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Considerations for K–12 Administrators to Improve Business Continuity Planning

Ariana Flewelling

Even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

If the pandemic has made one fact clear, it’s that planning for an uncertain future is difficult to do. Schools have come a long way from the tumultuous days of required remote learning, yet — as districts look ahead — the uncertainty remains. Planning for the coming school year could prove to be just as challenging.

Although the requirement to create learning continuity plans was tied to the implementation of emergency remote learning, business continuity plans are a long-standing approach to maintaining the integrity of a business. Be it fire, cyberattack, the loss of a key employee or the onset of a pandemic, difficult situations are inevitable; a business continuity plan can enable organizations to deal with the fallout. Districts that have a plan in place have already identified ways to minimize risk before a problem occurs and what to do in the worst-case scenario.

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To better coordinate for the coming year — or even the next semester — administrators should work with the IT teams and other departments in their districts. This will help them understand the full scope of the district’s needs and challenges, such as the extent of the burnout causing  widespread staffing shortages in K­–12 schools . Here are other key takeaways for the business continuity plan process.

Considerations for School Leaders Creating Business Continuity Plans

Consider what the worst-case scenario might be, and prepare for that. Figure out what would require the most work, the most technology and the most preparation. It is always better to be overprepared than caught off guard.

If district leaders are prepared for business continuity in the event of the worst-case scenario, and they don’t need to enact all of their plans, they will have an a la carte menu of solutions to choose from, and will have the freedom to choose the options that work best for their situation, whatever that looks like next year.

When creating a plan, district leaders should also remember  the total cost of ownership for technology solutions . This includes all the components necessary to make the device functional as intended.

The total cost of ownership also encompasses solutions to get new tech up and running, and keep it that way. This means that districts need to consider professional development for users, IT knowledge and resources when it comes to troubleshooting and repairs, and more. Factoring in this total cost will give administrators a clearer idea of their budgets now and in the coming years for accurate business continuity planning.

DISCOVER:  Districts use IT investments to boost the bottom line amid tight budgets.

There are also  technology lifecycle  considerations to remember with new tech purchases. Once it’s been purchased, school IT teams need plans for integration and adoption phases. Beyond that, how will the technology be maintained, repaired, retired and refreshed? These factors can all affect a district’s business continuity, particularly in the event of a disaster, as seen with COVID-19. Subsequently, these factors also affect the post-disaster process. In some cases, they prevent districts from going back to business as usual; instead, rebuilding with something better than before, if possible.

State and Local Requirements Factor into Planning Logistics

In addition to the aforementioned considerations and takeaways, schools also need to look at their state and local requirements for planning.

There may be a specific template districts need to use or specific information they must be sure to include. Administrators should look at  whether spending needs to be justified on the front end or the back end .

California, for example, requires districts to create  a Local Control and Accountability Plan . This requires schools to set goals, create action plans, provide data, and show how they want to achieve their goals and why. The LCAP also requires districts to hold community listening sessions in which they explain their plan and solicit feedback. This allows stakeholders to have a voice in the plan and the decisions being made.

Once created, the LCAP functions as the district’s funding plan, so it’s important for schools in the state to make their planning decisions carefully. The LCAP, and other states’ requirements, can guide districts to improved business continuity planning.

Stopgap Measures to Improve Business Continuity in the Short Term

Administrators who find they haven’t planned appropriately for the current year should look at what they need most urgently to maintain business continuity in the coming semester. They should determine their priorities for the spring and figure out — of the things they would like to improve — what actions most closely align with those priorities. Those are the improvements they need to make; everything else should be let go.

WATCH NOW:  Innovate on a small budget with a limited IT staff. 

It may seem necessary to put resources into creating a short-term fix for numerous concerns, but in the long run it will be more beneficial to focus time and money on only the most crucial changes. In trying to fix everything, districts may wind up fixing nothing. Instead, it’s best to focus on the changes that provide the best ROI for learning and the ROI for time.

If schools focus on high-quality, technology-enhanced instruction, they will improve learning outcomes no matter what model they’re using. Educators should be set up to use technology in a way that is most advantageous for what they’re trying to teach.

Ultimately, everything comes down to, how does this help all students access a high-quality education? How does it relate back to students needing to have access to school? Students — what they are learning and what schools are trying to teach them — should always be at the center of any decision-making processes.

