Smart business measures to take for this pandemic
By Vernon Jeffery; March 26, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is strictly not a business, healthcare, or political problem. First and foremost, this coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy, directly affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and indirectly, it is affecting us all.
At the time of this writing, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 550,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. More than 25,000 people have died.
For each person receiving medical treatment right now, it’s reasonable to expect that others are in self-treatment at home—infected, contagious and unreported. Businesses need to support their dedicated workforces. Encourage anyone who believes he or she has been exposed to the virus to consult with medical professionals.
As a business leader, you now need to connect with an increasing number of highly reliable sources of information. This includes open communication among peer organizations, government and the private sector at local, state and federal levels to establish relationships needed to face this threat. No one can do it alone. And we all must remain vigilant to avoid falling prey to misinformation. It’s not just COVID-19 that’s spreading fast. Online misinformation has followed, and health officials are mounting a concerted effort to combat it. They are calling this phenomenon an “Infodemic.” To ensure that you receive sound information, directly contact the institutions dedicated to issues of interest to you. Those include:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The World Health Organization (WHO)
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)
The focus has shifted from preparedness to response. We have gone from asking purely hypothetical questions to asking: “What should we do next?”
Early evidence suggests that businesses should be more robust and resilient than in the past. Despite years of warnings to prepare for a pandemic, more work remains. Resources must be marshaled, and we must play the hand we have dealt to ourselves.
These times call for a realistic, calm assessment of the current situation, and a careful navigation of what is a fragile area between fact and emotion to arrive at the most appropriate and sustainable solutions for each organization, whether government or private sector.
No two businesses are alike, and the same hazard will hit them differently, including this outbreak of COVID-19. Likely impacts on businesses include widespread staff absenteeism and supply chain disruptions.
We should all now re-assess our organizations’ readiness levels and abilities to maintain continuity of operations in the current situation.
Three points to consider, regardless of your business size:
- What hazards will you face as the COVID-19 outbreak reaches your front doors?
- How can you mitigate or reduce the impact of each hazard that you identify?
- How can you maintain your business during this outbreak, even if you need to radically pivot toward innovation and new business models?
If a contagious disease outbreak such as COVID-19 or any other catastrophic event occurs, you must minimize disruption to your critical processes and support functions.
Management teams should consider designating a point person/persons to manage the company’s pandemic contingency programs. Companies must also continue to think about maintaining preparedness for other possible future events.
We all now face rapidly changing conditions. Current information is a must. Business associations, chambers of commerce, and other such social networks can work for one another. Observing and sharing risk-related information is critical.
Collaborating with fellow community members will allow you to be more aware of the overall situation than if you flew solo. Everyone involved can raise red flags signaling emerging risks to organizations.
Your business stakeholders may see a failure to prepare or adequately respond as carelessness. Lack of preparedness is unacceptable to an organization’s stakeholders, customers, and allied businesses and risks adverse public relations fallout in the wake of incident or disaster.
We are all in this together. We ALL need to put our heads (and our hearts) together to help one another. Together, we will emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vernon Jeffery is the chief strategist at Readiness Associates, a New England-based consulting firm that offers emergency preparedness, business continuity and disaster risk-reduction services to businesses, governments and healthcare organizations worldwide. He was last published in McKnight’s Long-term Care News.
This article is one of a series contributed by businesses and business professionals addressing current business topics and financial issues as an informational service to our readers. No endorsement of opinions, products, services, or medical advice, is implied by Pepperdine University, the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, or the Graziadio Business Review.