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Returning to a Safe and Healthy Office Work Environment Series – Blog 6: Contingency Plan Development

By Brie DeLisi

Experiencing a pandemic and changing the way organizations operate in a very short period of time has identified plenty of opportunities for improvement, particularly in developing contingency plans. The purpose of a contingency plan is to identify outside forces that could potential impact business operations and identifying solutions to be able to mitigate and respond to those situations. There are several crucial steps to developing contingency plans, the following steps are an example of how to develop a contingency plan for a call center – specifically with forward looking impacts of COVID.

Create a contingency team 

stakeholders from every part of the business should be involved to ensure a diverse set of perspectives. Each individual should be able to bring a unique view of potential concerns and solutions to the table. These individuals will also support response plans, and it is important that backups are always identified and trained in the event that a primary team member is unable to support. There needs to be representation from the entire organization to ensure that each department is covered, as well as clear roles and responsibilities for team participation and in the event of an actual emergency.


Team members should include (if applicable):

Senior Leadership, Facilities, IT, Communications, Public Relations, Human Resources, Health and Safety, Security, Finance, and Management/representation from each department.

Identify potential emergency situations that can impact business operations 

these should be plausible impacts including everything from power outages, data breaches, snowstorms, tornados, and, of course, pandemics. Particular concerns for the our immediate future should include: returning to the office environment and there is a 2nd wave of COVID, if there is an outbreak of COVID (or the flu) among employees, if employees are working from home and there is a mass power outage, potential data breaches within home offices, etc. 

When identifying these situations, the next step will be to determine how operations will be affected. Will employees be unable to work? Will employees need to seek shelter? Will there be an impact on employee health and safety? How will customer-facing operations be impacted? Will customer data be compromised? Continue to ask these questions and identify what may happen if the event occurs from all aspects – it is vital to have representation from across the organization is important because each will have a different perspective on what may happen to their teams and stakeholders.


Identify plans to mitigate each scenario

after identifying the potential issues, develop plans to determine how to address each situation. Each stakeholder can bring perspectives on solutions or it might be work seeking outside counsel to facilitate. These plans can also be modular – for example, one solution might be to have a contract with a backup vendor to support call operations. This particular solution can be applied to multiple possible scenarios including if there is a power outage, or if there is a mass breakout of COVID among employees and they physically can’t work.


Test and assess contingency plans

ever emergency response and contingency plan should be tested and assessed for a number of reasons. It is an opportunity to identify any gaps or flaws in the plans that may thwart an otherwise successful implementation. Testing plans also allows everyone an opportunity to practice their role. When we experience an emergency situation, our brain does not operate as it would under ‘normal’ circumstances, rather it enters flight or fight mode, and we need to rely on muscle memory to support our actions. These activities should be documented, gaps identified, and corrective actions applied, and ideally drills should be performed annually.


Contingency Plan Drill Checklist

  • Identify individuals to observe and document drill
  • Conduct an unannounced drill to simulate reality
  • Verify activities and results against the written plan
  • Identify gaps in the written plan, systems and employee actions
  • Review with the Contingency Plan Team – conduct root cause analysis (if needed) and corrective actions to address gaps
  • Implement the corrective actions
  • Communicate the results and updates to the contingency plan to the organization

Communicate 

Any individual who may be involved in a contingency plan activity should be informed and aware of their role, as well as any updates to their role. Communications should also support the individual to be able to ask questions or provide feedback.

Read more from this blog series:

 
BLOG 1: THE NEW NORMAL
BLOG 3: SAFE WORKING PROCEDURES AND PPE
BLOG 4: PREPARATION FOR RETURN – EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS
BLOG 5: REMOTE AND FLEX WORK OPTIONS

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Preparing for a Second Wave

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Rethinking the Workspace