COVID-19 Third Wave Risk Mitigation for Organisations

Risk Management

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COVID-19 Third Wave Risk Mitigation for business is a matter of when and not if. It has been over a year since the novel coronavirus hit countries across the world. According to the WHO, over a 140 million people worldwide have been impacted by the virus, with over 3 million deaths. While countries begin to address the production and distribution of vaccines, vaccination rates indicate that it may be a long while before we may begin to return to a world we were once used too, if that at all.

After an extended lockdown period, global businesses are now slowly and tentatively trying to open their doors. Some tourist destinations are open to the public, and some cinemas allow in a certain number of visitors. People are now travelling by air domestically even though international travel is still being discouraged in places like Australia.

However, the fact remains that life must go on, even as the second and third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world. And therein lies the crux of most of the world’s businesses’ issues.

Although there is a high risk for businesses to open safely, there is also too much economic damage to not open — especially for travel and hospitality industries like airlines and hotels that have been hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus and had to implement furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts.

Across the world, businesses are vacillating to the closure and reopening based on government directives. In Australia, for example, this has been even starker, and authorities have reacted by implementing quick “lockdowns” and travel restrictions to stop the spread. The success of these initiatives can be seen by the near “return to work normal” in Australia but it has come at a significant cost. It has also created questions, such as how businesses can keep their employees and customers safe while still ensuring optimal business operations.


Complications of ‘Working from Home’ (WFH)

Although work from home offers some advantages, remote working does not suit everyone. Many people prefer the structure and routine that comes from an office environment. Then, there is also the fact that not all jobs are suited for home working.

Aside from this, people may also feel isolated from their colleagues and organisations. In addition, people working from home may also experience many distractions. People with children have to look after them 24/7 when they are at home, including supervising their schoolwork. Employees may also find it difficult to get a healthy balance between work and personal life, which can lead to longer work hours, more stress, and the danger of burnout. This can be detrimental to their mental health.

From a business perspective, working from home can also mean information security issues. There is an increased risk with laptops being taken home and the employees needing to access servers remotely. Homes also may have slow internet connections, which can make it even more difficult for people to do their jobs efficiently. Returning to the office can resolve all the above issues; however, organisations need to come up with a solid risk management plan if they do not want to compromise the health and safety of their workers, customers, and vendors.

Although implementing proper measures to mitigate the risk of returning to work does not guarantee that a single person in the workplace will get the virus, it will demonstrate that the organisation cares for the wellbeing of its employees, and it can avoid lawsuits (health and safety risks) and a ruined reputation (reputational risk).

Aside from this, there are other complications that are proving to be an obstacle when it comes to a successful return to work. This situation is unprecedented in modern history, and this means not many organisations have a clear idea of how to manage a normal return to work. In many organisations across the world, the roles are not clearly defined; some companies have created cross-functional units consisting of risk management, facilities, audit, and HR department executives to develop a “Return to Work” plan. Still, there are others who are only thinking about bringing back their employees and have no action plan about what will happen next.

The pandemic is expected to be a threat for a long time, despite the release of the vaccine, and all departments within an organisation will be held accountable for not creating a crisis plan.

That is why it is so crucial that organisations train their staff in risk management so that they can create an agile and flexible risk-based “Return to Work” plan that can address the impact on their workers, customers, and overall business.

COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Approach

If businesses expect their employees to come to work, they should develop a “Return to Work Plan” that will enable them to operate their business through additional virus waves.

Here are some steps that can hasten companies’ return to work efforts safely.

Identifying Risks to the Organisation

If your organisation has still not taken a COVID-19 risk assessment, it should prioritise it. Exposure to the coronavirus can have far-reaching consequences for employees’ health. It can also result in disruption to the supply chain and rapid changes to government regulations. Hence, organisations need to understand the major scenarios that can affect them and invest in the right control and response measures to prevent exposure.

The COVID-19 is a very different threat as it impacts businesses in several concurrent ways and limits recovery options if other organisations are also affected or if there are restrictions to logistics. Hence, organisations need to create planned and phased responses, which include short-term emergency responses to limit exposure to employees (health and safety risk); crisis management to make sure the stakeholders retain confidence in the viability of the organisation (financial risk); and recovery of the business (economic risk), which would involve restoring the value-adding aspects of the company quickly.

To understand the potential impact of COVID-19, businesses need to ask questions like:

  • How many tiers of the supply chain are going to be affected?
  • Is the risk present in the availability of material, logistics, and sourcing?
  • Do you have a contingency plan for critical suppliers?
  • Do you have contracts that can protect you from liability to your customers?
  • If you are not implementing risk measures today, have you identified the triggers that would cause you to execute them?

The novel coronavirus is a health and business risk. Hence, it is important that leaders learn how to assess risk based on various factors and ensure the right action is taken to mitigate its impact on the organisation.

Assess Response to Past Crisis

A lot of times, companies do not reflect on how they battled past crisis since they are too busy afterwards to making their business recover quickly or are just happy to have survived with minimal damage. However, finding out how previous crisis was handled is a very effective way to create a risk management plan in case of a new crisis.

Although most establishments have some form of risk management strategies, like intelligence monitoring capabilities or business continuity plans, many of these organisations are not able to build all these elements into a successful crisis management framework. In addition, they have not considered the previous plans in order to optimise their new risk management tactics.

It is important that business leaders assess how ready they are and how quickly they can respond to a crisis by learning lessons from the past and creating strategies to move forward.

Creating a COVID-19 Third Wave Risk Mitigation Plan

If your organisation is preparing to open for work or has already called back its workers, the safety of your workers should be your top-most priority. Workers need to follow the guidelines for staying at home. If they cannot work from home, they must keep their distance from others while at work or travelling.

