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10 March 2020

COVID-19: getting your organisation ahead of the curve

Steve Hodgson, Consultant, ClearView Continuity

The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly, as governments around the world react to this emerging crisis. For business continuity managers, the challenge is to keep ahead of developments and to understand the necessary response measures, while resisting pressure to either react too early or disproportionately.

The first requirement is information that is as accurate as possible and, at ClearView, it is our opinion that advice should be distilled from formal trusted sources only. These include Government and its departments; business bodies and regulatory authorities; trusted industry experts; health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO). Analyse the guidance and apply or build into your business continuity program as appropriate.

Secondly, it is important to review existing business continuity plans and strategies to determine what changes may be required; and what elements might need to be activated. We recommend working through the following checklist:


Prepare (or review) your communication strategy

  • Ensure there is a robust internal communications plan, allowing multiple layers of contact with your employees. Continual, straightforward messaging is key. Signpost to reliable additional sources of information.
  • Ensure there is a robust external communications plan which reaches stakeholders, suppliers, customers, media and other potential interested parties.


  • Be factual. Signpost to trusted sources. Provide clear guidance on what to do if an infection is suspected.
  • Provide clarity on work from home policies and ensure that employees understand the potential impact on the business.

Evaluate the business impact

  • Review your previous BIAs: understand what the critical operations are and which can be performed through home working or alternate locations. Look at additional or alternate training for staff to perform key tasks. What functions can be suspended? Those staff identified as critical should be made fully aware of their role and expectations and must be provided with support and guidance.

Understand technology impacts and requirements

  • Assess how prepared the IT environment is for increased network traffic due to home working. Is there capacity?
  • Make staff aware of potential bad actors using the outbreak as a method to infiltrate secure IT environments. Remind staff of the security policies and practices, such as not opening emails with attachments from unrecognised sources.
  • Understand that IT disruption is likely, and that IT and data security is at increased risk. Improve and increase vigilance wherever possible.

Policies and procedures

  • Implement appropriate travel policies during the outbreak and restrict, where necessary, travel to at-risk regions;
  • Understand how to manage or limit person to person contact;
  • Review staff leave policy;
  • Review and update staff policy when family members may be ill. Understand how staff can manage conflicting family and work priorities;
  • Enhance a culture of personal responsibility;
  • Decide whether it is necessary to postpone any large scale or public events.

Supply chain

  • Review primary, secondary and tertiary supplier capabilities. Assume the need to enact alternate supplier arrangements.

The list above is not exhaustive; however, these are some simple to follow actions which can reassure businesses, employees, customers and other stakeholders that an organisation is as prepared and controlled as is reasonably appropriate.

The organisation should take a proactive approach to managing the crisis. Embrace and tackle head on the potential impact by using facts, communicating clearly internally and externally, and taking practical, realistic, and appropriate steps to help ensure business continuity.

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