...and hope for the best.
That's what they say, right?
There's tons of misinformation out there at the moment about the Coronavirus.
However, one thing that's pretty obvious, is that one of the only ways to limit the spread is to avoid mixing with each other - in schools, in offices, in pubs and restaurants and, most importantly, at work, where we spend much of our time.
This is likely to be a challenging time for businesses. With the recent cancellation of St Patrick's Day festivals across the country, and companies pulling events left, right and centre, the chances of an Italy-style lock-down are all too real. Public transport closing down mean staff can't get to work. Schools closing down means they mightn't be able to if they have kids that cant be left at home.
It's easy to pooh-pooh this as overreaction (the hysterical shopping doesn't help!!) but it is critical to plan for the worst - if none of it happens, GREAT, but if it does, at least you're prepared .
Larger companies will have Business Continuity Plans that cover much of this stuff. But we aren't a nation of large companies - we're a nation of small ones, most of whom perhaps have never considered what a national disaster might mean for their businesses.
So what are some of the things you can and should be doing now to try and mitigate some of the impact?
And what's the role of internal communications and leadership? Here are a few key things to think about:
1. Agree a course of action
What's your action plan? What are you going to do and when? What will you do for your people and what do you need them to do in return. You need to create an action plan and approach for your business to give your people the confidence that you're thinking about this and you've got their and your customers best interests at heart.
2. Empower your leaders
Once that plan is in place, tell people about it. That's going to be a mix of company level communications and, more importantly, communications and decisions led locally by leaders. Working out who needs to be in the office and when (and who doesn't), who can realistically work at home (and who can't) and how you continue to keep the team running effectively can only be decided, agreed and driven by your local leaders and their teams. So set your expectations of them, tell them what you need them to do and empower them to make a plan with their teams locally.
3. Communicate consistently
There's little worse in a crisis that mixed messages. People want clarity and consistency. As well as ensuring that your people and your leaders do what you need them to do, the constant reinforcement of consistent messages gives staff with a sense of comfort. Put simply, agree messages and stick to them!
4. Turn to tech
Large tech companies aside, we still aren't great with the idea of homeworking supported by technology. So maybe this is a great opportunity to try, There's plenty of tech out there, much of it free, that can make managing dispersed teams a bit easier - Skype, Zoom or FaceTime all provide free video conferencing capability; OneDrive or G-Drive provide easy file sharing and, if you;re a G-Suite user, you've got messaging and other technologies at your fingertips
This isn't about panicking - it's about good preparation.
If you've at least thought about it you can plan your way around it. And if you're struggling and you think we can help, get in touch.
About Inspiring Change
Based in Dublin, we help organisations to drive sustainable change and business performance through the power of internal communications, engagement and leadership. If you want to have a chat please get in touch.