Prioritizing Business Continuity: Be Prepared for the Future
What To Think About While Reopening
While the virus is still prevalent, there are changes that must be made to every department to ensure the safety of employees and customers.
As the world begins to open up, it is important to have a COVID task force who monitor the situation and address various operational requirements. This “task force” should meet daily, and will be responsible for creating policies and plans for the business. They will need to keep track of the changing guidelines and policies and communicate these to employees and management. The task force will need to:
Define priority projects
Consider resource needs, Return on Investment (ROI), costs, risks, and other immediate issues to address.
Determine which employees are eligible to return to the office physically
Factors to consider in making this decision are age, medical history, risk level, business need, etc.
Create a phased approach to opening the workplace
Think about what services are most important to resume and can be opened safely, and what might take more planning.
Build a facilities plan to ensure proper sanitation and social distancing
This might require rearranging the physical space, limiting entrances, closing off communal spaces, and increasing frequency of deep cleaning.
Implement flexible work policies
Employees should continue teleworking when possible to reduce possibilities of transmission. For employees that need to be onsite, consider how to minimize their contact with other employees and customers. Employees should also feel comfortable requesting leave or working remotely if they have been affected by the virus, whether that’s being exposed themselves or caring for a loved one.
Prepare for future office closures or additional regulations
In the event that there are future waves of the coronavirus, which might require the business to close once again or greatly limit operations, consider lessons learned from this round and how to apply them to minimize the impact from future closures and regulations.
Even as the business faces uncertainty about reopening, employees are likely feeling uncertain about their safety in returning to work. It is important to take measures to ensure not only their physical safety, but also mental. Consider the following measures:
Keep track of employees’ health and risk factors.
Collect employee data regarding health metrics, location/travel history, commute options, family composition, and recent interactions with COVID-19 patients. Be candid and transparent in communicating to employees what is being collected and why. Also, ensure HIPAA compliance—this is sensitive data, and should be protected as such.
Stagger workforce return to maximize social distancing.
Consider essential versus non-essential employees, the ability to telecommute, level of health risk, business needs, and customer demand. For employees that aren’t immediately required, consider pay cuts or furloughs instead of layoffs.
Communicate openly and often.
This should be a two-way street—employee feedback on new guidelines and policies is equally important as the policies themselves.
Increase ease of requesting leave as necessary.
Employees will have changing needs in taking care of themselves and their families. Execute on the flexible work policies set by leadership by making it easier for employees to request leave. This can include quicker approvals, no-questions-asked policies, paid leaves, etc.
Provide mental health resources for employees.
COVID has significantly increased the stress on everyone, and it is important to help employees cope with this so that they can continue doing their jobs effectively.
Make a plan for keeping track of infections in the workforce as well as how to respond.
Develop a protocol for screening employees for potential exposure, as well as what to do when an employee has been identified with COVID or COVID-like symptoms. Consider who should be notified, timelines for notification, isolation and sanitization procedures, and certification and privacy requirements.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Who Comes Back First
This checklist will provide guidelines on how to determine which employees should return to work first.
Sick Employee Actions for Managers
This document covers the decision making process of what to do if an employee has symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
What to Do if You Are Sick
This document outlines the proper actions to take if someone suspects they have COVID-19. Distribute this information to employees so they feel prepared to take appropriate actions should this situation occur.
Self Quarantining and Returning to Work
This document builds off the previous document, and instructs employees on proper quarantine procedures, as well as returning to work once the risk has passed.
COVID Symptom Data Collection
This document provides a potential method of collecting data on employees’ COVID -19 symptoms.
Employee Training Roadmap
This document outlines the process for training employees on new guidelines implemented to cope with the restrictions required through the pandemic.
6 Apps to Monitor Employee Health
This article provides 6 different applications which can be used to record data about employee health.
This is a HIPAA compliant app which can help you keep track of various COVID-related health metrics for your employees.
COVID-19: Monitoring Employee Health at Work
This article by the University of North Carolina School of Government talks through the legal regulations and constraints around tracking health data for employees.
The events of the last few months have ensured that there will be changes that will need to be made to operations to continue running the business. Some changes to consider include:
Developing guidance around usage of PPE
Define and procure all the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees. The company will also need to develop requirements around when PPE must be worn.
Educate leadership on Testing, Tracking, and Tracing protocols
It is essential to screen for operational factors which might increase COVID-19 risks. For risks identified, also identify individuals who may have been exposed as a result, and work with HR to notify anyone who should be informed about potential exposures.
