Pandemic Planning for Business

The following post is intended to support businesses with their pandemic planning. It includes a suggested approach and an opportunity to download our own Pandemic Plan as an example.

In our experience, few organisations have a working pandemic continuity plan. Possibly this is because pandemics are seen as a rarity, because of low perceived benefit, or perhaps because of prior experience investing against previous threats that failed to materialise, for example SARS. However, in Coronavirus (COVID-19) we face the realisation of a global threat for which we should be well-prepared.

Why do we need a pandemic plan for Coronavirus?

In the current situation, there are good reasons to have a well-formed pandemic plan:

  • Covid-19 has a distinct profile and a probable pattern of effect. Potentially, staff may be quarantined or hospitalised in clusters as infected individuals continue working with colleagues up to the point of diagnosis. Those infected are likely to be absent for a significant period since for example, a parent with children could be off work for a month or more, returning to work exhausted by the experience. You need to plan for this or a similar pattern of events.
  • A piecemeal or half-hearted response could raise the impact as avoidable transmission takes place. There should be a coherent agreed strategy for ensuring business comes through the outbreak acceptably. It makes sense to apply a unified and agreed plan, so all staff and management apply policy and are clear on what is expected of them.
  • We inherit aspects of our suppliers’ risk. This means that any pandemic-related issues they face, directly or indirectly, could reduce the levels of service you receive. This includes supply of raw materials, parts, services, utilities, sub-contractors and so on. You need to know what to do if any supplier fails to deliver as planned. It may help you to know their pandemic plan.
  • Few insurance policies provide cover for widespread absence in your organisation or for failure of key suppliers for this same reason. This is a key driver for having your own pandemic plan.
  • You need to maintain stakeholder confidence before, during and after any disruptive pandemic event. This includes customers, investors, media, staff, suppliers and every party with a vested interest in your organisation. To keep them on-side they need to see and believe in your decisive actions under difficult circumstances. Again, this needs to be thought-through and coordinated under a planned crisis management and communications structure.

Most of the requirements implied here can be accommodated under the umbrella structure provided by a business continuity plan (BCP) and if you are an Inoni Essentials or Pro customer, you already have tools in place to do this. Add a Pandemic scenario card and apply the reasoning below to populate it specifically for your business. You can get in touch with your Inoni consultant for help doing this.

In any case, there are clear steps you can take to understand the situation and create a dedicated pandemic plan. The start point is remembering that your organisation has a unique profile, with a mix of customers, processes, suppliers, geography and boundaries distinct from any other. A simple template will potentially miss these points and dilute outcomes. Ideally, use an open exploratory approach that links infection and external behaviour with the specific needs of the business.

What do we know and how does this affect planning?

Information regarding the COVID-19 virus is still uncertain, however current findings suggest

  • Transmission is via droplets, requiring proximity up to 2m or via infected surfaces
  • Incubation is between 2 and 14 days, before symptoms are displayed, but may be longer
  • Victims remain infectious from within a few hours of infection, until symptoms are cleared
  • Mortality rate and recovery time varies according to severity, age and health of victim but likelihood of death in a typical workforce age 20-60 with 100% infection is c. 1.5%

Infection behaviour suggests that at the point where one person in the workforce is diagnosed, many more may already be infected, depending on their movements in the preceding 2 weeks and the measures you have imposed. Taking early decisive action could save stress and discomfort for many.

A further implication is that the workforce can be moderately well-protected by education and application of simple physical measures. These include appropriate use of sanitising gels and masks. We can add symptom recognition, segregation, prohibiting access to communal areas, kitchens, intensive disinfecting of surfaces, avoiding all non-essential travel and meetings.

A model for writing your plan

Inoni’s layered model takes these behaviours into account and works as follows, by considering the impacts long or unpredictable periods of absenteeism, stress and underperformance may have on each layer. Actions are developed under headings Preparatory measures and Recovery measures, signifying when they must be deployed. Generally, each recovery action may require preparatory measures.


Pandemic Challenges

Preparatory measures

Recovery measures 


Customer meetings postponed

Investor loss of confidence

Media intense interest

Projects and payments delayed

Opportunities missed

Demand reduced

Agree verbal communications

Agree relationship deputies

Bring meetings forward

Brief investors and media on plan

Crisis management plan and training

Webex and phone meetings

Deputise in absence

Implement crisis management

Product and Service

Face-to-face services halted

Perceived contamination

Logistical distribution failure

Agree verbal delivery e.g. webex

Correct assumptions

Arrange resilient logistics

Webex and phone meetings

Be ready to disinfect

Implement logistics solutions


Liquidity and cash flow

Build or arrange liquid funds

Draw down funds

Process and Activity

Serial widespread absence

Single point process failures

Management and control

Productivity reduction

International travel

Public transport

Educate staff

Develop pandemic policy

Resilient process design

Test work from home capacity

Test remote management

Stockpile gels and masks

Reinforce education

Apply pandemic policy

Distribute masks and gels

Work from home

Segregate in-office areas

Close communal areas


Key staff absence

Cross-train or retain 3rd parties

Deploy deputies or 3rd parties

Plant and Equipment

Key operator absence

Reducing spares, maintenance

Increasing failure rate

Cross-train or retain 3rd parties

Stockpile critical spares

Maintain critical equipment

Deploy deputies or 3rd parties

Draw-down spares as needed

Maintain critical equipment


Quarantined exclusion

Prepare alternate site

Plan for Loss of Site (BCP)

Mobilise alternate site

Loss of Site strategy (BCP)

Systems and Data

Key operator absence

Data quality degradation

Security degradation

Reliability degradation

Cross-train or retain 3rd parties

Maintain critical systems

Deploy deputies or 3rd parties

Maintain critical systems


Key supply failure

Production failure

Stockpile critical supplies

Identify alternate sources

Review supplier pandemic plans

Draw down from stock

Mobilise alternate sources


Each point in the model is intended to be fluid and can be adopted and developed further for the organisation to best address its specific needs. So, for example, a call centre operation may devise different measures from a consultancy, similarly a retail outlet will necessarily adopt a different pattern of measures from a steelworks.

Finally, in addition to applying and practically interpreting the model, you may find it helpful to form a crisis management team responsible for setting expectation, direction, pandemic policy and delivering consistent optimum messaging to the stakeholder community. Obtain all the information you may need to communicate effectively with staff and all third parties.

Using the Inoni Essentials software system, we have produced our own Pandemic Plan, which can be found on the link below.

Download our Pandemic Plan

Heed help writing a coronavirus strategy and policy?

Use our consulting service