A ‘Between Waves’ Planner for Small Businesses

1. Introduction

The nature of a pandemic is one of waves. If public distancing and stay-at-home orders are effective, the volume of residents with active outbreaks will subside over time. This may offer a welcome respite from the tremendous disruption COVID-19 has caused in all of our lives, especially our work lives.

This is not the time to lull yourself into believing the worst is over, however. Even with the ready availability of vaccines, variants of the virus can cause additional waves, ones that are potentially even more disruptive. 

Think of a pandemic as a hurricane that doesn’t want to dissipate. As we move through the stages of the pandemic, we may find ourselves in a state of relative calm between the waves.

This is the time to do some planning for the next wave. Even though things may seem relatively normal, there’s still a good chance we will need to go back through additional waves – as we’ve seen with the Delta variant – which may cause breakthrough infections that affect public health orders, even with a vaccine.

If you haven’t done so already, identify a Business Continuity Coordinator and set up a crisis team that has defined roles and responsibilities for developing a plan for this possibility. As a business owner or CEO, you don’t have the time to commit to planning for and managing a crisis. You need foot soldiers to fight the battle on its many fronts. Don’t try to do it alone, even if you only have a handful of employees.

Should additional waves come down the pike, you can activate your Business Continuity Coordinator or team quickly to handle the various aspects of your crisis response such as security, sanitation, HR, facilities, communications and supply chain.

Being ready for the next wave is key to creating a resilient business, one that is not only able to ride through numerous waves of a pandemic but any natural- or human-caused disaster down the road.

As you conduct your planning, document all the steps in a crisis binder that is accessible in physical and digital form so you can execute it if needed, either on-site or remotely. Share it with your Business Continuity team members and line managers. Keep it updated. A plan gathering dust on a shelf will not do you any good in a crisis.

Remember, this isn’t about a pandemic. This planner can be adapted to any crisis your business faces, from wildfires and earthquakes to floods and arson.

NOTE: Businesses come in all sizes and shapes. As you go through these checklists, feel free to scale them to your own needs or omit them entirely. The goal here isn’t to check everything off on the list, but to use the list as a springboard for formulating a plan specific to your company’s size, industry, culture and goals.