Control the flow of traffic
Limit entry and exit points to the workplace to limit opportunities for exposure to the virus.
Assess the potential of implementing thermal screening
This will enable the company to quickly detect employees and/or patrons who may have COVID symptoms.
Implement frequent and thorough cleaning and disinfecting protocols
This will limit the chance of the virus being transmitted over surfaces. Also consider disinfecting delivered packages to limit potential for exposure.
Think about how to reduce fixed costs.
If possible, renegotiate rents, leases, and vendor terms. Landlords are unlikely to find new tenants right now so it is in both parties’ best interest to come to a mutual agreement.
Remove high-touch surfaces
Eliminate shared food services such as buffets and communal snack bins to limit cross-contamination.
Adapt and adjust global demand and supply plans
Account for potential delays and/or limited access to resources, while managing customer expectations regarding product availability. Any expected delays should be communicated upfront.
Think about how to pivot the business to build resiliency
Identify opportunities to maintain consistency of supply through alternative manufacturing methods or product opportunities. Consider how to repurpose existing resources to serve new markets. For example, look at how unused fabrics can be utilized to make PPE or how to sell single items in a subscription model.
Consider any new costs or expenditures
For any new investments to improve resilience, assess any costs and expenditures against risk.
Look at how to optimize variable costs
Examine expenses for opportunities to reduce costs while maintaining product quality. For example, look at reformulating recipes with cheaper substitutes.
The following resources may also be helpful:
This document will help ensure the workplace has been thoroughly disinfected.
Disinfection and Deep Cleaning Checklist
This checklist will walk through how to disinfect and clean the office.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Inventory Guidelines
This document will help determine what kinds of PPE should be kept in inventory and how often to restock.
The Coronavirus Pivot: Customer Discovery Strategy for Your Business
This webinar from the Foster School of Business discusses how to use the resources currently available to serve customers in new ways as well as find new customers.
One of the biggest factors in resuming workplace operations will be ensuring facilities allow for proper protection measures against exposure. While this includes cleaning, it also requires a host of other considerations, including:
Work with leadership to restructure office layouts to allow for proper social distancing guidelines
Pay special attention to rooms with more than five seats, collaborative and social spaces, enclosed spaces, and high risk areas such as receptions, lobbies, break rooms, restrooms, printer/copier/mail areas, stairwells, and vending areas. Inform leadership about these for them to incorporate in their facilities plan, and execute on their recommendations.
Minimize transmission through high-touch devices. Where possible, enable “touch-free” protocols
This can be achieved by adding plastic coverings which can be frequently replaced or frequently wiping down the device. If possible, limit access to surfaces to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. For example, having a designated employee to manage the door limits germs that may be transmitted via door handles.
Inspect HVAC and key building systems
Natural ventilation and air filtration will help reduce the risk of airborne transmission.
Develop a system to monitor building capacity and access
Ensure that reduced capacity restrictions are never violated and monitor persons entering and exiting in case of possible exposure.
Enable employees to maintain sanitation practices for their personal workspaces
Set up guidelines for employees to follow in their personal spaces in the office. Provide supplies for employees to sanitize their workstations on a regular basis, and provide instruction on appropriate sanitation practices.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
This document will help in thinking through developing a comprehensive plan to minimize COVID exposure in facilities.
Social Distancing Protocol
This document will walk through developing proper methods of social distancing in operations.
Gathering and Spatial Planning
This document will help in developing policies around gatherings and social distancing in the office.
Consider how technology can be used to minimize the challenges posed by COVID-19:
Cybersecurity is a bigger concern than ever before
Prioritize privacy and confidentiality of employee information given the increased dependency on remote access.
Maintain teleworking even as offices reopen
Increase use of proven virtual tools from remote work periods.
Think about which employees and roles are needed in the office
Fortify remote-work policies and evaluate long-term remote work potential.
Make it easy for employees to fulfill their duties remotely
Provide updated technology to all employees who require it for their responsibilities.
Consider providing employees with wristbands to help enforce social distancing and health
Encourage your employees to opt-in to contact tracing apps
This will help keep track of employees who are sick or might have been exposed to the virus. An example of such an app is CovidSafe.
Additional resources to help in planning for returning to the workplace:
WADOH Workplace & Employer Resources & Recommendations
This is an article curated by the Washington State Department of Health which covers creating social distancing, employee leave policies, good health habits, sanitation practices, and more.
This document uses a five phase approach to outline how to ensure business continuity and resiliency through the pandemic.
This is a comprehensive website with all kinds of resources for small business owners to help adapt to the impacts of coronavirus.
