Surviving the Spike: Managing the Second Wave of COVID-19 as a BC Professional

Richard Long

The current spike in COVID-19 cases combined with the approach of winter flu season brings new challenges for organizations in general and business continuity management professionals in particular. In today’s post, we’ll look at the difficulties your company might face this winter and how you can successfully navigate them as a BC Professional .

COVID-19 cases are spiking and flu season is coming, setting the stage for what could be a difficult winter.

Recent news about progress in the drive to develop a vaccine gives hope for the spring. However, I think it is more likely that we have entered into a prolonged period of bumpiness and uncertainty than that we are almost out of the woods.

What should BCM professionals be looking at, thinking about, and executing on in order to help their organizations prepare for the coronavirus’s second wave?

Here are six things that seem to me to be especially important:

1. Be proactive in managing pandemic fatigue.

It’s true that many people are getting tired of social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings. That doesn’t mean your BCM office and organization should just give up and throw in the towel on implementing and modeling COVID best practices. You want to ensure your people remain healthy both for their own needs and to support your organization. Look for ways to support people who are worn out while also setting an example of positive endurance. There are two ways of responding to sustained stress: one is giving up and the other is growing stronger so that you become capable of taking the stress in stride. The Greatest Generation endured four years of deprivation during World War II. We can learn a lot from their example in responding to as a BCM professional.

 2. Take advantage of the chance to plan ahead.

When society went into lockdown last March, most people and organizations were taken by surprise. We’re well past that now. Every responsible company knows we’re currently undergoing a surge in infections and that things are expected to get worse with the coming of flu season and the onset of cold weather in many parts of the country. Forewarned is forearmed, so it is said. This is true if people take advantage of the warning.

BCM professionals should use this time to plan for the winter—and whatever it might bring in terms of COVID-related impacts.

Don’t wait around. Be proactive. Decide now on the measures to be taken in your COVID-19 response plan and the decision points for implementing them.

3. Update your risk assessments.

As the world and your organization change, so do your risks—and in the last six months, the world has changed a lot. I bet your organization has, too. This is a good time to update your risk assessments. What are the threats most likely to strike your company? Where are you most vulnerable? Evaluate the threats in terms of likelihood of occurrence and degree of potential impact, then work your way through the matrix, dealing first with those that have both a high chance of occurring and a high potential cost.

What are some of the risks you should especially look into? Here are a few:

  • What if there’s another lockdown? How would that impact you?
  • Is your IT secure?
    • Are you at increased risk for cyberattacks in your new work model?
    • Is your confidential information safe?
  • How reliable are the components of your supply chain?
  • How reliable are the third-party conferencing apps you’ve come to depend on?
  • Do you have alternate ways people can connect, if your first option can’t be used?

For more on gauging your organization’s risks, see this post: “Weighing the Danger: The Continuing Value of the Threat and Risk Assessment.”

4. Make plans to deal with a potential loss of staff.

Do you remember our post from a couple of months ago called, “Think Your Company Has Survived a Pandemic? Think Again.” The gist was that so far most organizations have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic as a relocation event rather than a loss of staff event. Most companies had to learn how to carry on with much of their staff working from home. Few were impacted by having large numbers of staff too sick to work. This could change. Your organization should be prepared in case it does.

What would you do if 15 or 20 or 25 percent of your staff was taken ill and could not work, even from home? Have you identified the most critical roles and tasks at the company? Have you designated alternates for handling key tasks? Do the alternates have the knowledge and tools they would need to carry out their role as backups? Do you know which tasks you can safely leave undone for a period of time, if there aren’t enough people to do everything you normally do?

Take the time now to work out how your company should adapt if a significant slice of the workforce was put out of commission as a result of the resurgent pandemic and/or the upcoming flu season.

5. Consider the regulatory impacts.

We talked earlier about how companies should update their risk assessments in light of the recent changes to the organization and the environment. Similarly, you should consider whether these changes have any ramifications in terms of government regulations. One such issue that looks like it will develop into a tussle between two states is the tax ramifications for people who formerly worked in offices in New York City and are now working at home in New Jersey.

6. Mange your physical space. 

What are you going to do if it becomes necessary to send a lot people home again? How would you handle this from a business continuity perspective, especially as it relates to tasks that must be done in a particular physical space, such as manufacturing, distribution, and quality control?

For office workers, would it be beneficial to set up a space where people can gather while maintaining the appropriate distance? Having such a space could enable employees who would otherwise be sidelined by problems with their work-from-home setups to remain productive.

Getting Through the Spike of COVID-19 as a BCM professional

The recent news about COVID-19 vaccines has been encouraging, but that’s all some months away, at best. In the meantime, we have to get through the spike and the winter.

To help your company do this, we suggest that you: Be proactive in managing pandemic fatigue; plan ahead; update your risk assessments; make plans to deal with a potential loss of staff; consider any regulatory impacts of the recent changes in how your organization is doing business; and manage your physical space in such a way as to minimize the impact of the pandemic and any future lockdown.

Further Reading

For more information on COVID-19 as a BC professional and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS:

About
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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