Plan ahead for your business to stay ahead

Contingency planning may be one of the best moves you will take, to ensure business continuity.

plan ahead for your business

The notorious Covid-19 outbreak has morphed into an economic tsunami that is turning MNCs and SMEs alike on its head. But the show must go on, even as businesses brace themselves for the impact of Circuit Breaker measures in place right now. This is a period of partial lockdown as movements are curtailed and only businesses deemed as essential, are in operation. 

Now it doesn’t matter if you’re running an essential business during this timeframe or if your business is suspended and staff are mainly telecommuting -- having an effective Business Continuity Plan in place right now, would mean you have not only kept your workplace and workers safe, you would have left the light on as well. 

In the course of continuity planning, it becomes important to review key business operations such as Human Resource, Processes and business functions, Supplier and customer management, as well as internal and external communication in a company to manage its Business Continuity Planning, in line with government practices and measures. 

What was your process and how effective has it been for you? We share some pointers as you review your plan with changing conditions. 

Human Resource (HR) Management
The role of ‘Flu Manager’ must be appointed and its duties include actively monitoring the latest on Covid-19 outbreak and work with management to disseminate any information clearly and effectively. As the ‘go-to’ person on all things Covid-19 related, the Flu Manager should educate employees on government and company measures and ensure all contact details are updated. Flu Manager of businesses deemed as essential, also needs to ensure measures are in place – be it hygiene measures, temperature log, liaising with MOH or even when a colleague become infected. 

HR management should also consider leadership continuity in the event of absence of key management personnel. Telecommuting is mandatory where nature of work permits and HR management needs to ensure measures are set in place to allow for this. 

Process and Business Functions 
Unless part of what the government has termed as an essential business, employees must now work from home. Special attention must be paid to high-risk employees such as elderly, pregnant and employees with underlying medical conditions. Even if it means temporarily deploying these employees to another role within the company that is suitable to working from home. Hence, work process needs to be reviewed and adequate IT equipment and assistance must be given. In cases where employees cannot work from home (such as part of an essential business), the following measures should be set in place. 

For essential businesses, identify and set up alternate teams of employees (e.g. Team A and Team B) who can be deployed at different work schedules such as Team A works in the office at alternate weeks while Team B telecommutes. Both teams should be physically segregated to avoid risk of infection. Another suggestion is to cross train workers to establish covering of job scopes, as this would reduce work disruption. 

Wider physical spacing of at least 1 metre should be adhered to between employees. This safety distance should be adhered to, even during informal settings such as lunch time. Physical meetings should be avoided, but in instances where one needs to meet, available seats in meeting rooms should also be spaced at least 1 metre apart. This safety distance applies to all common areas such as lifts, canteen and entrances/exits.

Staggered working hours must be implemented to minimise crowding at public spaces and transportation. Such hours must be implemented over minimal three 1-hour blocks, with not more than half of employees reporting to work within each 1-hour block. To illustrate – if normal working hours are between 9am to 6pm, employees can start work between 7.30am to 8.30am and 8.30am to 9.30am intervals, with corresponding end of work timings. This theory applies to lunch break and tea break (if any). Where possible, reporting and ending timings for work should not coincide with peak-hour travel. 

In cases where work visitors have to come a-knocking, standard measures need to be in place for health screening and follow up action such as contact tracing.  

Supplier and customer management
As you identify essential business suppliers and service providers, it would be best to discuss so that both businesses can plan and implement complementary plans. Essential customers should be identified so that business can prioritise and ensures plans are in place to meet demands. Alternative suppliers and delivery means to customers should be discussed and planned for as well. 

Internal and external communications
Identify a communications coordinator to disseminate communication plans so that employees have clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. Establish a clear communication channel for employees to report their status and make enquiries, as well as key messaging for relevant stakeholders like suppliers, service providers and customers.

Caring for the office premises
Housekeeping team for essential businesses must disinfect frequently-touched areas like toilets, lift buttons, handrails, door knobs, digital touchscreens and more. Refuse bins must be covered and cleaned daily, with bins disinfected daily as well. Wiping down individual work station begins with using an NEA-approved antibacterial product to disinfect common surfaces like desk, keyboards, computer nose and work phone. The surface you disinfect must remain wet for a period of 3-5 minutes to be effective. 

Given the ever-changing outbreak situation, this list is inexhaustible so do keep yourself updated with the official government portals to keep employees and the workplace safe for everyone. 

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