COVID-19 “New Normal” Planning.
This document was created by BCG for Washington state and outlines both baseline recommendations and additional considerations for opening. Although the document was created for Washington state, the content is easily applicable to other geographies as well.
Adapting Your Business to the COVID-19 Reality and Beyond
This webinar from the Foster School of Business covers what to expect in the coming months, and how to adapt the business to get through it.
Ready to Reopen
This document from the US Chamber of Commerce provides guidance on how to reopen the business and considerations to keep in mind while doing so.
4 Steps to Reopening Your Business Safely
This article from the US Chamber of Commerce provides four baseline recommendations on how to ensure the safety of customers and employees when resuming operations.
8 Reopening Strategies Businesses are Embracing
This article from the US Chamber of Commerce highlights the eight most common methods businesses are using to reopen safely across industries.
How To Minimize the Impact If This Happens Again
In case of another virus or other disruptive events during the lifetime of the business, it is important to use the lessons learned from COVID-19 to be better prepared for the future.
A business continuity plan will help the company ensure people and assets are protected in the case of a disaster. Additionally, it will help identify vulnerabilities and quick remediation strategies to help minimize operational downtime. There are four major steps to developing a business continuity plan:
Conduct business impact analysis
Conduct a business impact analysis to identify time-sensitive or critical business functions and the resources that support them. Summarize the operational and financial impacts that would result from a loss of each function, as well as when the loss would result in the identified impact. Impacts can include lost/delayed sales and income, increased expenses, regulatory fines, contractual penalties, customer dissatisfaction, and/or delay of new business plans. Prioritize the highest impact functions for restoration first.
Trace methods of recovery
Identify, document, and implement methods of recovering critical business functions. Consider utilizing other facilities, telecommuting, building new partnerships, changing manufacturing methods, or developing manual workarounds for automated processes.
Create a plan
Organize a business continuity team and compile a business continuity plan. Identify the scope of the plan, key business areas, critical functions, dependencies across areas and functions, and acceptable downtime for each function. Use this to create a plan to maintain operations.
Train your people
Conduct a training for the business continuity team as well as testing and exercises to evaluate the recovery strategies. Make sure that everyone knows what to do in the case of an emergency or disruption.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Business Impact Analysis
This template helps conduct a business impact analysis.
Business Continuity Plan
This template helps develop a business continuity plan.
Business Continuity Resource Requirements
This document helps think through what resources are required to ensure business continuity.
One of the biggest challenges for small businesses during the pandemic is a lack of financial resources. This is due to a number of reasons, including poor documentation, small cash reserves, and lack of access to information. Consider the following measures to strengthen the financial position of the business in case of future disruptions:
Use an accounting system for bookkeeping
This will automate tracking income and expenses, categorizing them, sending and paying invoices, and generating reports. Down the road, this will help in applying for credit or loans. A good resource is QuickBooks.
Build an emergency fund
This will provide protection during future disruptions or economic downturns. The emergency fund should consist of 3-6 months of cash reserves to cover business and living expenses. By knowing that day to day expenses are covered, the focus can remain on the business and returning it to a stable position.
Calculate a minimum monthly profit
Think about regular expenses and obligations to calculate the minimum income needed every month to operate. This will help create a baseline target for the minimum revenue required to stay open.
Track current value of business assets and liabilities
This will help in understanding the current financial position of the business, as well as budgeting for future cycles. Conduct monthly reviews of the company's financial position compared to the prior month.
Maintain separate accounts for business and personal funds
This will save a lot of time when it comes time to calculate business income and expenses for tax season or loan applications. If the business is an LLC or partnership, not only is this legally required, it will also limit personal liability towards business debts.
Clean up transaction records
Even if payments can be tracked electronically, receipts contain additional information like dates and expense details which might be useful down the road. Develop a good filing system to make these easy to access.
Establish a strong relationship with a local bank
This will help the banker be more familiar with the financial situation of the business and streamline the process of applying for loans.
Consider working with a financial advisor
A financial advisor will also have more knowledge about potential fees, loopholes, or tax deductions the company might qualify for, and help make informed decisions.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Paycheck Protection Program Funds Tracking
Use this spreadsheet to help you keep track of PPP funds.
This online calculator helps in understanding the financial impact of COVID-19 on the business, and provides immediate next steps for mitigation.
Basics of Small Business Accounting
This article from Shopify covers 12 basic steps to have good accounting practices. While some of it is tailored to ecommerce specifically, most are generally good practices for all businesses.
Organizing Your Financial Life
Use this document to keep track of the physical location of various financial documents for the business, which will help in applying for loans and filing taxes.
