5 things organizations can do to brace against coronavirus fallout

March 12, 2020

Authored by RSM Canada LLP

Ian L. FitzPatrick, CPA, CA, CBV shared this article

Is your business prepared?


Businesses around the world are dealing with the spread of the coronavirus as ripple effects from the disease outbreak are expected to further choke global supply chains and hinder workforce mobility., The public health risk associated with the coronavirus is “low” for Canada’s general population, the Public Health Agency of Canada said on its website on March 10, “but this could change rapidly.”

Even if businesses currently lack an emergency plan to respond to the situation, they can still take steps to mitigate risk and minimize negative effects of the coronavirus fallout. Here’s a look at five things businesses can do to develop resilience in the face of this outbreak, and which can also be helpful in preparing for other emergency scenarios:

Develop a crisis communication plan

A clear crisis communication plan in the case of an emergency helps organizations gird against reputational risk as well as confusion among employees, leaders, and clients. Businesses should have plans that outline: who the primary and alternate leaders are in each segment of the business; which people have the authority to make final decisions; guidelines on acceptable communication methods, escalation timeframes and notification procedures within the organization; and guidelines for who is designated to handle contact with external entities (such as the media or regulatory agencies).

Examine the essentials

During a crisis, businesses must determine which processes are critical in order to continue operations, and which processes can be suspended temporarily. (For instance, a manufacturer may be able to suspend its marketing and training operations for a period of time, but keep its plant systems running.) Organizations need to understand what resources are required to support critical operations.

Develop staffing strategies

Much like determining the most critical processes within an organization, businesses need to understand the minimum level of staff needed to support those core operations. Developing a staffing matrix that clearly outlines primary and alternate staff, along with job functions for each role, can be helpful. Businesses should train employees who might be able to offer support, but who may not have experience in specific roles where they may need to step in. In preparing for disruption, it’s also important to plan on having employee absences (whether those absences stem from employees falling ill, having ill family members, dealing with government and business closures, or transit limitations).

Hone remote work policies

Businesses should review their policies and capabilities for remote work in the case that employees prefer to or must work from home or somewhere else that is not their usual location. Staffing plans should identify which processes can still function if employees are working remotely. Organizations should ensure that employees who work remotely are able to access the necessary systems and data, technical capacity can handle a spike in remote use, and IT support teams are in place for remote users.

Identify vendor dependencies

In the wake of a disease outbreak, businesses not only need to evaluate their own internal systems; they must also assess how the crisis affects their vendors, and in turn, affects them. Businesses should identify the vendors associated with their critical business operations, identify substitute vendors, in case they are needed, and develop schedules that build in expectations of potential vendor delays.

Businesses also need to keep up with guidance and updates from their local and regional public health agencies as the coronavirus situation evolves. The PHAC has helpful guidelines about measures employers should take to promote proper hygiene in the workplace to limit the spread of the disease. All of this is a broad overview of what businesses should review amid the coronavirus disease outbreak and the economic uncertainty that comes with it. RSM offers resources to help organizations weather a variety of major disruptions. Find more information about how our firm can assist with business continuity and disaster recovery planning on our resource centre.

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