This article is part of the “ ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology ” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the   #ConnectIT   hashtag.

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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Business Continuity Plan

A 7-step guide to creating a business continuity plan for dealing with COVID-19.

Updated on June 25th, 2023

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A business continuity plan (BCP) is a strategic plan a business would follow to prevent and recover from major disruptions to business. Typically, businesses establish a continuity plan for natural disasters, such as floods, arson, and terrorism.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak presented businesses with many unforeseen challenges due to its fast spread, global reach, and resulting lockdowns. This guide was created to help businesses modify and improve their business continuity plans during this time to be better prepared for the effects of the pandemic.

COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan Template

Use our general business continuity plan in Word format to help stay on task.

How to Prepare for COVID-19:

1. prioritize your employees' safety..

The well-being and health of your employees should be your top priority. Start by addressing the needs of employees who display COVID-19 symptoms. To keep your entire team safe, send any employees with flu-like symptoms home. In this scenario, ensure you maintain transparent communication with all your employees, as this will go a long way in reassuring them.

Look into remote working solutions. To do this, you'll need to determine if you have the tools, technology, and capacity to support a small or large remote team. In addition, you might need to consider introducing or expanding flexible work arrangements. Depending on your type of business and industry, businesses may also need to reorganize teams and reallocate resources.

One of the adjustments businesses have to make is to implement infection protection measures. You need to create a strategy that enables employees to continue to work without endangering them. You can do this by establishing employee well-being programs and policies that support a safe working environment.

2. Identify the risks and impact of COVID-19.

As a business, it's vital that you stay updated on the latest news and regulations put into place by government officials. This also provides you with more information to help identify the risks and overall impact COVID-19 will have on your business.

The following are possible impacts that businesses should consider:

Employees may be unable to travel to work due to travel restrictions put into place . For employees that make use of public transport, the risk of infection is much higher due to close contact with other individuals. Additionally, since schools are officially closed, many parents may be unable to attend work due to childcare issues.

Employees may be prohibited from attending work . In the case of national shutdowns, employees will be unable to enter workspaces.

A visible slowdown in sales. During a national shutdown, customers will be unable to purchase services and products, which will lead to a rapid decrease in sales.

Additional costs for hiring temporary employees . Depending on the type of business or industry you're based in, you may need to continue work during a national shutdown. This will generally require essential employees only and if essential employees are diagnosed with COVID-19, you will need to consider hiring temporary employees.

Diminished workforce performance. If your employees are forced to work remotely but do not have access to the same quality of resources and technology, you could see a decrease in productivity.

Additional cost of establishing a remote workforce. As mentioned above, you may need to put resources in place to help employees maintain the same level of functionality. However, this will cost your business as employees might require special equipment, communication devices, and software.

Your business might be forced to close down. If your business does not provide essential services and cannot afford a remote workforce, you will have to close down during lockdowns. This could result in unpaid time off, especially for businesses like restaurants, salons, and bars.

3. Establish open and transparent communication.

Employees will look towards their community leaders, government officials, and employers for guidance during these uncertain times. Therefore, it's important that you encourage open dialogue with your employees and be as transparent as possible.

Leave as little to interpretation as possible . Employees will expect clear and straightforward steps that they can follow. When setting up your continuity plan, consider the diverse perspectives of your employees and which communication platforms will best suit their needs. This will help you determine how detailed your plan should be.

Establish a communications plan that provides employees, senior management, customers, suppliers, and government regulators with regular updates . Make sure your updates stem from verifiable news sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

4. Reshape your business plans for continuity purposes.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to reshape the way businesses operate, it's critical that you review existing business plans, including your current business continuity plan and business disaster recovery plan.

To help address the COVID-19 challenges, businesses should:

Monitor direct cost escalations . This should also include the COVID-19 impact on overall product margins, which may require businesses to renegotiate terms and conditions where necessary. Businesses may be vulnerable to financial stress and long-term implications if they are slow to react.

Consider alternative supply chain options. If your business needs to source products or materials but the supplier is based in areas significantly affected by COVID-19, consider looking for alternative options. Remember to maintain active communication with all suppliers.

