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As the UK becomes the latest nation to bring in substantial restrictions over the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, safety and compliance firm Bureau Veritas is highlighting a few simple steps to help firms manage their business continuity plans.

On 23 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought in strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, stating people should only leave home in very limited circumstances, including travelling to and from work only ‘where this is absolutely necessary’.

With this in mind, Bureau Veritas is suggesting, where possible, that sectors continue to review and adapt their business continuity and disaster planning in line with a number of best practice guidelines.

Basilio Vieira, Lead Auditor for Bureau Veritas Certification, said: “Given the unprecedented situation the UK is now facing, business continuity and disaster planning is now in full force for firms across the country. While the government has been explicit about the need for companies to ‘comply with the spirit’ of the new restrictions, this will mean different things for different sectors causing some confusion. 

“In terms of business continuity, many professional services firms, for example, will be grappling with the challenges of implementing widespread remote working across their workforce and what that means in practice. Meanwhile, for those firms where home working is not possible, like construction and manufacturing and other key worker industries, the huge challenge is putting in place robust safety measures to protect their staff from catching or transmitting the virus.”

According to Bureau Veritas, with guidance and the severity of the situation changing almost daily, businesses will need a more ‘outward-looking’ approach during this time, especially in planning for possible disruption to their supply chains.

“From our experience of working with companies to achieve certification in ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management, many firms can be over-optimistic and internally-focused by only considering how their business will be affected in worst-case scenarios. However, with multiple industries facing similar challenges, it’s important to plan ahead and manage expectations of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting their whole supply chain. It is unlikely suppliers will be able to maintain the same level of output or service as before, thus it’s critical to put in measures to mitigate this.

“Other crucial things to consider include re-adjusting expectations of employees working from home – we’re all in the same boat and many of us will have abruptly moved to remote working. In some cases, this may mean employees lack the resources such as external webcams, additional monitors or even adequate physical space to be as productive as they usually are in the office. Hence, businesses should factor this in and find ways to help staff work more effectively from home over the prolonged period such restrictions are likely to cover.

“As we continue to move ahead in these uncertain times, such measures are likely to go a long way in ensuring firms are adequately prepared to deal with worse-case scenarios as and when they arise, ultimately, helping to save lives. It will also mean they will be better-placed to resume operations as normal in a post-coronavirus environment.”