COVID-19 Crisis: 5 Tips for Building a Resilient Business

Posted by Guthrie-Jensen Consultants

The COVID-19 crisis has already affected 81 countries and territories worldwide, including one cruise ship (as of March 4, 2020). The World Health Organization has declared the pneumonia-like disease—which started in Wuhan, China—a public health emergency of international concern.

On an economic scale, the effects of the outbreak are shaking up businesses both internationally and locally. In the Philippines, the Philippine Retailers Association saw a 30–50% dip since the start of the virus. SM Supermalls, for example, saw a decline of 10–20% in domestic sales. Moreover, a labor group alerted that roughly 7,000 Filipinos might lose their jobs in the first half of 2020 due to the outbreak.

A crisis like this reveals vulnerabilities that can disrupt your business and cause it to underperform. Let’s have a look at two companies that have already felt the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on a significant scale.

  1. Philippine Airlines lays off 300 workers

    The flag carrier of the Philippines made a tough call and business retrenchment initiative as they deal with the effects of the Novel Coronavirus in the travel industry.

    On February 28, 2020, Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced a voluntary “separation initiative” for around 300 ground-based administrative and management employees—a painful yet necessary business move to boost revenues and reduce costs in the wake of the outbreak.

    This business decision was implemented to mitigate losses aggravated by the ongoing temporary travel restrictions and flight suspensions to places affected by the virus. The airline will continue to add regional flights and introduce new routes in the next months.

    To survive, PAL and other airlines shift their focus from international passenger sales to domestic. For instance, they can arrange airfare promos around local destinations to boost their sales and maintain core business functions. This not only helps revenue come through but also promotes the local tourism industry.
  2. Lazada delivery problems

    Lazada is one of the e-commerce companies experiencing the blow of the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers are experiencing delays or cancellation of orders as retailers in China encounter dispatch holdups.Given this, companies arranging product deliveries must have backups for their logistics and supply chain to meet the demand and supply—and they must do it fast.

    They must also strictly monitor purchase orders and update customers with their order status to ensure product delivery. Refund options should also be in place should the customer refuse to wait any longer than expected. These protocols can help minimize the impact on their business operations.

Tips to Stay Resilient During the COVID-19 Crisis

A crisis like this is out of your control. But, there are ways to mitigate risk and losses, retain core business functions, and operate seamlessly amid a global outbreak. Here are some of them:

1. Allow employees to work remotely

The Philippines has a telecommuting law in place. Initially, its significant impact is to ease the traffic congestion in the metro and other urban areas, but it can be a good contingency plan amidst the ongoing outbreak and other possible crises.

In fact, major firms in South Korea adopted a remote work policy for the time being as the number of infected cases in the country rose at an alarming level.

Guthrie-Jensen’s Consultant on Agile Leadership, Ralph Guzman says:

“…companies might need to look more at telecommuting at some point as a preventive measure. But, just in case more people are affected by the COVID-19, employees will need to be flexible and play multiple roles in the midst of a leaner staff. This requires foresight and training in advance.”

2. Advice employees showing symptoms or sickness to work from home

If, in any case, one of your employees exhibit flu-like symptoms, it’s best to instruct them to work from home immediately. In an unfortunate circumstance that they caught the virus, you get to prevent it from spreading within your company.

If it turns out as only common colds or cough, at least they’re contained and won’t infect your other employees, therefore avoiding a chain of employees filing for sick leaves.

3. Keep everyone informed

Fear mongering and conflicting information are rampant in crises like this, causing panic and distress. Not all of your employees may be getting their news from credible sources, so make sure to keep them informed of updated facts.

Send an email blast addressed to the whole company about current news and developments regarding COVID-19, or any other disasters or unexpected events that can negatively affect your business.

4. Practice agile principles

Company leaders (managers and C-level executives) must adopt agile leadership principles—firm, adaptable, and quick in making decisions—at unprecedented times like this.

Guzman said the COVID-19 crisis is a “perfect though unfortunate example of VUCA—vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.”

“For businesses, there’s much uncertainty about how the next few months will be, and no clarity in terms of when the crisis will have any closure.”

“Companies must be agile in order to quickly build resilience against the COVID-19,” he added. It’s important to observe several best practices in agile leadership when it comes to making business decisions for challenging situations like this.

5. Learn from history

Singapore is a good example of learning from the past. The 2003 SARS breakout in the country prompted the Singapore government to become more agile and proactive in case of another outbreak. They improved and upgraded their medical facilities, specifically with virus research and aggressive contact-tracing measures. Since SARS is a type of coronavirus, Singapore was able to acquire vast knowledge about coronavirus properties, which prepared the nation on how to approach the COVID-19 epidemic.

Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease doctor at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, said SARS helped them understand how infectious diseases spread, especially in terms of surveillance, quarantining, and diagnosing (getting equipped with diagnostic kits). They are also able to train and prepare healthcare workers in the event of another epidemic.

Businesses that took note of the susceptibilities seen during the SARS outbreak are likely more prepared when it came to responding and applying their learnings with the current crisis. With the COVID-19, it is critical to do the same thing—take note of vulnerabilities, amp up your efforts, and address issues before the next epidemic hits to protect your business.

To stay updated about the latest news and developments about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, bookmark the references below:

Summing it up

Finding, isolating, and tracking COVID-19 cases is the responsibility of the government to contain and mitigate the disease. However, the impact of the crisis on businesses cannot be ignored. That’s why business leaders need to remain agile and flexible to make sound decisions and thrive despite these trying times.

Competent leaders respond and adapt fast in a crisis. If you wish to create a more responsive and agile team or become a more effective leader in tough times, investing in local leadership workshops is a good option to help your employees adapt quickly and avoid critical mistakes.

Join our Agile Leadership public seminar, where we teach you how to maintain composure and alertness in delicate and unexpected scenarios.

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