Identify how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts budgets and business plans. Start by conducting assessments with multiple scenarios to understand the potential impact on your business's overall performance. After detailing how long the impact is expected to last, and how it affects suppliers and budget predictions, revise your business's plans.

Look into alternative funding. Many businesses will face the issue of short-term capital demands. Based on your findings from the business plans assessment, you might need to look at near-term capital raising, short-term liquidity, debt refinancing, or additional credit support from banks, partners, or investors.

5. Prioritize key business functions and processes.

Start by identifying the key products and services your business provides, as well as the customers they're delivered to. This will help determine which high-risk areas are vulnerable, outline dependencies, and estimate the potential financial losses your business may face. Then, prioritize which business functions require additional attention.

6. Make use of support policies and funding.

Across the U.S., local governments and organizations have implemented several financial, social insurance, and tax-related policies to help support small businesses during this time. It is important to note that government support may differ based on your location and industry.

Monitor nationwide government and business opportunities that could support your business during this period. For example, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing low-interest working capital loans to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

7. Review and revise your business strategy.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, you should consider reshaping your entire business strategy. This should include an assessment of all plans, including marketing, communications, and BCP. Your current revision will be done quickly and somewhat under duress as the situation continues to change dramatically.

If your assessment reveals any deficiencies, you will need to identify:

  • Root causes.
  • Timeliness of action.
  • Lack of infrastructure.
  • Labor shortages.
  • External environment issues.

Once this is complete, consider putting new internal guidelines, plans, and policies in place based on the lessons learned. This will help you better respond to future crises and pandemics.

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What is included in a COVID-19 business continuity plan?

  • Policies that address various types of natural disasters.
  • Processes that must be followed during this time.
  • Guidelines that detail the business processes, assets, human resources, business partners, and more.
  • An outline of the risks the business faces and how it will impact operations.
  • Safeguards and processes to help mitigate the risks.

How do I prepare my business for COVID-19?

  • Prioritize your employees' safety .
  • Identify the risks and impact of COVID-19 .
  • Establish open and transparent communication .
  • Reshape your business plans for continuity purposes .
  • Prioritize key business functions and processes .
  • Make use of support policies and funding .
  • Review and revise your business strategy .

Where can I find a COVID-19 business continuity plan template?

Download our COVID-19 business continuity plan template for free.

Business Continuity Planning in COVID-19

What to do if you had no plan or if your plan isn't working

school business continuity plan covid 19

The purpose of a business continuity plan is to ensure that your business is able to survive a critical incident. It permits an immediate response to crisis in order to shorten recovery time and mitigate impact. This pandemic has presented a "critical incident" for the world like no other. With unknown reach and duration, worldwide implications and no precedent to accurately base projections, it is fair to say we are in unchartered territories.

As the world reacts to COVID-19, it is likely not an ideal time for management to focus on developing complex business continuity plans. However, some key business continuity planning points may help your organization enhance its recovery time and trajectory. Once you are on your way through the recovery phase of this pandemic, you can then begin the exercise of reviewing and renewing your business continuity plan - using the lessons learned from COVID-19 to bolster your plan, increase efficiencies and allow you to respond more efficiently to future critical incidents.

While you consider the basics of business continuity planning - keep in mind that in order to succeed, you should prioritize critical business activities, stabilize cash flow, extend financial resources to keep operational and maintain your reputation.

How do business continuity plans help

A business continuity plan functions in phases:

school business continuity plan covid 19

Prevention is built upon the risk management principles of identify, analyze, evaluate and treat your risks. Preparedness focuses on analyzing the impact of events on an organization. It helps prioritize key functions, personnel, equipment, offerings and activities that could be impacted by a critical incident. Response is a plan detailing the list of steps to take immediately before (if possible), during and following an incident in order to contain, control and minimize impacts. Finally, recovery planning is the organization's roadmap to minimize disruption and reduce the amount of time it takes to achieve recovery.

Although it is reasonable to conclude that we are in the response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, for many organizations, the stages of the crisis associated with this pandemic are just picking up speed. Meaning, there is still time to consider all four of the phases - prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

1. Prevention

Consider the risks that your organization could face in the months ahead - do not stop with the obvious ones; dig deep, speak to employees and to stakeholders, look at competitors and at similar industries. For example, if your business has been designated an essential service, you have likely considered the health and safety concerns and may have provided staff with personal protective equipment (PPE); however, the use of PPE also creates additional risks like the issue of its acquisition - is there sufficient supply of PPE? Do you have multiple distributors in case one source is not available? If not, can you find alternate sources?

