is happening. People are worried about themselves and their families. Organizations need to create awareness and guidance for their staff to reassure them and to help them deal with this risk both at work and at home (through individual conversations, e-mails, or other means). There also needs to be a process to actively listen and understand specific concerns or issues (e.g., when to visit a doctor, concerns of family members stuck in places with travel restrictions, etc.).
- Schools / nurseries suspended: There is frequent news of schools or nurseries shutting down for periods of time. This is heavily disruptive for families, for whom it is very hard to prepare or deal with disruptions of their typical routine. Organizations need to understand how much their staff are affected in places where this already happened, or be prepared for this potentially happening. This includes support for parents to find alternatives for childcare or to facilitate further flexibility in how work can be completed (e.g., through remote work).
- Travel or movement restrictions: Whether out of caution or necessity, there are increasing constraints (or calls for constraints) on travel and movement. This has clear implications on the ability to conduct business as usual. Organizations need to have a plan or perspective on how to deal with such restrictions, which will primarily center around the question of remote work. There needs to be thinking, technology, and policies and procedures for staff members to be able to conduct a bigger chunk of their work remotely. A contingency plan is also needed for staff stuck in remote places due to such actions. Judgement calls are also necessary for own proactive decisions or guidance to limit travel for staff members to high risk areas (both professionally and privately).
- Disruption of ability to serve partners and clients: The above scenarios or others might impact our ability to collaborate with our partners and serve our clients. It is important that all stakeholders are briefed and aware of potential disruption of service, as well as of decisions taken to address risks in this regard (e.g., limiting travel or in-person meetings), including how such decisions may impact the other party. This also goes the other way round: It is important to create clarity how partners might be affected by the virus and how they are planning to react to it, to be able to design own contingency plans accordingly.
Finally, it is important to realize that this situation is evolving very rapidly (e.g. in terms of number of people affected, regions affected, actions taken by government stakeholders, etc.). Therefore, it is critical to have a system in place to continuously monitor new developments and to be able take rapid action as necessary in order to limit damage (e.g., a taskforce combining leaders in different teams as relevant per industry), as well as to measure whether the organization is acting as per plan if and when anticipated scenarios materialize.
The above is by no means a complete list, but it can serve as a thought-starter on how to be better prepared, and to increase awareness of the right questions even if the answers are not yet 100% clear. To facilitate the planning around this issue, Makeen Advisors has compiled a process and check-list thought-starter (to be edited and extended as relevant in the specific context of your organization) that can help in that planning process:
- Step 1: Set up a cross-functional task force in organization to own this topic
- Step 2: Determine scenarios and key questions that need to be addressed (questions and template below can be a thought-starter)
- Step 3: Develop and test response plans, assign responsibilities
- Step 4: Monitor implementation of response plans
- Step 5: Put in place process to continuously monitor and trigger responses as needed, actively monitor situation