COVID-19 – The Human Factor
What a time it has been in the year 2020 thus far –Australian Bushfires, continued Terrorist Attacks, Climate Change concerns, The Black Lives Matter Movement, and of course – COVID 19. COVID-19 has suddenly revealed a surprisingly large number of virologists amongst us! An immense amount of information has been churned out on the topic – by everyone and anyone, expert or not! Local media, social media, celebrities, scientists, fanatics, conspiracy theorists – you name it! We have seen politicians struggling to provide guidance and clear measures in unfamiliar territory, some more effective than others, judgment, blame, and hypocrisy far too often the case.
As a Business Continuity Manager, this has certainly been a challenging time!
Working in Business Continuity in the Banking Sector, our first response of course when the Crisis Management Team made the decision to invoke our Pandemic Plan – which by the way was in no way geared to the scale of the impact COVID-19 has had, was to ensure the continuation of critical business activities. Get everyone working – send staff to relocation sites, instruct teams to work from home, start assigning Secure ID fobs, set up Skype meetings, etc. Just keep the business going! And then of course the continuous need to keep all employees up to date on every new, however insignificant change that was reported on the crisis that is COVID!
“Keeping the lights on” for my organization is my job and I take it very seriously, as do all my colleagues and despite the fact that we had not planned for such a scenario, nor did we have the capacity to support over 15,000 remote workers at the time we invoked our plan, we were all hands on deck – in a matter of a few days, our Networking Team had increased our capacity to support ALL employees working remotely. We had managed to courier Secure ID fobs to all corners of Belgium with an independent courier in a van….
Then of course came the Cybercriminals exploiting the pandemic situation which meant our Cybersecurity Team had to go into overdrive to ensure that our organization was indeed secure and our new remote way of working was as robust as if we were on-site in the office.
For me, whilst my head was on the job, my heart was very much focused on the Human impact……the reality of the pandemic on individuals:
The tragedy of job losses, independent businesses unable to sustain themselves, and having to succumb to closure. Those in a position to receive support living on a reduced income and not knowing when that too will cease.
Large corporations whose profits may only be 10 billion dollars in this financial year and not 25 billion dollars, making cuts to staff in a period where applying for a new role in a pending recession is absolutely terrifying.
The loneliness of the elderly or people disposed of anxiety… parents who are homeschooling and remote working as their partners and frustrated teenagers rant and rave. Cancer patients, those on transplant waiting lists graciously accepting delays to their treatment.
The travelers who can no longer move freely and long for sea, sky, and sunsets…
Despite all this, I see the good too:
I see the dedication of people who are working in jobs that serve others, that continue to give of their time and risk their own health: Doctors, Nurses, Policemen, Refuse Collectors, Supermarket Staff, Pharmaceutical Staff, Public Transport Operators, News Reporters, Post Men and Women, Cleaners, Farmers, Charities that against all odds continue to raise funds for abandoned animals, the homeless and the hungry.
I see to the Human Spirit not just survive but thrive. Ordinary people that have become extraordinary…the elderly tik tok dancing, neighbors running errands for those less able, music being played and shared for others on street corners, rainbow drawings displayed in front windows, fitness instructors sharing workouts online, food packages delivered to those in need, the not so fortunate sharing with those even less fortunate. Researchers and Scientists in laboratories with an immense burden upon them testing endlessly. The couch potatoes no longer grappling with guilt!!!
The human reaction to unfamiliarity is but human. For each individual circumstance, individual response is a true response. We never truly walk a day in our neighbor’s shoes, nor a week. Our true value is to do the best we can in our own circumstances in times of uncertainty and respect that perhaps others are striving to do the same in theirs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly changed the way society approaches life and work. As the world of work shifts from getting used to the new normal with remote—or, at the very least, socially distant—operations, business leaders need to step up to ensure survival and success well into the future. Despite the need for Business Continuity, for me, the Human Factor – Human Continuity – will always remain a more powerful and important element and I hope this period has served as a valuable lesson for our top leaders and that they share the very same sentiment – they will be faced with a common challenge to not only keep the lights on but deliver sustainable models for lasting corporate success that prioritize the health and safety of people along with profits.
By Rebecca Cameron
Business Continuity and Cyber Security Management