But is it?
In 1942, after the battle of El Alamein, Churchill said …..
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
I can’t help feeling this is where we are in the COVID Pandemic. We have weathered the initial storm, but there is a long way to go.
If like me, you’re beginning to emerge from lockdown, blinking in the sunlight, with the initial business continuity response behind you, and a business that is beginning to operate “normally” – you’ll be starting to think “well, what’s next?
Bluntly, I have no idea … and very few people (including our politicians) have.
However, we need to start somewhere, and I wanted to talk about a couple of things playing on my mind recently. Firstly, business continuity, and secondly, a return to the “office”.
At the Cashroom we went from having 85 people in a traditional office setting, to 85 people, fully operational and working remotely in just over a week. I won’t pretend it was stress free, but our planning worked, and we did it.
We also continued to provide a fully remote service to our clients with minimal interruption to service, meaning they didn’t need to worry about business continuity planning for their accounts function.
So why is this still an issue?
Well, if I understand the epidemiology (!), the lockdown has flattened the peak, but by preventing the majority of the population catching the virus, as the lockdown is loosened, there’s a risk of a second peak, as we have not yet reached the stage of “herd immunity”. Or in other words – the lockdown stopped people getting the virus so they can still get it now, because they are not immune.
And look to history. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic hit in three waves, with the second killing more people than the first. The 2009 swine flu pandemic started in spring and, in the northern hemisphere, was followed by a second, larger wave in the autumn.
Chances are, this will not be the only lockdown.
So, let’s not pat ourselves on the back too soon. It’s likely we will dusting off our business continuity plan once again. And as this article argues (https://www.continuitycentral.com/index.php/news/business-continuity-news/5136-looking-ahead-to-a-second-pandemic-wave-why-acting-now-to-strengthen-your-crisis-management-capability-is-the-key-to-building-future-resilience) the second wave will hit already weakened businesses, and may be more devastating than the first.
We’ll be reviewing our business continuity plan, making sure we’ve learned the lessons of the first lock down, and making sure we’re ready for a possible second.
Returning to the Office
In the UK we’re hoping to return to the office sometime in late summer/early autumn. It will be gradual, and cautious, but it will happen …… maybe!
Setting aside all the discussion about whether office life is dead, and whether there is any need for businesses to return to an office at all, the practicalities of making a typical office environment “COVID Safe” are daunting.
Read this article from the CIPD – https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/workplace-guide-returning-after-coronavirus, and if you’re brave, look at the detailed guidance from HMG here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
Now, some will have no alternative. But if you do, if you can operate your business remotely, using technology and outsourced providers, why would you risk a return to office life …. particularly if there is a risk of a second outbreak, and a second lockdown.
So, lots to think about as we find our way safely to a “new normal”. But it seems to me that agility is the key. The more flexible your workforce, and your systems, the better.
We all need to be prepared for disruption, and a lot less certainty than we’re used to. And we need to design our businesses accordingly.
And if you are thinking about outsourcing your finance function, you know where we are!
David Calder, Managing Director at The Cashroom Ltd