COVID-19 Pandemic Business Resource
In response to the vast amount of hearsay and unverified fact circulating about COVID-19, Assured GRC decided to produce this Go To, COVID-19 Business Resource page packed with advice from our own hugely experienced team and links to external content that we consider worthy of your attention (last update 15th June 2020).
A Word on Hindsight
Every organisation will have their own story but we know that businesses that performed pandemic planning or horizon scanning prior to the WHO declaring a pandemic were ahead of the curve and responded to events better by putting measures in place early before Government restrictions were enforced.
Financial Services, UK was one such organisation but as their Head of Risk put it, “we’d been keeping a watching brief and informed the board in January. However, now we needed to move into major incident mode and involve relevant teams and people.” I really felt WHO were behind the curve, we were waiting for a global pandemic and that was what we were waiting to hear in order to take it seriously. However, this didn’t come so my communication with the board was not a global pandemic at that point.” Despite mechanisms being in place to declare a pandemic the crucial trigger wasn’t pulled until 11th March 2020, at time when global pre-covid-19 airline flights were at 40.3 million per day the consequences shouldn’t surprise.
Much of the criticism aimed at governments and business alike doesn’t take into consideration the impact caused by the delayed response by the WHO. Had the WHO acted sooner in its declaration of a pandemic, governmental and business processes would have triggered sooner saving untold lives globally. Fast forward to 15th June 2020, we have all been touched by this pandemic, some in ways only they can describe but we have also seen a unity and strengthening of community spirit not seen for generations and it is from this platform we will get back to a new normality.
Relaxing of Lockdown – Take oneAs countries around the world start to ease out of lockdown businesses need to act in responding to their new and changing environment. Some measures will need time to prepare, rehearse and develop so its important that process starts straight away. Social distancing, customer interfacing locations and equipment may be required and time to rehearse and test their workability are just a few considerations. As many questions and solutions will arise such as, how will segregation of duty be affected by staggered shift working and so on.
5 key areas of consideration are:
1. Agree the precautions that need to be in place prior to relaxing lockdown and reactivating key activities.Decisions over the coming months will be challenging and complex. Setting a criteria and thinking through all precautions that need to be in place and the decisions that need to be made before carrying out the following:
- Re-opening office buildings and premises.
- Restarting customer interfacing if your premises have been closed.
- Allowing employee travel for meetings
- Allowing external contractors into your site
These decisions should be based on an assessment of the risk to your people and your operations. The government will provide general information and guidance, but you will have to interpret them for the practicalities for your organisation. Getting them wrong, or rushing them, may have a significant impact on your organisation and lose the trust of employees and customers.
2. People ConsiderationsPriority is always the wellbeing of your people and managing a smooth return to work when a significant proportion of the workforce has genuine concerns in returning to work and impacting on the safety of their family, many of whom will be categorised as vulnerable, is a challenge that must be handled with care. We recommend that:
- Early engagement with people on organisational plans is essential.
- A phased approach for bringing employees back to work including employee’s rotation. Continued home working if possible and special consideration for those with concerns over vulnerable loved ones.
- Be clear about what precautions are being implemented in the workplace for their protection and others.
- Provide a channel for employees to ask questions and encourage dialogue and highlight how the measures being taken are in line with Government advice.
- Provide information used in decision making so that employees have a reliable source of information that they may not get through other means such as social media.
- Ask employees how they will get to work. Do they have their own means or public transport and the precautions they have for their journey? Do they need anything?
- Lastly, ask them if they want to return and be prepared for dialogue if they say no.
3. Premises ConsiderationsAs the UK government sets out its guidance for workplace precautions it is understood that precautions will have to be implemented. We suggest the following:
- A social distancing evaluation will identify areas of your business most difficult to enforce social distancing. Areas that cannot enforce guidelines may need to remain closed with alternatives sought.
- Areas with high customer concentrations may need to enforce restrictions on customer numbers and rehearse procedures for channelling customers through their premises including installing signage and barriers.
- Cleaning may need to be ongoing throughout the business day with plans in place for high contact items such as door handles, ticket machines and baskets.
- Consider closing areas of congregation such as canteen, rest areas and meeting rooms.
