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Pandemic Plans: Business Continuity Planning for a Global Crisis

3 min read

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Preparing for the unthinkable bolsters your business through challenges

Recently we shared information about the importance of having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), and this week we're going a step further to discuss pandemic plans, which should be a subset of every business continuity plan. We are many weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic and if you had a Pandemic Plan before, you have most likely enacted it. If you did not have a Pandemic Plan, you most likely have either developed a plan or at least began altering your processes to meet recommended guidelines--fulfilling the purpose of a BCP. Regardless of your level of preparedness, we have all had to build new ways of living, working, thinking and being. With the threat of a potential second wave of viral spread later this year, it is important to document your new processes so, if another wave occurs, you are ready.

Continuous Improvement and pandemic planning

An important aspect of any Business Continuity Plan development is continuous improvement. Whether previously existing or brand new, the new processes you have put in place will require maintenance as your business grows and changes. Even if you had a seemingly comprehensive plan before the pandemic, they rarely cover everything that actually occurs. When we think we have found every scenario we can anticipate, something new will come along to prove us wrong. Sometimes we have the benefit of finding these new variables when we test; often we discover them when we have the misfortune of having to implement our Disaster Recovery (DR), Pandemic or Business Continuity Plans.

Real-World Application of your Pandemic Plan, and Findings

Now that we are this far into the pandemic, it is a good time to check in with key members of your team. Commonly, particularly with Business Continuity Plans, Disaster Recovery, and Pandemic Plan testing, reports are made to document findings uncovered in the process. It is important to know that in the implementation of a test, that sort of reporting and documentation is more important than ever, because now you know how the plan works in a real-world application. However, unlike a testing scenario, which may be done in the matter of hours or days, this pandemic is lasting months, and maybe longer.

Memories fade with time, and even more so in stressful situations. Because of that, it is a smart idea to do regular check-ins with employees, executives and management before the return to work to capture the information that can determine what areas of the plan need sharpening. Set a cadence with those contacts, and ask about what has gone well and what has not over the past week or month to simplify answers and get a sense of how the work experience has progressed as the plan has rolled out.

Naturally, the areas you want to cover will vary. However, here are a few ideas that may help spur discussion:

    • How effective has our communication strategy been?
    • Did you experience issues with any vendors? Did you have to use alternative vendors, and if so, which ones?
    • How have you or your staff handled adapting to new work environments and workflows?
    • What issues have you experienced that were not anticipated?
    • What changes in financial or productivity expectations have you experienced in the new work environment?

These are simply examples, but getting feedback as the pandemic moves forward will ensure that the experience is fresh in their mind, and that the information can be considered as you revamp and improve your Pandemic Plan. Importantly, this new information will help you anticipate organizational changes if the Pandemic Plan must be implemented again in the future.

Pandemic planning and a smooth return to regular operations

If your organization is anticipating a return to work soon, this same information is ideally garnered as part of the Pandemic Plan in conjunction with the return to the office environment. While employees return to the office, unexpected changes will occur, especially if new sanitization and social distancing measures are put in place. Returning to work, especially after weeks of telecommuting, will be a new adjustment with its own challenges, and interviewing employees, management and executives along the way will similarly provide new insight. As a result, when you return to your Pandemic Plan or BCP to implement revisions, you will have new, helpful data that can adjust for the challenges you and your coworkers experienced along the way, making the next implementation better than before.

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