Whether businesses had to shut down their premises, introduce PPE and social distancing, or switch to homeworking, it’s fair to say that the global pandemic forced every business to change its way of working in some form.
But while the spread of the pandemic took everyone by surprise, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all businesses were completely unprepared.
In our survey of how businesses coped with the first lockdown and the return to work, 67.9% of our respondents had a business continuity plan in place.
Business continuity plans are processes and contingency plans that are designed to be followed in the event of a disruption to critical business activities, such as a global pandemic. They are created using the findings of extensive risk and business impact assessments, which highlight key business operations and the threats to them being carried out. Using this information, a business can create plans that enable it to mitigate, control or remove these threats and risks. These plans can also then enable a business to react confidently and quickly when an unexpected event occurs, as well as shorten the time needed to recover.
But in the case of the first lockdown, did our respondents find that their business continuity plans helped them to adapt?
“It helped to maintain the business in these difficult times”
Of those that did have a plan, it certainly appears that they were able to make good use of it during the lockdown.
A total of 36.2% reported that their business continuity plan was ‘very helpful’ to them, while another 25.9% said that it was ‘quite helpful’. For some of our respondents, it was because this type of planning had equipped them with the right processes to assess the threat of the pandemic and the potential impact it would have on their operations. In turn, this helped to keep them ahead of the game, and be prepared for whatever may happen next:
Our business continuity plan helped us to focus on the important things, It prompted us to look at every aspect of what might happen and kept us on the front foot.
For others, the business continuity plan meant that when lockdown was announced, they already had all the equipment and software they needed to have their staff work from home. This gave them an advantage over other businesses, which had to scramble to equip their staff with laptops, video conferencing software and server access.
Having a business continuity plan meant that all my staff were working from home using our VOIP telephone system, all computers were already connected to our cloud-based IT system and there was no interruption of business.,
By already having the right software in place, these businesses were also more likely to have been cyber secure during lockdown, when many businesses began to face increased threats from cyber criminals exploiting more vulnerable home workers.
“The plan did not mention ‘pandemic’. It does now!”
However, not all respondents had specifically planned for the event of a pandemic. But for some, this still meant that they had plans and processes in place that they could adapt to the situation in order to support their business. For example, some had plans that laid out the processes and resources necessary for safe and secure homeworking.
The business continuity plan did not include a specific plan for the pandemic situation. But it did include plans for homeworking, which we developed more when put into practice.
Another respondent agreed:
Some elements of our plan were useful, such as planning for remote working. Our systems were already set up and were more than capable of coping.
What was also common among many of our respondents was the improvement and testing of the plan as the situation progressed and altered. This is a key hallmark of a strong business continuity plan as it ensures that it is up to date and relevant, and therefore in the best possible shape to support a business in its time of need. One respondent stated:
The business continuity plan was developed for our ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification, and it gave us the opportunity to test it live and add improvements.
“I would recommend any company to spend the time to create one”
Many respondents were keen to voice their recommendation of having a business continuity plan: One respondent reported:
We were lucky enough to have an in-depth business continuity plan, This came was useful as we all knew what was needed to ensure the business continued. I would recommend any company to spend the time to create one.
If you would like to make your business more resilient and able to prepare for risks to critical activities with a tailored business continuity plan, we can help.
An internationally recognised mark of best practice, ISO 22301 will enable you to implement, maintain and improve a business continuity management system, which will support your business before, during and after disruption.
To find out more, visit our dedicated webpage for ISO 22301.