I have been involved in response to COVID19 which took the world by surprise & during last 2 months, I did several things at unprecedented speed.

I am putting together this article summarizing my lessons learnt & hope these will be useful for others. I would have liked to articulate more, but I am choosing to keep my sentences short & straightforward - exactly how you should communicate when you are dealing with infectious diseases

So here are the lessons learnt -

A) Establish Crisis Management Team (CMT)
1. Establish CMT, consider having it chaired by someone other than GM/CEO to free up GM
2. Identify single, official, regular communication channel
3. Do scenario planning to inform key actions around people, customers & operations
4. Quickly establish IT Crisis Management Team to quickly start working potential solutions even before situation becomes critical
5. Test and execute call trees

B) Customer Care
1. Prioritize: Work out lifeline functions and aim to support those first. These are those functions that you are obliged to perform from a legal / statutory / existing customer servicing perspective. This could initially mean sacrifice to new business.
2. Then later, consider how else beyond lifeline can better support customers.

C) BCP Site
1. Test connectivity and equipment is in good order
2. People working in BCP site should not return to main office, instead split life line roles between main site and BCP (ie run both site as hot/hot) to create layer of separation in the event of an infection in one office.

D) Work from Home
1. Check VPN capacity, network bandwidth and laptop availability
2. Issue WFH policies (e.g. split life line teams 50:50 WFH/office attendance in case of outbreak in office)
3. Share best practices for WFH (e.g. proper workspace, use video camera, clear desk) with staff
4. Ensure information security policy compliance – publish reminders if needed
5. Increase IT help-desk resources and facilities to support staff who WFH

E) Utilizing Tools
1. Ensure staff have training and understand full capability of existing collaboration tools for example: OneDrive, MS Teams, O365, WebEx etc
2. Use more than one communication tool, other than email e.g. WeChat, Whatsapp, Skype for instant messaging. If using non corp tool – abide by security policy

F) Staff Communication
1. Set up Covid19 micro site relevant to your country/location and update regularly
2. Get a pro/doctor to do conference call with staff to answer questions and address concerns and separate reality from fantasy / fake news / speculation
3. Identify channels and sources for staff to mitigate anxiety/psychological impact
4. Over-communicate with employees – keep them informed and call

G) Process for Handling Suspected Cases

1. Develop guidelines around handling of suspected/confirmed infections amongst staff
2. Consider splitting teams in case of an office infection (half at home / half in office)
3. Dedicated quarantine space in case of emergency

H) Office Hygiene and Employee Care
1. Source hand sanitizers and masks early, where possible establish local source
2. Ensure enhanced hygiene measures are communicated and promoted throughout premises
3. Ask Cleaners to clean tables, door handles and high traffic areas more frequently
4. Distribute COVID19 care kits to staff as small gesture of employee care (e.g. few pieces of masks and mini hand sanitizer)
5. Prepare contactless thermometers in the office in case of need
6. Enhance employee benefits where feasible (e.g., testing, medical reimbursements)

I) Visitor Policy
1. Establish visitor policy including vendors, auditors etc. including recent travel declaration

J) Managing Vendors
1. Work out vendor dependencies that might be in other countries where Covid19 has a wider impact
2. Get vendors to update daily on infection cases if any and status of their BCP
3. Establish clear contact point with vendor on status and WFH arrangements
4. Ask for vendors’ COVID19 response plan in case of infection at their end

As you know, the situation is not really slowing down & we may have more lessons to learn as we go forward.. Godspeed & take care !

Siddharth Padbidri

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