- Plan early and where shared premises are utilised engage with landlords early to discuss extra cleaning and responsibilities for hygiene.Consider staggering start times to avoid rush hours.
4. Planning for the long-termPrecautions should be planned as if they might be needed indefinitely. Precautions that will only work in the short term should be avoided unless plans are afoot to implement a more robust solution. Government ministers are giving no indication as yet that the end is in sight.
- Keep your pandemic/incident team in place and meeting regularly to review progress and horizon scanning activities for changes.
- Be prepared for escalations and de-escalations as the pandemic evolves due to spikes, mutations and seasonal factors so that you can react at short notice and in a rehearsed manner.
- Keep the dialogue open with employees and be listening for suggestions and improvement.Keep your communications channels open with stakeholders both internal and external.
- Continuously monitor your supply chain for weaknesses, paying attention to critical suppliers.
- Monitor employee morale. Some employees will prefer to work from home while other will prefer to be at work. Managing these groups will become more important over time.
5. Debrief and Lessons LearnedThe end of the beginning marks a time to reflect on the first months of this pandemic and the changes the world has put in place to continue functioning. This is a good time to debrief and establish lessons learned so far in this evolving incident.
- Conduct an employee survey to understand what has gone well and what has been the biggest challenge and what are their concerns over the coming months.
- Review performance against your BIA and BCP’s. Were RTO’s met and if not why not? What lessons from this experience could be incorporated into future planning?
- See also our structured debrief workshop aimed at managing the live incident. more information
How can Assured GRC help ?
Assured GRC only uses seasoned consultants with at least 15 years’ experience of delivering high quality assignments in their specialist field. Customer confidence from the outset is our priority!
1. Debrief your Response
We are currently offering a fixed cost Structured Debriefing workshop. A learning process technique with origins in the military as a way to learn quickly in rapidly changing situations and to address mistakes or changes on the field.
For up to 12 people via video conference. See how it could save your organisation!
2. Assist you to prepare your Recovery Actions
As restrictions are relaxed and business begin their recovery to the new normal working practices Assured GRC consultants can assist you in developing your plans, updating procedures and communications.
3. Update your BCMS
We can help you in updating your BIA’s and BC Plans to reflect the changing circumstances and ensure you are ready and prepared for the next crisis.
One example would be updating your BCP for homeworking to include the requirements defined in ISO 22313 S 18.104.22.168 – ‘Challenges posed by home working’.
4. Update your ISMS based on your new or interim business model.
New and interim business models for home working and other restrictions being enforced relating to ISO / IEC 27002 (Guidance to implement ISO / IEC 27001) mean that existing plans need to be reviewed for the new working conditions.
Assured GRC have consultants have reviewed the guidelines to implement ISO / IEC 27001 in relation to the new restrictions of COVID-19 and published the following advice for your review.
5. Pandemic Planning 7 Step Framework – COVID-19
Step 1 ) Forming a Pandemic Team for decision making and information management.
Step 2 ) Select your information sources and assign someone to the role of keeping the Pandemic Team up to date.
Step 3 ) Understand the impact of COVID-19 on your organisation.
Step 4 ) Take mitigating action to improve your organisations resilience.
Step 5 ) Review your HR practices to check if they are fit to deal with a pandemic scenario.
Step 6 ) Prepare your scenario responses.
Step 7 ) Prepare your communications plan.
For a comprehensive guide to the above 7 steps follow this link. Assured GRC consultants are on hand to assist you with your pandemic planning.
Institute for Employment Interim Study 7 th April 2020, Home Worker Wellbeing Study.
Gov.UK should be your main reference point for advice on COVID-19 and keeping up tp date on developments.
The HSE has updated their information in response to COVID-19, Packed with useful information and self-assessments.
The DSE Regulations 1992 are particularly relevant, information and self-assessment can be found here.
UK Legislation and other Legal Notices on COVID-19.
Medical advice, symptoms, the vulnerable and tracking etc.
International Health Regulation 2005, second edition was signed into International Law in 2007 by 194 countries. The stated purpose and scope of the IHR are "to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade." It also requires countries to carry out national level financial planning that includes emergency funding interventions to offset any financial impact of their health protection measures. Whether all countries did so is another matter.
Headlines from the WHO.
WHO general information, prevention measures and myth busters.
WHO Situational Reports.