Reducing the risk of infection depends on everyone taking responsibility. To achieve this, organisational leaders should adopt a collaborative approach with their teams and employees. Although every business is unique and will require a different risk management approach, there are some approaches that have a proven record of success.

Scenario Analysis: This analysis prompts organisations to think about potential future outcomes by creating the best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenario during a crisis. For example, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries of the world did not take adequate measures to protect themselves from the infection as they considered it to be too far away from them. However, if they had acted pre-emptively, they would not have got caught in a reactive response mode with a huge future cost to the economy, jobs and lives.

Stakeholder Analysis: Stakeholder analysis involves identifying people according to their level of influence, interest, and participation in a project. Organisational leaders need to find out the extent and severity of the effect of the pandemic on these people and build crisis response measures around them to address their issues. If they fail to do so, it can create disarray among key stakeholders, leading to more work for the crisis management team.

Standing Meeting Agenda: Standing meetings are repetitive meetings that help teams keep sight of their goals and stay on track of their projects. Organisations going through a crisis need to use standing meeting agendas as they are important for revisiting issues until they are resolved. Organisations that do not perform these meetings are often disorganised and have frustrating meetings that show no concrete results.

Jurisdiction Requirement Tracking

It is crucial that organisations set up a cohesive communication plan that clearly lists down all the legal and jurisdictional protocols and procedures to engage with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, regulators, governments, third parties, health officials, and media.

Highly regulated industries like power and utilities, health care, and financial services should find out and comply with local, state and federal reporting requirements, which include disclosure of material risks, and have a robust plan in place on how to communicate with regulators across various jurisdictions.

In addition, all changes to any existing policies need to be carefully reviewed by risk management and compliance and should take into considerations the risks that are acceptable and jurisdictional and legal nuances.

Worker Wellbeing and Incident Management

Many Australians, as well as other people in the world, have now adapted to the remote working environment. However, we now need to start planning ahead for employees return to work. As federal and state governments start encouraging people to go back to work, it is essential that businesses have policies that consider the wellbeing of their staff, particularly if one of your co-workers has been infected by the virus.

To protect their stakeholders, organisations need to create a transition plan that offers several phases for getting their staff back into the office in a safe and healthy way. This should involve the implementation of hygiene practices, workforce screening, and social distancing.

If someone is feeling unwell, they should follow government guidelines and stay at home to prevent any workplace incidents.

You also need to reassess your risk management controls and determine whether you need to change your work model and processes. It is a good idea to consult with your employees on WHS issues or whatever health and safety laws your country has.

Identifying Alternate Workplace and Cross-Training Needs

When worksites are closed across the world as a precautionary measure, companies may be able to implement work from home arrangement to ensure business continuity and preserve jobs while ensuring the wellbeing of their staff, clients, and other key stakeholders. It is important that organisational leaders be flexible and sensitive to their workers’ situation when they are enforcing WFH.

They should identify the tasks that can be done from home and assess the mechanisms for connectivity. They should also consider the impact on a worker’s living arrangement. For example, a person may have household chores or child care responsibilities, domestic violence, chronic health conditions, mental health conditions, or other disabilities.

It is also important to understand that not all functions are suitable to be done from outside the employer’s premises. This requires leaders and managers to implement an alternative plan for functions and tasks that cannot be performed from home, subject to government regulations and organisation policies.

Responsible establishments need to perform a risk assessment to identify cross-training needs so that they can sustain their operations in case the next crisis is more damaging and results in a large proportion of your staff not making it to work. Organisations need to create a process for real-time resource allocation management in the event of increasing cases of COVID-19 positive workers. You will also need to work out flexible work arrangements, train new employees, coordinate work shifts, and redeploy existing employees.

Implementing Policies Around Returning to Travel

Organisations that are most at risk of the pandemic, like the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries, should explore parametric solutions to help mitigate the risk.

Before authorising travel to employees, organisations must find out whether travel is really essential to their employee’s tasks currently. If an organisation is considering authorising travel, they should review relevant orders in the province, state, or country that the employee has to go to and consider that their tasks are considered essential at their destination as well.

A COVID-19 policy might require the management to document and get this determination approved. They also need to share the jurisdictional requirements of that province, state, or country with their employees beforehand. For example, many places require face covering, mandated distances, and prohibit specific activities.

A COVID-19 travel plan will require employees to consider all these aspects and ensure precautionary measures accordingly in the place where the staff is going.

Practice Crisis Response

You can hope that you would not need to practice crisis management once the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course. However, practising crisis response is essential, whether you have a crisis on hand or not.

Every organisation has unique characteristics and challenges, and continuously practising crisis management has proven to be a very effective method in preparing organisations for the unexpected — whether it is the next big crisis or several small crises simultaneously.

By working on risk management strategies during good times, you can stay agile, nimble, and responsive when the next crisis hits.

Taking COVID-19 Third Wave Risk Mitigation Seriously

To battle risks today, organisations cannot just take off-the-shelf approaches. As our latest crisis has proven, unexpected high-impact crises are possible and require organisations to take a more proactive approach if they want to survive.

Businesses need to continue this course of risk analysis and forward-thinking behaviour even when the pandemic has ended. For the future, organisations need to expand upon their risk management strategies to include other types of risks that could result in economic, social, or financial disruption. This will enable executives to make data-oriented decisions to prepare for the next crisis rather than see themselves floundering when another event hits.

The current pandemic has dramatically changed the way businesses work and has created unprecedented challenges that need to be resolved. To plan for the next wave of the coronavirus or even another crisis, organisational leaders need to prioritise crisis-management capabilities, so they become agile and resilient enough to battle unexpected changes.

If you are interested in knowing how to create a better risk management framework for your organisation, EZY Skills is here to help you. We offer risk management courses for both SMEs and large businesses that can help them prepare for an impending crisis. Contact us at



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