Corona and business | Sunday Observer

Corona and business

29 March, 2020
Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. Here Security Forces personnel disinfect the Fort Railway Station.  Pic: Nishanka de Silva
Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. Here Security Forces personnel disinfect the Fort Railway Station. Pic: Nishanka de Silva

The rapid outbreak of the coronavirus presents multiple issues which the world is grappling with. Almost all social and economic activities have come to a standstill. There is also a significant commercial impact being felt globally with the worst yet to come. As viruses know no borders, its impact will continue to spread.  

Pandemic and its negative impact on business is a humongous challenge for employers having to balance many critical aspects of business ensuring continuity of operations for survival and sustainability. It’s a nightmare from a supply chain perspective which has already paralysed the whole world.

Priorities

Safety first - Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with regulations and policies. 

Business next - Re-visit your strategy and action plan with the team and come up with a flexible and evolving plan of action to deal with volatility until the issue fades away and the environment becomes reasonably predictable at least in the short term. 

Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains such as raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics needed to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or if supply chains are interrupted. 

Communicate - Share your plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, working from home as an alternative possibility and pay and welfare benefits available to them. Share best practices with other businesses in your industry and business segment to learn from others. 

The unexpected 

Set up authorities, triggers and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan, altering business operations such as possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas and transferring business knowledge to key employees. 

Set up a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your infectious disease outbreak response plans and the latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumours and misinformation and plan communications accordingly. 

The bigger employers have a further part to play. Global epidemic preparedness and response is underfunded. While the rich world can afford Covid-19 interventions, the global spread of the virus in less than three months has demonstrated how international health is as strong as the weakest and poorest health system. 

There are no drugs or vaccines against Covid-19, and research to deliver them needs funding too. Sizeable financial contributions are needed not only from high-income governments from philanthropy and from global, financial institutions such as the World Bank, but also from business. 

Far-sighted companies should see this as a shrewd investment. The tens of billions of dollars the world needs to respond to Covid-19 are nothing compared to the trillions wiped from stock exchanges last week. 

Customers and employees increasingly expect businesses to play a big part in supporting global public goods and to look beyond the interests of shareholders. There’s no need to invoke concepts of social purpose or stakeholder capitalism here. This crisis is a threat to shareholders, no less than it is to wider society. 

You need to position your business to be resilient in the face of this and the next global threat.  

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