COVID-19 is making its way across the United States. School districts around the country are making plans on how to return in the Fall. The NBA, MLB, and NCAA have all greatly curtailed major events to help keep people from inadvertently spreading the virus. Over time, businesses will have to make the decision on how they want to handle their own employees and staying open. For some, this may be an easy decision if the majority of their work is done online or is portable. But for others, closing down temporarily, or running with reduced staff may be difficult or nearly impossible. This is why your company needs a business contingency plan for COVID-19. This article will offer some possible solutions to minimize the virus’ impact.
Why do you need a business contingency plan for COVID-19?
The virus spread hasn’t reached its peak in the United States and most states are increasing at a rapid pace. You may have closed briefly earlier in the year and have some experience with this process. However, many businesses were hit hard because they weren’t able to have a process in place. By planning now, you can minimize the disruption it will have on your business. If you are forced to close completely due to COVID-19, how will you address that? What can you do to help ensure your employees are able to continue servicing your customers in a way that keeps your employees safe?
Do a quick self-assessment – where do things stand now?
The first step is to look around and see where you stand now. What type of business do you have? Do you deal directly with the public? Do you have stock that needs to be replaced? All of these would make an impact on your plan. Here is a quick list to help you make your plan.
- Do you have a physical office that deals directly with the public?
- Does someone need to be at your business for supplier deliveries?
- Do you need all of your employees to be at your business for them to do their work?
- How are phones handled? Does someone in your office handle that?
- What type of computers or network setup do you have?
- What software do you use on a regular basis? Is it internet-based or installed on your computers?
- Do you have employees that aren’t absolutely needed each day?
Answering these questions will give you a place to start making your plan.
Start your business contingency plan for COVID-19
After you have answered the questions above, its time to dig into what you can do. This is the “meat and potatoes” of your business contingency plan for COVID-19.
If your physical office will receive customers, the first step to take is to follow the federal and state guidelines for your type of business. Here is an example from the CDC. This may include how many customers are allowed inside, what distance they need to keep, and how your staff should be placed when dealing with customers.
If you’re able to allow employees to work from home, then there are technical issues to consider.
Do you have a phone system that will allow your employees to answer incoming calls at home? Can you forward calls to someone who can answer? If you are using a Voice over IP (VoIP), you may be able to route the calls to mobile phones or use softphone clients on your computers to answer. Phone companies also offer call forwarding that you can use to send your office’s calls to another phone such as a mobile.
If you need access to faxing, efax services can help. Services such as Efax provide you with a phone number that will receive your faxes that are then forwarded to you via email. You can have your phone company forward your fax number to this efax number while you are forced to work remotely.
How will your employees access the data on your computers? Are your programs web or cloud-based or do you have a server in your office? If your programs are cloud-based, then that will make remote working a lot easier. If you have a server, then a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can establish secure remote access from anywhere to the computers in your office.
One of the hardest things about working remotely is making sure that the work is being done effectively. Without easy access to all of the things you need, it makes working from home stressful. Not to mention the distractions that are available at home with no one there to make sure the work is done. Keeping in contact with employees and making sure they have the tools they need to work efficiently is crucial. Virtual meeting tools such as Zoom can be a great way to have face to face time. But project management tools such as Asana and Trello can really help keep everyone on the same page. Instant messaging programs like Skype and Whatsapp are also good tools for fast communication.
If you need to make sure your employees are staying on task, Rescue Time is a good tool. It will allow you to see what apps they are spending the most time using, what sites they visit, etc. Tools like this have seen an enormous increase in usage over the pandemic. However, installing apps like this can be considered wiretapping so make sure you follow the laws in your state. If you put them on your company computers and inform your employees about it, then you will have your bases covered.
Working through a pandemic is very challenging. We all want to stay safe but at the same time, businesses need to continue to function. That is why you need a business contingency plan for COVID-19 in place, in case you are forced to send your employees home to work. Taking a few minutes now to plan will make things a lot easier later if you have to make that decision. Managing people at many different locations doesn’t have to be hard. The tools above give you and your employees a lot of flexibility to make sure the work can get done.