As you identify your risks, review your service lines one by one and consider how they might operate in this COVID-19 environment. Think critically about what might go wrong so that you are prepared should those eventualities occur. It is also important to have a plan in the event that one of your employees show symptoms of/tests positive for COVID-19 - including, employee self-reporting, income compensation programs or availability, corporate reporting obligations, self-isolation requirements, notification protocols. The employee self-reporting requirements should be communicated to all employees and updated in accordance with PHAC guidance.

While it may seem like a simple or obvious task, it can be quite difficult to identify all the risks that your organization may be facing - particularly in the first months of a global pandemic that could impact the world economy beyond anything we have experienced in our lifetimes.

school business continuity plan covid 19

When thinking about your risks, you can use various risk identification tools to help with the brainstorming. One such tool is the risk quadrant. As you identify your initial strategic, operational, financial and hazard risks, you can then consider how each of these individual risks will snowball to create others. Each risk that you identify can trigger multiple secondary risks, each of which need to be considered. We have prepared a non-exhaustive list of risks organizations could be facing as a result of this pandemic, which can be found here . This is a general list and does not reflect all of the risks that your organization may be confronted with. It may also include risks that are not applicable to your organization. It is meant purely as a list to provoke thought and assist you in the development of your own list of corporate risks.

Once you have identified your risks, analyze them for likelihood and impact. Make a heat map, list every risk you have identified on your map and continuously update it as you move forward. This exercise will help you determine which risks you should address first and prioritize your focus moving forward.

school business continuity plan covid 19

Evaluate the consequences of these risks materializing and think of ways you can mitigate - or treat - these risks. For example, do you rely entirely on one supplier? What happens if that supplier closes its doors? Can you start diversifying your supply chain now so that if one supplier is impacted you can rely on others? Have a clear plan of action for every identified risk. This will help you navigate the unpredictable.

Given that one of the key risks facing all organizations is the financial implication of the pandemic, look at your short-term liquidity. Become more disciplined in your cash flow monitoring so that you can react quickly to reduce unnecessary exposures. Reduce or eliminate all non-essential expenses and look at ways to raise capital. Monitor supply chain issues that could result in operational and financial exposures that could cripple your business unless remediation measures are implemented. If you would like more information regarding government funding programs please go here .

As you are addressing risks during COVID-19, look to your existing contracts, leases and insurance policies. In your contracts and leases, look for force majeure, delay, relief and excusable conditions clauses. As you work with stakeholders through this process, renegotiate contracts wisely - be on the alert for cost escalations, long-term obligations and contingencies that may be out of your control.

2. Preparedness

What is your organization's critical business activity? Who are your critical personnel? What are the vital elements of your supply chain? Answering these questions is critical to conducting a business impact analysis.

Have contingency plans in place for modifying your activities going forward. You may not be able to offer services the way you previously did - virtually instead of in person? delivery instead of on-site? Maybe you will change the services that you offer entirely - producing hand sanitizer instead of beer? building ventilators instead of vacuums? Consider these eventualities so that you are positioned to transition when necessary.

Should you need to transition, be aware of the added risks that come with these changes, update your heat map and re-evaluate your mitigation steps to ensure that you are protected once these changes come into effect.

Also, ensure that you identify and source all the resources necessary to support these key activities. If possible, do so before you need to transition.

Should you be unable to perform your key activities (or source alternatives), consider what the impact would be on your business. Is there any mitigating measure you could put in place to reduce that impact? Are there any forms of assistance that you can make use of to prolong your business' survival?

As for your key personnel, make sure that you have delegates who can step in should they become incapacitated. Have key information, including plans (business continuity, incident response, recovery), policies (insurance, corporate), financial data, key agreements and contact lists available, such that the delegates have access to the key information necessary to keep your business running. This information is often found in a corporate emergency tool kit. If you do not have an emergency tool kit in place already, start compiling one such that should a key personnel handoff become necessary, the emergency tool kit can act as the delegate's guidebook forward.

