Nothing like fear, uncertainty and doubt  to bring a workplace to a screeching halt. This is happening and can be counted on to continue into the coming weeks and months as we learn how to deal with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which is crisscrossing the globe.

To help you along with your preparation, we are addressing business continuity, conference/events, and travel with respect to COVID-19

Business continuity

Do you have a business continuity plan? What’s in it, and when and how is it activated? When is the last time the plan has been tested or stressed?

These three questions are important, because if you don’t have a plan, you still have time to evolve a rudimentary one. Assuming you do have a plan, reviewing the content and the various trigger points for events identified unique to your employees and operations is important. Additionally, if you haven’t stressed or tested your plan, how do you know it will work? Test it now.

Remember, business continuity plans are invoked when an event causes the business to be disrupted. As the government of Iran is learning at this very moment, when the plan kicks in those you expected to lead are not available, as they themselves are affected by the disruption. In this instance COVID-19 has taken members of the health ministry and cabinet off the floor.

Therefore, ensure your plan can function without the leadership team sitting at the table, as they may not be the ones sitting at that table during the crisis. Enable remote work for those who can, and for those who must physically be at a location for perform their duties, make the environment safe.

And above all, encourage sick employees to stay home.

Conferences & Events

We’ve all read how there is consideration to postpone the Olympics in Japan (a decision which will be made in the coming weeks) due to COVID-19 outbreak there. Think hard about attending or presenting at conferences in different areas of the world, as the level of pandemic preparedness across the globe is uneven. We’ve noticed that industry conferences are being canceled or postponed right and left.

  • Facebook canceled its F8 conference;
  • IDC canceled its Directions conference;
  • Google canceled its Google News Initiative Global Summit;
  • EmTech was canceled in Singapore;
  • Facebook Global Marketing was canceled; and
  • Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has been canceled.

These are but a few. The prudence in canceling these large gatherings is self-evident. These cancellations will no doubt be a boom for the virtual conference organizers, as they move from the tactile conference arena to that of virtual engagement.

Make sure you know the environment from a health perspective prior to sending your employee or yourself into any conference or event.

Travel (domestic or international)

Do you have available the appropriate technology to allow for web meetings in lieu of remote visits, and thus obviating the need to travel?

If you do have to travel, domestically or internationally, you should ensure your travel team has information on travel safety and security available.

Securely Travel (NB: this author founded the entity) is sharing information and resources to assist the travel manager to evolve appropriate go/no-go decisions to senior management. These include mirroring of the CDC site, multi-governmental travel alerts (US, UK, Canada and Australia); with travel analysis and commentary.

For those who positively must travel, take a few additionally steps.

Be prepared for the plane, hotel or country you are visiting to have a change of status while you are present.

For example, travelers to a hotel in Tenerife found themselves locked down when a guest was found to have tested positive for COVID-19. None of the guests were prepared for the lock down, which interrupted all their ongoing activities. Individuals on business travel to northern Italy found themselves locked into towns declared closed.

Similarly, travelers returning from locations identified by the CDC as being level 3 or level 2 may be subjected to a quarantine upon their return.

For these reasons that one day trip may turn into a 2-week trip due to events completely outside your control. For this reason, make sure to pack extra prescription medication, carry the appropriate alcohol-based wipes, and wash those hands often.

Ask questions

In closing, it is appropriate to be asking questions of your staff, management and vendors with respect to supply chain, travel, operations, security and above all business continuity.

Together, we will get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis in which we all find ourselves.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of