How Your Business Should Prepare in the Case of Another COVID Shutdown

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The COVID-19 situation has quickly escalated into a political hot button, with everyone wanting to weigh in.

Ticker boards were implemented on news sites detailing the number of people affected by the virus, social media is wrought with arguments, family feuds are exploding over group text messages, businesses are being drastically affected, and people are getting sick or recovering from the effects of this nasty virus.

Regardless of your worldview or political leanings, you were likely impacted by the outbreak in some way, shape, or form.

For businesses, many were caught off guard because they weren’t prepared on how to move their employees to a remote workforce. Things like USB headsets, wireless keyboards and mice, pc monitors, and even servers became a hot commodity….and instantly twice as expensive.

Now, months after the initial outbreak and shutdown, many states are talking of more shutdowns, and asking more questions.

  • What does this mean for our country?
  • What does more shutdowns mean for my business?
  • How will more shutdowns affect my IT department?
  • Do all my employees have everything they need to be safe and productive?

We’re not political strategists or economists. At Cooperative Systems, we’re technology experts, spending our entire careers in IT while happily avoiding such topics. That said, COVID has forced all of us to confront our response to more shutdowns while addressing things that sometimes aren’t fun or popular to talk about. Political ideologies and personal opinions aside, here’s what your business can do from a business perspective if and when another shutdown happens.

Preparing your business, second time around

The first shutdown forced businesses to consider what they would do if employees had to work remote.

If working in the office couldn’t happen, client visits ceased, and normal activities were canceled, then how would your company survive?

Our clients didn’t struggle, but many businesses we’ve talked with had to learn on the fly. We found that many weren’t prepared with any sort of plan, they lacked hardware, and their line of business software was inaccessible because of a lack of cloud and physical infrastructure.

Most had simply not considered a crisis, let alone a pandemic.

So, how can your business prepare a second time around? Here’s some technical and business items that you can implement to help you keep your operations moving, in the event another shutdown is put in place.

 

  1. Review your Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
    1. Does your BCP include how to handle different crises and even a pandemic?
    2. What went well during the first shutdown?
    3. What should you do differently or better?
    4. Is your existing IT team ready and equipped to handle the strain of a remote workforce? Do they possess the right skillset?
    5. Do you have a communication plan in place?

 

  1. Customer communication
    1. Are you communicating with your customers so that they understand what your company is doing in response to a shutdown?
    2. Is it necessary to communicate with your customers at all? If so, how much?
    3. Have you reviewed and disseminated your work-from-home policies with all employees?

 

  1. Partner and manager communication
    1. Do all business partners understand your response and the reason behind it?
    2. Do your business partners need to understand your response?
    3. Do all your managers understand the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing?
    4. Is everyone aligned?

 

  1. Perform an IT Risk Assessment
    1. A Risk Assessment should identify any gaps in IT or security that may need to be addressed before allowing your workforce to work remotely.
    2. This assessment should address questions like:
      1. Do all employees have proper permissions and access to your business software?
      2. Are your employees able to comfortably work remotely?
      3. If yes, how do they do that? VPN, Citrix, or something similar?
      4. How are you securing their network access, such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or other encryption?

 

  1. Cross-train your employees
    1. If your IT manager must go on any sort of leave or get sick, do you have anyone to replace him or her?
    2. If your office closes, can your office manager be trained to perform other roles?
    3. Do you have a backup or augmented Managed Service Provider who can step in and help, on a project basis for a temporary period of time?

 

  1. Support your employees health
    1. Do you have a way to check on the mental health of your employees through some sort of communications plan with regular check-ins and updates?
    2. How are your team members being updated and engaged regularly?
    3. Most people are creatures of habit, so making sure your people are updated and engaged will go a long way to their morale and mental health.
    4. Have you talked through and identified the legal and reputational impact of business decisions? Just because it makes good business sense in the short term does not mean that it will pay off in the long term.
    5. If your business remains open, ensure that you have ample supplies on hand to keep employees and customers safe and healthy.
    6. Most importantly, make sure employees stay home if they’re not feeling well, and discourage your employees from “playing through the pain”. There’s no shame in being sick and we all need time to recover. Ensure your employees are comfortable staying home if they need to.

Using the Business Continuity Plan model in your personal life

COVID-19 has been really, really hard on people from an emotional and mental health perspective.

Business owners are hyper-sensitive to what’s going to happen next and anxiety levels are at all time highs.

While your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is great for business, it can and should be applied to your personal life, too.

Now, we’re not suggesting you go to Sam’s Club or Costco to purchase nine cases of toilet paper or fifteen jumbo bottles of ketchup, but make sure you have masks on hand and sanitizer available.

Here are some things we’d suggest taking an inventory of to assess the nuances of being stuck at home, in the event of another shutdown:

  • What’s your strategy or plan to avoid complacency, depression, and stress?
  • Does your family have proper supplies, toiletries, and games to stay busy?
  • Are you taking time to rest, relax, and recharge?
  • Develop a way to stay in the loop with healthcare updated from your city and county.
  • Stay in contact with your family to make sure they have the necessary services in the event of another shutdown.
  • Structure a communication plan to maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Video chat over Facetime, Zoom, or Teams to stay in contact with loved ones and neighbors.
  • Get fresh air and stay active, if possible.
  • The road to addiction is boredom and an idle mind is a devil’s playground…stay productive with tasks like painting your home office, bedroom, or finish that home improvement project.
  • Now might even be the best time to take up a hobby like fitness, stop smoking, clean out your garage (or sock drawer) and do whatever you can do to stay and feel productive.

The best approach is to remove as much emotion as you can from the situation and make decisions based on what you KNOW, not what you THINK.

We hope another shutdown is not enforced, but we do believe that being prepared is crucial. Again, we’re not experts at personal preparation, but we know technology at Cooperative Systems because it’s our job to manage and secure YOUR technology to drive your business, even during a pandemic.

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