HANDLING BUSINESS RISKS OF PANDEMIC

Business risks are those factors (both controllable and uncontrollable) with the potential of having an outcome that can affect business operations and ultimately affect profitability. Handling business risks of pandemic is a business continuity plan that most company and their executives didn’t take serious in the past. But the reoccurrence of these pandemic are beginning to force managers and business executives out of their shells. Companies spend more money while trying to recover from breakdown in business operations associated with pandemic than they spend business continuity plan (BCP).

The focus of traditional BCP is centered on the loss of IT infrastructure, physical infrastructure and key personnel due to fire, earthquake, explosion, flood or other natural disaster. The quickest and most reliable alternatives in traditional incident management are to activate alternate data center, recover from remote backups, operate from secondary sites, repair and rebuild infrastructure and switching back to original and normal operation.

In the case of a pandemic however, the situation is different and requires different approach. From what alternate data center do you backup your key/entire staff members in the case of pandemic outage like- SARS, Avian flu, the recent H1N1 (A) flu etc? You will discover that it’s much more daisy to deal with business risks associated with pandemic outage than other threats to business continuity.

This article is written to give managers and business executives hints on how to manage/ handle business risks of pandemic.

KEY BUSINESS CHALLENGES OF PANDEMIC

There are basically three key business challenges of pandemic:

(1)    No short cuts: unlike the loss of physical and IT infrastructure that has a ready made alternative(s), cure and solution to pandemic are not easy to provide. Time and money needs to be invested into research work to produce vaccines and the vaccines when produced will still take time before the health care authorities will approve them.

(2)    Uncertainties: the outages of pandemics are readily recognized and the extent damage that can be caused are not easily assessed and evaluated, every virus has different characteristics- fatality rate, infection pattern and mutation potential. You will agree with that it will be difficult for companies and their management to devise effective measures to prevent and contain these infections if their characteristics are not established.

(3)    Fear of the unknown: the fear of being infected by life threatening diseases affects staff morale. Staff members may choose to quit their jobs or be absent from work, suppliers may also be reluctant to supply raw materials to sites that are known to be contaminated by these viruses/ pandemic

APPROACHING THESE BUSINESS RISKS/ CHALLENGES CAUSED BY PANDEMIC

In handling business risks of pandemic, I recommend a four phase approach:

Phase 1:- Establishing an acceptable pandemic alert.

Phase 2:- Stating pre-determined action

Phase 3:- Assess the impact of the loss of key personnel and major suppliers

Phase 4:- Implementing response plan:

  • Segregation of work place: the effect of an outage of a pandemic will not hit a company so much if she diversifies her work force. An infected work place should be evacuated while disinfection exercise is going on is the affected site.
  • Redesigning human flow within work place and changing production/ service layout: the flow of people in the work place should be redesigned so that people don’t make much contact with each other so much to avoid an uncontrollable spread of a pandemic.
  • Taking health insurance coverage: this will give the workers a sense of belonging and will go a long way in boosting their morale.
  • Diversifying key suppliers: diversifying your source of raw material will help improve the company’s chance of not lacking raw materials in the case when a pandemic strikes one or two of her suppliers.
  • Going into strong partnership: this option will act as a backup in case of an emergency. The company partnered with will give a backup support temporarily pending when your company recovers from the effect of the pandemic. This though is a temporary measure but is worth having in place.
  • Managing the media with care: negative news that is released to the general public can significantly increase the level of business risk of pandemic to a company. Certain sensitive news should not be released to the public without properly vetted. And news about pandemic outage is one of such.
  • Staff education on basic personal hygiene and prevention measures: this scheme will help keep your staff members healthy and motivated and at the same time reduce the business risk that is associated with pandemic to a manageable level.
  • Meeting regulatory requirements: even though meeting of the safety requirement stated by the government through her agencies may not prevent the outage of a pandemic, compliance with such regulation(s) will significantly reduce the business risk of having your shop closed down.
  • Establishing a moderate/ well equipped first aid center: a reasonably equipped first aid center will to an extent help take care of minor infections pending when proper medical attention will be sought.

Conclusion

Business risks of a pandemic if not well assessed and measures put in place to cushion its effect(s) can turn a profit making into a loss making business within a space of one month or less. Every forward thinking company and management should include approach to pandemic management in their business continuity plan.

To a continued business operation!

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