How to manage a business during a coronavirus epidemic

The Covid-19 virus epidemic has entered a new stage. Health authorities must now restrain the growth of new outbreaks in many countries.

Of course, the main task is to limit the spread of the disease, and rightly so. But the economic consequences of the epidemic are also significant. Many companies have to follow the rapid development of events, respond to them and learn from them. Every day something unexpected will appear in the news, and we will not be able to see the full picture soon.

Since organizations are prepared for a crisis to varying degrees, and the situation may worsen – and this kind of crisis is hardly the last, it is worth bringing together what we already understood. We constantly analyze events and work with clients around the world, so we were able to formulate 12 recommendations: how to respond to new events, how to inform employees about them and how to apply the information received.

1) Follow the news daily

Events are developing at an incredible speed, and the situation is changing every day. Not so long ago, it seemed that the outbreak was limited to China and was almost taken under control. But then in other countries a few more rapidly growing foci of infection appeared. A new phase of the epidemic has begun: now it is necessary not only to contain it, but also to minimize the consequences. Initially, we published news bulletins once every three days, but then switched to daily mode – and we update not only the news, but also the recommendations.

2) Remember that not all news is true.

News agencies usually write about recent events, and not about the situation as a whole, and do not always distinguish between facts, opinions and conjectures. Most likely, yesterday’s news determines your company’s current policy. Faced with rapidly changing data – for example, in a situation when a new technology appears or a new crisis arises – people tend to ignore weak signals at first, then react to them too sharply and only then evaluate the situation carefully. After reading the latest news, you do not need to take immediate action: first critically evaluate the source of the information.

3) Do not think that information is the key to awareness

In today’s world, where everything is connected, employees have direct access to a variety of sources of information. The authorities may consider that this is enough and to inform people additionally is not necessary. However, we have found that a regularly updated summary of facts and conclusions can be of great benefit. People will not have to spend time arguing about facts – or, even worse, invent facts themselves.

4) Use expert forecasts, but be careful

Experts in epidemiology, virology, healthcare, logistics and other disciplines play a very important role: only they can understand a difficult, constantly changing situation. But it is obvious that different experts may have different opinions on key issues – from the optimal tactics of containing the disease to its economic consequences – therefore it is better to get acquainted with several sources. Each epidemic is unique and unpredictable, and we still do not understand everything about the current crisis. In order to understand everything and understand what is worth taking, act carefully, learn from your mistakes – and do not forget about the opinion of experts.

5) Constantly review your understanding of the situation

If you analyze the situation and draw up a written plan, it will immediately begin to slow you down and limit you. A Chinese proverb says: good generals give orders in the morning and change them in the evening.

But large organizations usually do not have that kind of flexibility. Many executives prefer not to divulge their plans until they have full confidence, and then they do not want to change them, so as not to seem indecisive and uninformed or to avoid chaos. When events develop so quickly, you need to create an up-to-date, regularly updated document and indicate in it the time of the last change.

6) Avoid bureaucracy

Controversial, important and resonant issues always attract top managers, the department of corporate relations, lawyers, risk managers, etc. All of them will advise you on how to inform employees – as a result, you will carefully give out too generalized data and respond to everything too slow.

Gather a small team of trusted professionals and give them the necessary authority: let them make tactical decisions quickly. When new important facts appear every day, excessive bureaucratization can interfere. The speed of internal processes should be determined by the speed of external events. Do not take the usual pace of work in your corporation for granted.

A constantly updated digitally stored bulletin will not only speed up work and help to avoid confusion with the approval of each version of the document, but also reduce risks: it is easy to change this bulletin or return to the previous version. Information will become even fuller and more detailed if facts, hypotheses and rumors are separated from each other.

7) When building a company policy, consider seven factors

Informing. Employees will probably come across a variety of information, including frightening and confusing. Therefore, all decisions of the company must be reported quickly, clearly and calmly. In addition, it should be explained why the organization acts this way and not otherwise: this will allow employees to better understand the situation and make decisions independently, say, about where to spend their vacations or how to communicate with contractors.

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