Planning for Pandemic (COVID-19) the 7 Step Framework
The following 7 step framework for planning for pandemics is a guide for to prepare businesses against the events we are experiencing today under COVID-19, it can also be used as a reference to what actions business and management should be taking today.
- 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.
(Step 1) Forming a Pandemic Team for decision making and information management.
- Establish a pandemic team with the day-to-day responsibility for managing the following actions:
- Review government guidelines and make appropriate operational changes.
- Decide which mitigating measures should be implemented.
- Make operational decisions in response to how your organisation will deliver its services orproducts.
- Communicate changes in procedure and/or mitigating actions to employees and external stakeholders as appropriate.
- Check daily, the impact on your operations and deal with any employee or customer questions.
- The team could be based on your existing crisis management or business continuity response teams. This should be represented by the following groups, Senior management, HR, Legal, Communications, Operations, IT & Telecoms, Security, H&S and Facilities as a minimum and include any medical advice specialist if available. For every role, there should be a designated deputy.
- The authority and decision-making power of the Pandemic Team must be clear, pre-agreed, documented and known to all throughout the organisation.
- The team may be a tactical rather than a strategic team, as they need to deal with the day-to-day response to the incident, leaving the strategic/crisis team to consist of top management, to take more of an overview of the situation and make major decisions.
- An organisation wide reporting process to feed into the pandemic team for any COVID-19 cases,occurrences of symptoms, changes in employee behavior, employee timekeeping and reporting for duty. Responsibility for the task should be formally signed-off with department heads reporting in.
- The team should meet every day, We recommend at a minimum a 15 minute morning call if there are no new developments and longer as needed based on events. The regularity of having a daily morning call means that calendars are booked out and routine is formed and focus remains constant.
- For all internal employees and usually customers, there should be a location where all information on the organisations response is published. This could be intranet or website. It should also be clear to employees where they can go to get advice or to ask questions. This could be through their manager, single point of contact, helpline or channel, such as Slack or Yammer, where employee questions can be answered in a timely manner.
(Step 2) Select your information sources and assign someone to the role of keeping the Pandemic Team up to date.
- Misinformation in this age is rife, especially about COVID-19. Its important that as an organisationyou select your information sources carefully. You will also need to make these sources available to employees so be prepared to have it scrutinised. We recommend government websites and official sources for example .gov.uk, NHS or WHO.
- Formally assign responsibility to someone or a team for responsibility of searching selected sources for new information on a daily basis to be presented at the daily team meeting.
- The Pandemic Team will evaluate all new presented information on a daily basis deciding if future actions are warranted and communications necessary.
- Organisations operation across different regions and countries will be subject to varying information and advice and may require different responses.
- The Pandemic Team should also be involved in scenario planning and risk assessment so gathering of information from other regions of the world can be useful in deciding what measures may be of use in your country.
- Make records of the information that helped in decision making. Government advise changes as the incident evolves and being able to justify decisions after information has been removed may be difficult at a later date. As with all incidents logging of information is extremely important.
(Step 3) Understand the impact of COVID-19 on your organisation.
Understanding the impact that COVID-19 will have on your organisation, your customers and the environment that you operate will enable you to take appropriate steps for mitigation.
- Will demand for your products or services go up as a result of pandemic? Businesses such as cleaning companies, medical supplies and health care will likely have opportunity to prosper under these circumstances.
- For most demand for products and services will be negatively impacted as customers are unable to use or purchase your products and services.
- Supply chains from other regions for parts that you reply on or that are crucial to your product may halt production lines. Monitoring the impact to organisation in your supply chain is a vital activity and early warning can buy vital time if factories in China or elsewhere are forced to close.
- Supplies of key products usually that are usually plentiful may become scarce with prices rising ten-fold overnight as opportunists and competitors buy up available stock, impacting on your product or services viability.
- How will you get your product to market? If face-to-face sales are no possible can you divert to online sales, do you have call-centre capacity, how will products be signed for or maybe your product requires you to interact with your customer? The impact of these and other questions need to be considered.
- If schools and nurseries are closed how will employees with children get to work or even perform their job from home.
- What is the financial impact to operations and delivery of products and services to your organisation and how long is it sustainable.
(Step 4) Take mitigating action to improve your organisations resilience.
Once the impacts in step 3 are understood it is possible to take mitigating measures to increase your resilience. Protecting employees from catching the virus and spreading if a case is detected so that operations can continue.
