5 Steps for a Successful Implementation of Your Business Continuity Plan
For a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to be effective, it must include the actual steps that your organization will take - and when - in the event that a pandemic like COVID-19, or coronavirus, strikes.
Being prepared for the impact of a pandemic means understanding not only how it could impact your people’s ability to do their jobs, but also how to mitigate against the risks of one of your employees becoming ill and infection spreading through one of your offices, locations or sites.
Unless your BCP outlines the exact steps required in the event that an on premise employee discovers that he or she is infected with COVID-19, your organization may not be able to effectively respond.
As an organization that only exists due to the capabilities and effort of its people, we at Sitel Group have devoted a huge amount of time and expertise to understanding how any type of on-site incident could potentially put our people at risk – including an infectious disease.
While every company’s BCP must reflect the unique elements of its organization and operations, based upon Sitel Group’s direct and growing experience with COVID-19, the following are our five best-practice tips (and lessons learned) that we believe serve as a foundation to ensure the safety and well-being of your employees while maintaining business continuity for your customers.
1. Keep people presenting symptoms isolated
If one of your on-site employees displays potential coronavirus symptoms, that person requires immediate isolation prior to taking any other BCP measures. After isolating the employee, then begin follow your existing incident response plan for reporting an illness at work and calling on the assistance of healthcare professionals. Even with portable testing, it may take time to confirm whether your employee was actually infected with COVID-19. However, do not wait for the results to implement your plan. If the employee who has fallen sick has a dedicated workspace, i.e., a desk, office or cubical it should be sanitized immediately and cordoned off with a 6-foot (or 3-meter) perimeter. Next, move quickly to identify anyone else in the building (including visitors) who may have been in close contact with the affected team member.
2. Keep everyone in you organization informed
As part of any comprehensive BCP, your organization’s processes for cascading information throughout the business quickly and clearly is a necessity. Now that the virus has been defined as a national emergency in most countries, your organization should be using this channel for reminding your people to take their health seriously as well as their responsibility to co-workers.
This process is crucial for keeping everyone on the same page at all times and can be optimized further by communicating updates at a predetermined time every day. This primes your people for receiving and acting upon anything shared and eliminate any potential confusion; because, if coronavirus is confirmed, this system is what you’re going to use for informing all staff members and for communicating what the next steps will be. Considering how infectious the disease is and the concern it is provoking across the general population, the first step is most likely to be calling for all staff members to collect their equipment and devices outlined in the BCP for continued operations and to allow for a deep clean to take place.
Even if your organization has drilled and rehearsed these scenarios on a regular basis, your communications should also contain reminders of the actions and processes you people need to undertake before, during and after leaving the confirmation of a COVID-19 case.
Remember, with the exception of information directly concerning your own organization (for which you are the only source of truth), any other communications relating to coronavirus – or any other potential national emergency – must come from the most credible of sources. Just as important is that you directly reference those sources to eliminate any potential rumors starting and taking hold.
What’s more, don’t forget your people are omnichannel so communicate clearly and consistently via as many channels as possible – phone, social messaging, SMS, email, etc. For clarity, agree in advance on the channels of communication and adapt your approach across channels based on the nature of the communication with your people, clients and customers. Keep the conversation going and be ready and able to provide answers when they reply to your messages with questions of their own.
3. Keep following your Business Continuity Plan
As the threat of infection spreads, you may have already implemented flexible or work from home policies as part of your Business Continuity Plan. Working from home helps to stop the spread of infection. Even if your staff do not work in close proximity to each other, they may be at risk on their journey to and from work. Working from home is increasingly easy to implement for many roles and enables social distancing which can limit the spread of infection. Working from home can also enable you to continue to perform business functions that provide necessary continuity while your site may be inaccessible.
Inform local health authorities immediately if a staff member is known to have contracted coronavirus. Follow all advice and guidance given to you from local authorities, and only allow staff back into cordoned off areas once a viral decontamination has been completed.
4. Keep supporting your staff during the disruption
As part of your communications strategy, you should already be sharing information about how to reduce the risk of contracting the virus and what any person working at your organization should do if he or she thinks they may be ill. So far, self-quarantine is the only viable solution for people who believe they have the virus, therefore you need to be proactive in offering support for anyone working for you who may be faced with this situation.
This can range from simply “checking in” with anyone who is currently in self-quarantine to highlighting the steps the organization is taking to ensure support and protection for employees needing to take sick leave.
Even if an individual is extremely sick, fears about their position and job security can cloud their judgement. That’s why through words and actions, you will need to help them see clearly and make their health and well-being the No.1 priority.
5. Keep everyone reassured about their jobs and your business
If your site was closed due to the coronavirus and is now disinfected, please communicate with your people that the cleaning and sanitation processes are thorough and comply with all governmental guidelines. Providing video and documentary evidence is preferable.
Even if a site becomes contaminant-free, personal hygiene requirements are still necessary. Please ensure this is clearly communicated. In addition, continue the option for work at home for those employees feeling uncertain about returning to the site.
After decontamination, it is optimal and strongly encouraged to hold an all-employee meeting to openly share and answer any questions or addressing any potential employee concerns.
A plan based on our reality
Over the past seven days, our own people-focused BCP has been put to the test with one of our employees becoming ill. By following our predetermined BCP and procedures that employee received the medical help promptly and risk to co-workers was mitigated immediately, switching from normal operations to activating our decontamination plan in 80 minutes.
Next, a hospital-grade decontamination at the site, which included the use of fog machines and ionizers as instructed by applicable authorities, was completed. We have constant lines of communication open with the affected staff to ensure that Sitel is appropriately providing any required support.
With 80,000 people around the globe, the well-being of our people is the No.1 priority for Sitel Group. The coronavirus pandemic is a cause of concern and disruption across the globe. No matter what steps are put in place, no organization can guarantee that it will not be affected. However, you can put business continuity plans in place that are focused on your people as well as your infrastructure and processes to position you businesses so that it is ready to act quickly and responsibly should you need to.
For resources designed to support your business’ continuity planning visit www.sitel.com/business-continuity-planning.