Blog March 5, 2020

6 Business Continuity Actions to Take During an Outbreak

People keep saying that we need to keep a sense of perspective when it comes to the Corona Virus known as COVID-19. After all, the 2018-2019 flu season killed more than 34,000 Americans, and the prior season claimed 61,000. That said, the mortality rate of the flu virus is somewhat lower than COVID-19, and we aren’t sure how many victims this new virus will ultimately claim.

Still, your overall chances of contracting COVID-19 in the US remain low and experts encourage people to stay calm and use common sense. That’s always good advice. That said, now’s the time to think about precautions you can put in place to keep the business viable during an outbreak of anything from the Corona Virus to the Black Death. (In case you think I’m joking, an average of 7 cases of the Bubonic Plague are reported in the US each year.)

Here are some suggestions we’ve collected as we work through our own Business Continuity Plans:

1/ Let your employees know it’s OK to take a sick day. Create an expectation that people should stay home if they’re feeling ill, even if you have to be more lax in your sick day policies than usual. This may not help much with COVID-19 since experts say that people are contagious even before they start showing signs of infection, but at least it’s a start. It can also help prevent the spread of other more mundane diseases that drive down productivity.

2/ Find ways to prevent transmission. For example, if you’re still using hand towels in your bathrooms (shudder), replace these with paper towels immediately. Personally, I prefer paper towels over hand dryers because you can use your towel to open the bathroom door, depositing in the trash on the way out. (Thanks, Mom, for that little trick!)

3/ Do more meetings online. Who hasn’t come down with the flu after traveling on an airplane? Or sat next to someone with a raging cold in a conference room, but been too polite to get up and move? Maybe now’s the time to encourage less travel; more online meetings and maybe even virtual conferences. Side benefit – you’ll save money!

4/ Allow people to work from home. More people than ever are telecommuting, but many business leaders are still reluctant to allow it. Some are concerned that employees won’t be as productive. (The studies suggest otherwise.) It might be a good idea to start trying it now, with small pilot groups to prove the concept and to help you establish guidelines and policies.

Related post: Are Smartphones HIPAA compliant?

5/ Find backup for critical roles. There are critical roles in every organization that are needed to keep the business functioning, e.g., your SQL Server DBA or that one guy that knows your ERP system inside and out. In the event these people get sick (even if it isn’t the Corona Virus) you should have someone who can step in immediately, preferably remotely.

For example, Spinnaker Support, one of our technology partners, provides help desk services and managed support for a wide range of ERP applications and databases. We also provide remote management services in addition to our managed cloud and cloud hosting services.

6/ Review your disaster recovery plans. Let’s hope the situation doesn’t get anywhere close to this bad, but you should take the time to ensure you have a thorough disaster recovery plan in place in case your primary cloud becomes unavailable. For example, if your infrastructure is housed on-premises, it might be a good idea to have a failover site housed on AWS or Azure just in case your on-prem site needs to be temporarily shut down.

A Wake-Up Call for Business

The irony is that all six of these actions are things businesses could have and should have been doing long before COVID-19 ever claimed its first victim. This virus is simply a wake-up call to how vulnerable we all are to a pandemic – or even a local outbreak of a particularly bad head cold. It may be past time to prepare for such an event, but late is better than never.


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