- Make sure employees can work from home in a sustainable manner. This involves carrying out a risk assessment of their working environment to ensure they have an ergonomic workplace to support their wellbeing and limit liabilities to the company for repetitive strain injury and mental health issues.
- Take action to support homeworking from a technical perspective. This may involve purchasing laptops and screens and increasing VPN capacity. Rehearsals for home working should be performed by all departments to highlight any issues or access to systems never previously attempted from VPN. Increased demand on helpdesk activity may also be a problem. Helpdesk call routing may also need rerouting so helpdesk employees can operate from home.
- Prevent visitors, contractors and suppliers from coming to site.
- If you deliver products to home you may need to update sales terms and conditions so that signatures are not required to maintain social distancing for delivery drivers.
- ncrease the use of video conferencing and avoid face to face meetings for employees.
- Identify emergency employees that can support operations if needed. This could be from ex- employees, contractors or retirees. Cross departmental support of employees to support areas of the business under strain may should also be drawn up. For example customer services representatives may be under increased demand if sales switch to online only.
- Consider stockpiling vital items where supply chains might be interrupted, especially those with long lead times and logistical challenges.
- Consider closing or regularly cleaning social spaces such as canteens, restrooms and meeting rooms.
- Consider what additional cleaning is required and where anti-bacterial hand wash should be supplied and regularly checked.
- Identify areas for cross training mitigate the possibility that employees might be off sick or unavailable.
- Consider staggered working hours to reduce the number of employees coming into contact with each other. Employees can also be divided into red teams and blue teams so that teams never come into contact with each other team to avoid contamination.
(Step 5) Review your HR practices to check if they are fit to deal with a pandemic scenario.
Questions from employees are almost endless but it is worth brainstorming the most obvious ones and thinking what your organisation’s response would be. If you are unsure of any answers use your organisations existing policies as your guide and consider the culture and values of your organisation.
Common questions might be:
- Will I be paid the same for working at home as in the office?
- Will I be expected to work if self-isolating and what if I don’t have the means to work at home?
- Is self-isolation counted as sick leave, holiday or work time?
- Do I have to attend the office and meetings?
- I have holiday leave booked which I can no longer attend, do I have to take the holiday time or can I cancel it while working from home.
- I have vulnerable loved ones, do I have to attend the office when restrictions are relaxed?
- How can I get the correct equipment to work at home?
- How can I ensure that I have an ergonomically sound working environment?
- How can I ensure that I am handling information in a secure manner and me
Policies that should be reviewed might be “Death in Service Policy”, having such policies reviewed before they are needed enables a more compassionate response. Consideration for vulnerable employees should also be taken into account.
(Step 6) Prepare your scenario responses.
Governments have a number of measure they can impose during a pandemic as we have seen. For example:
- Closing of schools and universities.
- Imposing total lockdown and instructing people to stay at home.
- Banning of gatherings
- Closing borders and banning flights in and out of the country.
- Banning all but essential activity such as food shopping and remaining within a 3 mile radius of home.
Consider if 20% of your employees were absent for various reasons would you operate your business any differently?
Consider the mitigation responses from step 4 and which ones you might implement under different government actions.
Having developed a number of scenarios and possible responses based on how events play out, be ready to act quickly and efficiently but only after careful consideration. Actions have consequence and carrying out unnecessary mitigation plans can result in greater damage than doing nothing. So be aware of the fine line being trodden and as previously mentioned always log the information supporting those decisions while the information is available.
(Step 7) Prepare your communications plan.
It is important to maintain regular communications with employees and stakeholders. Periods of silence can be misconstrued and lead to anxiety. The following points need to be addressed:
- Who will you need to communicate with internally, how often will you do it, what will they need to know and how will you do it?
- Who will sign off communications? What sources will you base your communications on, especially medical advice? How will you cope with different regions or countries advice?
- Who are your external stakeholders, how will they be contacted and what are their information requirements?
- Will you be running a helpline and where will pandemic advise be posted?
- Will you develop questions and answers on the incident, containing advice to employees - how will this be collated and distributed?
- Will you make use of government information and guidance including posters and which ones will you use? Is there a need to tailor posters and information for the requirements of your organisation?
- If employees are at home, how will you communicate with them?
Communication in a pandemic is crucial to a successful response.
The information provided here is a starting point to get you going. Assured GRC consultants are on hand assist you in completing your pandemic planning and response. If you’re starting on the backfoot call us today and we will assist you in turning your response around.