It goes without saying that things are pretty fluid around working and business continuity practices at the moment, and, as with any rapidly moving situation, it is important to identify trusted sources of information. The UK Government have announced today that they are moving to daily briefings, which will help keep citizens in the UK up to date on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, SCVO is publishing information, guidance and links to resources that will be helpful to voluntary sector organisations online, which are being updated daily.

With regards to Business Continuity, there are some great resources and check lists available. I particularly like this paper from Zurich Insurance. Although quite high level, this blog details a few hints and tips – practical advice that has been gained from a decade as a Business Continuity Consultant. Business Continuity is, in a nutshell, a combination of actions around people, processes and technology.  The list below is by no means exhaustive – merely designed to give you food for thought and actions to consider.

Policies

Have you reviewed your policies to ensure they reflect the current time?  Check out your policies on:

  • Sickness
  • Travel and meetings
  • Remote working
  • Expenses

The final one is important if staff will be incurring personal costs, such as telephony on their own devices, during the time of an incident.

Business processes

Look carefully at your business processes:

  • Have you identified your critical products/services and prioritised these for resources/recovery?
  • Have you identified key communities and people who depend on your services?
  • Have you identified key people, allocated a deputy for them or considered cross-training?  Do you need to change any authorisation processes to accommodate staff sickness?
  • Likewise, have you identified any critical suppliers or links within your supply chain? Consider sourcing secondary suppliers for vital products.
  • At the time of invoking your business continuity plan, ensure you undertake a Work in Progress review.  This will help you have a full picture of what is being worked upon in the organization and allow you to prioritise and resource accordingly.
  • Be aware of the impact an incident may have on your cashflow.  Consider increasing credit limits or overdraft facilities, if required.  Be mindful of the impact that delayed supplier payment may have on your credit record.  Speak to your funders and see if grants awarded can be opened out in scope to help with extraordinary expenses.

Systems & technology

Remote working has improved dramatically over the years and access to work systems from home is now commonplace.  This will be vital in ensuring “business as usual” during the time of the pandemic.  Things to consider around home working include:

  • Make sure people take laptops home every night.  Just ‘cos the office is open today doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow!
  • Ensure you have sufficient licenses for all the people you want to access the organisation’s systems from home.  If you are using technology like Citrix and you have a finite amount of licenses, make sure these are allocated to the roles you have identified as crucial during your working in progress review.
  • Make sure people can log on from home.  Practice this whilst IT can provide support in a calm and structured manner.
  • Consider advice for people using their own devices to access work systems.  Suggest a separate account is set up on the device to separate work from the rest of the family’s usage.
  • Be aware that cyber criminals are taking full advantage of this time to undertake their attacks.  There has been an increase in phishing and fake websites set up, taking advantage of our anxiety around the Corona Virus.  Remember good cyber hygiene is vital.

See our separate blog for more details on supporting your staff to work remotely.

Messaging

It is vital to keep all appropriate stakeholders up to date with the current status of your pandemic planning.  This is especially important with staff members who may be feeling unsure and vulnerable. 

  • Set an expectation with staff of how they will receive up to date messaging and status reports.  Ensure this medium is available to all staff.
  • Consider a mass messaging service like Text Anywhere.  Address books can be set up in advance and deployed as required.  A “pay as you go” version of this is available.
  • You might want to set up a WhatsApp group or Broadcast List for your staff team if not all your team can easily access email
  • Negate any concerns about GDPR – Personal details such as contact numbers can be collected using the lawful basis of “legitimate interest”, as your reason for collecting is to ensure employee safety.  Consent would not be required under these circumstances.

Facilities

Over and above all the good stuff around increased hygiene in the workplace, consider that buildings may be left unoccupied for unusual periods of time.  Consider improving physical security at this time.

Conclusion

As mentioned, this is by no way a fully comprehensive overview of Business Continuity Management and should be considered in association with, and to support, your organisational Business Continuity Plan.  As mentioned previously, the SCVO website is a great resource for information.  Make sure you check this often.