Editor’s Note: Don’t forget Board of Director’s primary responsibility is insuring the well being and longevity of the company, which means making sure the company has the resources to function, retaining customers and employees, and managing risk.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a human tragedy that has affected detrimental impacts on families, consumers, businesses and the global economy. Navigating this novel incident is a tricky situation that companies and boards must prepare for. The effects of this pandemic have reached a never before seen global scale, with long-term consequences that are far-reaching and complex. So far, the coronavirus has disrupted worldwide trade, caused the stock market to plummet, and brought about country-wide lockdowns, canceled major events, and restricted travel. It continues to be the center of public policy discourse and is rapidly spreading, forecasting unpredictable changes in the future.
As of now, over 175 countries have reported COVID-19 cases, with the U.S. alone reaching over 1 million cases this past week. During this time of crisis, board members must work together and assume their leadership roles to establish trust and guidance moving forward, taking care of employees and consumers alike. Companies must keep a vigilant eye on their region’s public policies to determine the best course of action and predict the contours of the pandemic in the following months.
The key areas of concern companies should concentrate on are supporting employees and protecting them from a work-at-home basis, monitoring the pandemic’s spread, safeguarding consumers by enforcing social distancing, and planning for the next phase of disease spread.
Key Areas of Concern
1. Supporting Employees
During this difficult time, many employees have found themselves out of work and unable to financially support their families. It is important for boards and management teams to be sympathetic of their struggle and provide reassurance about where different positions within the company stand. Enacting a work-from-home mandate is the first step to preventing further disease spread while maintaining workflow. To improve the efficiency of remote work, companies must create a transparent remote environment equipped with the essential communication, networking, and cloud sharing tools to operate as a cohesive unit and drive productivity. Sick-leave, scheduling, progress tracking and other work norm policies must also be amended to ensure health and safety at the forefront.
2. Monitor the Pandemic’s Spread
Boards must remain informed on key indicators of where and how the virus is evolving to conduct accurate scenario planning. Understanding how the pandemic might develop is essential to developing a fast response plan and emergency measures to take that prioritize protecting lives while minimizing financial losses. Board members must think critically about actions to take for cyber breaches, recalibrated consumer spending, economic recovery, and rapid day-by-day adaptations to change. Companies should have various plans in place that account for long-term remote operations and be aware of potential permanent changes to economic spending and market demand shifts that will persist even after the outbreak has relented.
3. Safeguarding Consumers
Companies must play their role in curbing the pandemic by enforcing social distancing for their consumers. With many operations shut down during the lockdown, companies should brainstorm alternative ways to service their customers and ensure the safety of their goods. Communication and information sharing is key to establishing transparency with consumers about what services can be accessed, changes in refund policies, and what to expect moving forward. Board members play a critical role in this process by ensuring clear lines of communication between directors, management, employees and consumers. This enables unity and ensures collaboration on a single agenda.
4. Planning for the Next Phase
As the pandemic continues to unfold, it is unclear when the state of the world’s health will return to normal. With this in mind, boards and executives must lead with resolve, resilience, and reimagination. Planning for the next step may be difficult when the atmosphere is heavy with uncertainty, so companies must remain open-minded and unopposed to drastic reinventions and institutional changes. Predicting market changes, reconsidering fixed versus variable costs, shutting down unneeded operations and opening new avenues of opportunity ultimately define business success and create a new compass for how to better deliver to customers.
During this time, the most important priority for all parties is staying informed on the latest outbreak updates, being proactive, and maintaining protective health measures. As with any crisis, the coronavirus pandemic presents companies with the opportunity to emerge stronger and more resilient in the coming months should board members and executives collaborate with these following tips in mind.