Working through the Coronavirus challenges

Like many members and LBM readers, the LCCI is an SME without a dedicated risk management team to plan a way through the challenges presented by Coronavirus. We can all learn from each other and below Deborah Jarvis, the Chamber’s operations director, shares the way the LCCI has approached the situation so that companies can use whatever is relevant for their business in facing the same issues

In uncertain times, drawing on familiar, trusted procedures and information sources can go a long way to reassuring colleagues and customers whilst assisting ‘business as usual’. A month or so ago we dusted off and updated our checklists based on Cabinet Office advice to businesses in a potential flu pandemic scenario; announced to colleagues that our Incident Management Team would be leading on all things Coronavirus and opted for the government’s website for the latest information and the NHS website for all medical advice as our two main sources of guidance.  In keeping with our business continuity plan, this approach offered a simple, lucid plan; clarity on roles and responsibilities and a proportionate response to the inevitable distraction of COVID-19.

Agile response 
Our Incident Management Team – chief executive, deputy, and myself as co-ordinator – meet remotely on at least a daily basis to ensure an agile response to developments and concerns.  It’s surprising just how many Coronavirus related business queries arise from all levels across the business and having a forum through which to channel them equips staff to confidently and consistently answer questions whilst managing anxiety – what is the messaging on our forthcoming events programme?

Are trade one weekend, what did we need to tell them? Should we stockpile coffee beans for the machine in the member’s lounge (while it remained open)?  How do we handle payments for staff who self-isolate? To gather information and underline our employee welfare and ongoing business support priorities we asked managers for information about the business and staff for information about themselves.  

Business critical
A spreadsheet to managers asked them to identify business critical activities: those that could be delivered remotely; the minimum number of staff required to do so and the kit we would need to equip them; key suppliers and staff business travel plans in the next six months.  A short survey to staff (seven questions which could be answered in under five minutes) provided data on any recent travel or contacts that could pose a risk for the wider community, medical conditions of which we should be aware, future holiday plans, and caring responsibilities that may be causing anxiety – plus their access to IT kit (Chamber and personal) that could enable remote working.

Whilst we were not essentially a remote working organisation – only 17 per cent of our staff have a Chamber laptop or working from home kit – conversations prompted by the survey flagged existing remote functionality of which colleagues were unaware and ideas as to how we can work smarter.  This information was added to our Coronavirus intranet page and colleagues were encouraged to test the options before the need for more remote working became a reality.  IT are continuously working on capacity building without reducing data and system security. 

Consistent approach
Conversations with venue providers, building managers, fellow tenants and cleaners – plus posters, hand gel and the demise of communal bowls of crisps at events – supported a consistent approach to protecting visitors and events attendees – all visits and events have of course now been put on hold.

Feedback via our account managers of members’ challenges and good practice and an increased frequency of reviewing business performance against revised indicators  – export documents customers, members’ lounge users and event cancellations – provides business intelligence to support our service, cash flow and resource management decisions. We are aiming to ensure that the sharing of ideas, reviewing of business policies and lessons learned as a result of our Coronavirus planning, are not lost in the post-COVID-19 environment. Consequently the time invested now will produce long-term benefits for the business and our members. 

 www.londonchamber.co.uk

This article was originally cited in London Business Matters

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