Protect This House: Defending Your Workspace in the Face of a Contagion

Editor's Note: As of March 12th, all Fictiv employees have started working remotely to align with expert health official recommendations. Staff will be remote until otherwise noted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As an industry expert, we’re used to disruptions of all kinds, and it’s our daily business to create entirely new supply chains in the blink of an eye, or in this case, the sneeze of your co-worker a few feet away.  Our team on the ground in China has been working remotely for weeks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our employees close to the outbreak epicenter. Now, we're taking preemptive steps to protect the team here in the US.  This is one time where our Bay Area earthquake preparedness has elevated our ability to identify risk and proactively create a Business Continuity and Reanimation plan.  If this is something your company hasn’t yet talked about, I encourage you to begin these conversations as soon as possible.  Of course, preparation is the focus rather than allowing the panicky-just-read-the-latest-headlines rumor mill to dictate how your organization reacts. 

In order to lead your organization successfully through emergent situations, you’ll need to determine your requirements: 

People

Determine Essential Employees (example guidelines on defining who is an essential employee here - don’t feel bad, not everyone is one), their essential duties, assign backups, and have a clear line of directives and communications.  Think about how you can support additional protection or mitigation directives for your C-level staff and any essential employee that might have greater exposure (the onsite IT employee, facilities staff, etc.).

Technology

Create a Virtualization Plan (if applicable) and dig into your technical requirements to preserve business function over various scenarios and duration (e.g., 1 day, >7 days, >30 days, etc.).  If you can’t virtualize or remotely distribute your employees, then how will you secure your technology infrastructure? Can it handle the load of the situation?

Physical Space

Understand how employees, their habits and hygiene, contribute to the health and safety of your workspace.  Ensure they understand any emergency procedures, perform drills, and practice your chain of communications.  Create a Reanimation Plan for your employee’s return. 

Planning for Continuity

One of the most important aspects of creating a Business Continuity Plan is understanding your organization’s risk thresholds.  Your executive team will need to assess the impact of an event on each department, the duration of the impact, and the ultimate financial implications.  From here, you can then plan remediation and mitigation activities to reduce loss.

I’m lucky that here at Fictiv, our Leadership operates with an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure, and our organization is hoping to lead by example.  

What We're Doing

1. All employees are required to disinfect their hands and phones upon entering the building at our Infectious Disease Prevention stations (electronic-safe antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, masks.).

2. All incoming international materials are disinfected and have proper disposal containers.

3. We have additional cleaning crew onsite to sanitize commonly used areas (bathrooms, kitchens, etc.)

4. All employees are strongly encouraged to report personal travel so that we can assess risk

5. All non-essential business travel has been suspended

6. We provide employees with sanitary cleaning products and encourage daily hygiene

So what should you do next? DEPLOY A PLAN!  Make sure you over-communicate your plan to your team so they know what the thresholds are, what they will need to do, and how you will prepare them. Create and empower an Emergency Response Team - we lovingly refer to ours as F.E.R.T.

Business continuity planning can be an exhaustive process, but you can at least get the essentials put together with a few templates from FEMA.  I wish you the best of luck in your planning and hope your team benefits from your preparations!

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