Given what is known now, it is important to implement protective measures in case of another outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic during the life of the business. Consider the following:
Pay attention to local transmission and outbreak risk
Paying attention to local happenings as well as societal systems will better prepare the company to notice a potential outbreak and estimate its impact.
Identify critical business roles
These are the roles without which the business cannot function, so it is important to develop a plan to ensure their continuity in case of future disruptions.
Assess risks to various business functions and establish thresholds to implement response strategies
Think about how various types of events could impact various business functions, and what level of impact is acceptable before a response is required.
Keep in mind impacts to every aspect of the business
Think about potential information and communication concerns, employee concerns, operational concerns, and external communication concerns.
Brainstorm all possible responses
Record all potential solutions given business risks, focusing specifically on IT solutions. Worry about assessing feasibility later, once you start narrowing down potential courses of action.
Set up guidelines for employees to follow in their personal spaces
Provide supplies for employees to sanitize their workstations on a regular basis, and provide instruction on appropriate sanitation practices.
Prepare for the potential of infections in the workplace
Develop a protocol for screening employees for potential exposure, as well as what to do when an employee has been identified with symptoms of the outbreak. Consider who should be notified, timelines for notification, isolation and sanitization procedures, and certification and privacy requirements. Build off the COVID reporting plan, but be prepared to adapt it for other potential outbreaks.
The overwhelming dependence of the economy on technology through the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the value of cybersecurity. To better prepare for remote operations in the future, consider:
Ensure all remote access capabilities are tested and secure
Without company firewalls securing remote connections, company data is more vulnerable than ever.
Ensure security monitoring systems are tuned to have visibility of expanded operating environments
Firewalls and antivirus software must be reconfigured to account for the larger range of access points which employees may access.
Engage with security services vendors to evaluate impacts along the security supply chain
Security doesn’t start and end at the business. Check in with security vendors to make sure their systems remain secure as they face similar challenges.
Ensure the security of employee data
As employees work remotely, many do not have the level of encryption that company networks do, leaving their data vulnerable to malicious actors. Consider how to ensure the security of their data.
Learning from the Past
What we learned from the 2008 Crisis
We looked into articles and interviewed business owners to get insight on the 2008 Financial Crisis and other past disasters. Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind for the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Reduction in consumer spending, consumer confidence, and overall demand.
- Rises in unemployment.
- Changes in consumer lifestyle with an increase in savings.
2008 Aid Environment and Government Intervention
- Mission-oriented nonprofits like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) assist businesses with affordable capital and help bridge the gap in funding in low-income communities.
- Business also turned to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fill gaps in funding.
Small Business Tactics During 2008
- Research shows that businesses that survived employed primarily promotion focused tactics like sales and marketing.
- Prevention tactics like cutting costs were also used.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Locator
These institutions were used to help bridge the gap in low-income communities and provided business advice and affordable lending to businesses that have difficulties finding capital. Use the locator and consider contacting them for business advice and funding.
Consider using crowdfunding platforms to fill in gaps with funding with the PwC report. Look into successful crowdfunding campaigns and success stories to get started. Check out Ignition Deck’s guide and examples on successful crowdfunding campaigns.
View Our Full Report
Download a full version of our 2008 report, more in depth insights on the effects of the Great Recession on small business, and what small businesses can do during tough economic times
Small Business Tactics
Use the resources and insights on our site to learn more about what solutions that are appropriate for your business
Cash is king
Keep a hawkish view of all expenses and squeeze every penny. For example, look at reformulating recipes with cheaper substitutes if in the restaurant industry. Renegotiate rents, leases, and vendor terms whenever possible.
Never stop marketing
Reach out to your network, join trade groups, social media forums, etc, to look for new customers. Be sure you are caring for your existing customers as well. Come up with creative ways to find and reach new customers and reconnect with old ones.
Pivot your business
Many successful businesses in 2008 had to shift their product offerings, offer their services in new ways, or shift to new sub-industries. However, the key to a successful pivot is to keep an eye on the long-term, have clear objectives, and fit your business’ core competencies. Refer to this resource for a guide to pivoting your business.
Know your customer
In order to successfully pivot and market products, a business must have a strong understanding of who their customers are and what they need in order to offer and advertise products that fit their needs and provide value at every step of the customer journey. Communicate and ask your customers what they need. Also, get to know your customer segments by going through different brain exercises.
Here is a clip of Artitudes Design.
We interviewed them on how they navigated through the 2008 crisis and how they are navigating COVID-19