Many companies have contingency strategies in place to tackle extreme events such as hurricanes, floods or fires. But the fresh challenges presented by COVID-19 are leaving many organizations search for innovative solutions.
How should you adjust your contingency plans in the face of the current pandemic? Here are three tips to apply to your existing strategy — or to put into place even if you don’t have an official plan in place.
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Most companies have at least a rough plan on how to cope with potential external risks, from power outages to earthquakes. Use those strategies as the foundation of your COVID-19 response.
Assemble your crisis management team to walk through whatever plan you already have in place and determine what’s relevant. Then, look at how that response needs to change in light of current recommendations to limit the risk to your employees and customers.
For example, which steps would you take if a fire closed down your facility? Can that response be extended if team members need to stay out of the building for an indefinite period? Can it be applied to other facilities? What additional resources do you need to make those adjustments?
2. Focus on agility
Besides throwing new phrases such as “social distancing” into the lexicon, COVID-19 is forcing companies to dramatically rethink how they work. Agility and speed are crucial to this type of adjustment.
- Instead of relying on short-term contingency plans that enable staff to work from home for a few days, companies need to focus on implementing sufficient systems to enable remote work for multiple weeks or even months.
- With schools closing and movement restricted, new policies are needed to help working parents juggle childcare responsibilities and at-home work.
- Flexibility is crucial as employees find themselves multitasking, taking on extra roles or working unusual hours to support colleagues and family members.
- As not all roles can be done at home, practical measures such as keeping staff at a safe distance from one another and disinfecting facilities also need to be considered.
One other note: Be sure to plan for at least a temporary drop in competence as employees learn to deal with new routines and systems.
3. No quick solution
A huge storm might blow over in a few days; flood waters dry up in a matter of weeks. But some experts say it might be months before COVID-19 is brought under control. Your organization would be well advised to plan for a long and bumpy ride in addition to more optimistic outcomes.
- If you haven’t already, plan for back-up suppliers and distributors.
- Be proactive about evaluating potential cost-saving measures.
- Talk to lenders and tap into government business packages if available.
Perhaps most important, update customers on key developments, from delivery delays to service adjustments. Communication is key: Make sure your messaging is both constant and consistent.
Despite the current chaotic atmosphere, things will eventually return to a more predictable state. Make sure that your planning efforts include a long view that includes incorporating lessons learned from this experience into the next version of your standard contingency plan.