Businesses have been found wanting when it comes to pandemic preparedness and mitigating the associated risks. Remote work or work-from-home has become a requirement they cannot circumvent. 3dotDigital suggests how businesses can respond and fight back to enable business survival, business continuity and sustainable growth.

Business Continuity Plan

It is time to look at the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and appoint a team for getting the core functions executed. More often than not, the businesses do not have a response to something like a virus outbreak as an eventuality in their BCP.

  1. The first thing that this core team needs to do is to evaluate the importance of business activities and classify them as per their importance of recovery. For example, the IT infrastructure would rank above the activities like training that can be deferred. 
  2. The core team needs to assess the ground reality in regions of business operation including engaging third-parties to do the same.
  3. This team also needs to revisit the revenue projections and communicate the same to stakeholders and vendors. They need to ensure that they have sufficient capital to tide over the troubled times. Insolvency risk needs to be mitigated by restructuring and refinancing the business loans if any with lesser interest rates or longer periods. The costs need to be reviewed thoroughly. Ways to negotiate better rates with vendors need to be determined besides elimination of non-essential fixed and variable costs, and listing of the costs that can be cut down further in critical mode.    
  4. It needs to identify ways in which they can adapt the product or service during the pandemic, when the retail sales plummet, that enhance the profitability.
  5. The core team also needs to know the whereabouts of important documents. In case the location the office is in is put under lockdown by the authorities, they should have access to the scanned copies uploaded online. 

Revisit the HR policies

The absentee number needs to be watched closely. The critical employees need to be identified and businesses need to ensure how they can function without them should such a need arise. Businesses need to be accommodating enough to allow staff to work from home, allow sick leaves more than usual and reimburse whatever expenses they may incur owing to remote work. Contingency plans to source replacement staff from a global pool may need to be implemented. 

Supply Chain Overhaul 

The businesses need to know what their supply chain risks are, upstream as well as downstream; how long will the business be able to sustain itself without the supply of a particular item or service. The risks need to be examined in terms of supply and demand mismatch, non-availability of the labour resources, the effect on profitability, etc. It is time to look for new vendors and transportation partners and sell products and services in accordance with these considerations. 

Communicate effectively and regularly 

A single point of contact needs to be announced and preapproved messages need to be developed for staff and a similar exercise needs to be carried out separately for customers, vendors, etc. There should be a clear company-wide definition of communication channels to be used for each specific purpose.  Staff working remotely receive less information than if they were working in a regular office environment. This needs to be attended to or they may feel somewhat disconnected. They need to be told what their organisation is doing to mitigate risk and what it expects from them. The success of the remote-work model largely depends on communication and trust especially when you cannot see them physically. 

Review the IT operations 

For critical systems, businesses need to look at cloud-based tools and remote data center management. Non-essential IT activities need to be put aside for a while and the focus should be on key applications only. They also need to look at alternative voice and chat options. Poor technology infrastructure is the biggest barrier to the remote work paradigm. At this critical time, if communication goes down for an extended period, so does the business. IT heads need to address issues employees may face at their homes or remote work locations like inappropriate hardware and network, inadequate Internet bandwidth, camera and microphone settings, software and integration troubles, inability to access the applications and drives owing to permission and network topology, etc. Not to forget the cybersecurity threats that this forced work-from-home requirement has exposed them to. 

Pandemic or no pandemic, work-from-anywhere is the future that businesses need to get ready for. Young knowledge workers are increasingly preferring remote work. Gartner’s research suggests that the demand for remote work will increase by almost one-third by 2030 as Generation Z becomes a sizable percentage of the workforce.