Across the globe, businesses are wondering – how did we get to a pandemic so quickly and how will we survive during these times?
It’s clear that COVID-19 took the world off guard and hit hard! It has required businesses to shift operations quickly, which requires strategic thinking, strategic planning, and execution; a monumental effort so that businesses stay in business during these times. If a business doesn’t have a plan for continuing business, then it’s probably scrambling right now to get one in place so that thriving instead of just surviving is a possibility.
Business Continuity is not a cliché, it is real, and every business should have one. Business Continuity is a planned process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to address potential threats to a business. It is planning for the business’ continuation during a natural disaster or crisis ( e.g., COVID-19). Simply having a company policy in place that speaks to business continuity is not enough. Planning must be strategic, documented, practiced and communicated. Business continuity is often confused with disaster recovery and there is a big difference between the two.
- Disaster Recovery is often used as part of a business continuity plan. Disaster recovery plans are technical and focused on recovering from product failures. For example, if a business is flooded, they may lose critical IT services, so included in the larger business continuity plan would be a disaster recovery plan focused specifically on IT service functions.
- Business Continuity plans outline directions and procedures to be followed when faced with a crisis. The plans are case-specific and consider a variety of crises. These plans include business procedures, names of assets, partners, human resource functions, etc. that help to maintain the company’s relationships and stakeholders. For example, a business may have to respond to a hurricane. If the hurricane disrupts supply chain operations, the company would need to resume business. Planning contingencies in advance can help the company to stay in business when faced with the unavoidable.
Another point to consider in business continuity planning that is often overlooked is how employees get back to work. Many companies have realized the benefit of allowing employees to work from home; reducing overhead costs, etc. It’s in the best interests of businesses who have not jumped on the bandwagon to consider what functions can be performed in a home office environment. Call Center operations (accounting, banking, insurance, etc.) is just one of many that can be run from the comfort of someone’s home office as long as confidentiality is part of the work practice, it is documented in policy as well as in a continuity plan, is known to employees and does not violate HIPAA privacy rules.
HR Functions such as recruitment can be conducted via telephone, zoom, etc. in a business office as well as in a home office. Manufacturing operations, however, would be identified as a function that cannot operate out of someone’s home and so contingency procedures would be developed in order to keep production going. The point here is to determine functions that can adapt to a home office environment and write them into the plan along with a company policy to support it. What happens, however, when a crisis or disaster strikes, there is a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place, yet employees are personally impacted?
Adding employee continuity planning ensures that they can be back on their feet quickly and back to life during and after a crisis. In 2019 we learned from the California fires and in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey that devastated Houston Texas and Louisiana that many businesses needed to close because of buildings that were lost, however, many employees lost their homes which did not allow employees to be functional in a home office environment. Having Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services available and building those services into a business continuity plan can provide the necessary resources that employees need to get back on their feet. These resources can lead employees impacted by a disaster or crisis to temporary housing, address medical needs, provide counseling, etc. The bottom line here is that the quicker an employee can get back on their feet, the quicker they can get back to working so that the business can thrive.
In all, having a business continuity plan that ensures stakeholder success, disaster recovery and employee continuity is essential to addressing a crisis head-on and minimizing the impact on your business.