It’s a strange time in the COVID pandemic, with grim news stories about high casualties coming right next to hopeful stories about vaccine rollouts. In today’s post, we’ll look at this odd situation from the business continuity perspective and share a few tips on what you can do to help your organization get through it.
The Darkness Before the Dawn
They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. The current moment might turn out to be just such a time. The headlines and news channels are full of stories that point to this being the worst phase of the pandemic so far. These include statistics about the COVID spike, accounts of shortages of hospital beds in hard-hit areas, and warnings of the risks posed by cold weather and the upcoming holidays.
At the same time, there has been an upsurge in optimistic news stories about the high rates of effectiveness of some the vaccines that have been rushed into development, and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to the general population that have recently gotten underway in the U.K. and China.
What is the proper posture for a BCM professional at this strange point in COVID times?
Right now, working in business continuity is all about resiliency. People are getting tired and letting their guard down. Pandemic fatigue is creating new risks for business as Richard Long wrote last week on the MHA blog in his post, “How Pandemic Fatigue Poses a New Risk for Business.”
We BCM professionals have to incorporate these new risks into our planning and remain vigilant, disciplined, and proactive.
We also have to avoid the temptation to ease up as we approach the finish line since doing so would create a window of opportunity for trouble to strike.
When the COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives
The arrival of a vaccine is liable to create new vulnerabilities even as it reduces the old ones. This is an issue we’ll be looking at in the coming weeks.
Will companies be involved in administering the vaccine to their employees? Some organizations have indicated an interest in doing this. What if some of the employees have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine? What if some refuse to take it? Will proof of having been vaccinated be required for work or air travel next year?
The vaccine rollout holds the promise of great relief, but it also could present risks to organizations’ operations that we are only just beginning to grapple with.
A Vulnerable Workforce
We’ve written previously about how the current pandemic has not had the impact of a classic pandemic in that it has been felt more as a relocation event than as one where companies’ staffs were significantly reduced by illness. See, for example, Richard’s post, “Think Your Company Has Survived a Pandemic? Think Again.”
This situation could yet change at some organizations as COVID rates continue to spike. Our workforce remains vulnerable, and BCM staff need to have plans to deal with staff shortages, just in case. Such plans typically include the designation of key roles at the organization, the selection and training of alternate employees to fill those roles, if necessary, and an understanding of which tasks can and cannot be delayed if the company faces a shortage of workers.
If I were a planner at a large corporation, I would be focused on looking three to six months ahead and considering the risks the spike poses to my operations both internally and externally. For more on the threat the pandemic poses to companies’ critical vendors, see “The Corporate Supply Chain: BCM’s Ticking Time Bomb.” I would also begin looking hard at the issues and potential impacts of the eventual arrival of the vaccine.
The Role of the BCM Professional
Anyone reading or watching the news these days is liable to experience whiplash as they go from grim stories about soaring COVID rates and shortages of hospital beds to hopeful ones about the high effectiveness of the new vaccines and the beginning of the vaccine rollout in some countries. This might be one of those situations where it really is true that it is darkest before the dawn.
At this strange time, the role of the BCM professional is to cultivate resiliency, consider the risks of the spike both internally and externally, factor in the risks of pandemic fatigue, and start thinking about how the eventual vaccine rollout might affect your organization, both in terms of reducing your risks and creating new ones.
For more information on managing the COVID-19 pandemic and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:
- Stay Strong: The Pandemic Is No Time for BCM Pros to Slack Off
- The Corporate Supply Chain: BCM’s Ticking Time Bomb
- Home Alone: When Disasters Affect Staff Who Are Working Remotely
- Surviving the Spike: Managing the Second Wave of COVID-19 as a BC Professional
- Distracted by COVID: Don’t Forget to Keep Tabs on Your Long-Term Risks