3. Response

Your incident response plan is your roadmap of what to do in the face of a critical incident. These plans vary based upon the triggering event, your organization's size, structure and business activity.

First is activation: who has authority to activate the plan and in what circumstances.

Second is team: who is involved in the response. Depending on the size of your organization, this may range from all hands on deck to a select portion of the leadership team. Large organizations may have sub-groups charged with various elements of the plan. The key personnel should also have alternates in the event they become incapacitated. If your organization has various departments, it is important to have representatives from the legal, finance and human resources departments. It is also helpful to have a person appointed as secretary to record discussions and track all action items.

Third is communication. This is both an internal and external issue. On the internal side, the plan must address how all members of your organization receive communication in various circumstances. Do you have an emergency communication mechanism (like "Send Word Now") to send updates to employees in a crisis? Is there a contact list with all employees' personal phone and email addresses? Externally, you should have a list of all emergency services you may need to reach, all customers and clients who you might need to access and all suppliers and producers who you may be relying upon.

Fourth is recording. You should have an event log to record all relevant information, decisions and actions taken during the crisis. This will be an invaluable tool when addressing any liability concerns raised during the crisis (breach of contract, employment disputes, health & safety allegations, privacy breaches, etc.) but also as a debriefing tool to use once the dust settles and you are able to reflect on what was done well and what could have been done better. This log will prove very important as you create or renew your business continuity plan post-pandemic.

4. Recovery

As we push through this crisis, think of the recovery phase. Your recovery plan will assist you to respond effectively so that you can minimize loss and reduce the time necessary for recovery. The basic question asked in your recovery planning is "how will you get your business back in line after a crisis".

Timing: Consider the realistic amount of time it would take your business to recover from being unable to engage in its critical business activities (as identified in the business impact analysis). You may have multiple critical business activities depending up on the nature of your operations and, if that is the case, each one should have its own recovery timeframe.

Strategies: Consider what your business needs to operate and develop strategies that prioritize the key elements of your operation. Some sample strategies:

  • Retrieve your emergency tool kit (or collect all of the information that should be in the kit);
  • Identify a recovery team or teams: identify key people who are tasked with focusing on the recovery of individual aspects of the business;
  • Communicate: keep communication open, frequent and transparent with internal and external stakeholders;
  • Identify Alternatives: look at what you need to keep your operation running and identify alternative suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, locations, facilities, equipment, etc. that you could use in order to keep operational;
  • Keep operational: consider ways to reduce operating costs and/or increase alternate sources of cash flow so that your business can survive through the crisis;
  • Monitor the process using a checklist: this checklist reminds you to do all the things you should be during the crisis (recording information, communicating information, contacting the right people, seeking support from all available resources, obtaining tax advise and assistance, and reviewing your recovery). Gowling WLG's checklist can be provided to you upon request to Gowling WLG partner Jahmiah Ferdinand-Hodkin.

As it pertains to COVID-19, this recovery plan will gear you towards the questions of when and how you will be returning to normal business operations and what that "new normal" may look like for your organization. As there are so many unknowns at present, this plan may include multiple contingencies that you can narrow as various government decisions and funding programs are announced.

What to do now

If you do not have a plan or your plan isn't working, please do consider these steps, tricks and tools to help you navigate this crisis. These tools can be implemented by organization presently closed as well as those operating as essential services. For additional information regarding how to bolster your business continuity plan and manage incidents as you move though this pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Business continuity in the COVID-19 emergency: A framework of actions undertaken by world-leading companies

Alessandro margherita.

a University of Salento, Campus Ecotekne, Via Monteroni s.n., 73100 Lecce (LE), Italy

Marikka Heikkilä

b Centre for Collaborative Research (CCR), Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Rehtorinpellonkatu 3, FI-20500 Turku, Finland

The COVID-19 emergency has urged companies to operate in new ways to face supply chain interruptions, shifts in customer demand, and risks to workforce health. The organizational ability to respond to critical contingencies is crucial for business leaders in the perspective of continuing business. In our research, we investigate the actions undertaken by 50 world-leading corporations to respond to the pandemic. Applying content analysis to web pages and social network posts, we extract 77 actions related to 13 sub-areas and integrate these into a five-level framework that encompasses operations, customer, workforce, leadership, and community-related responses. We also describe six illustrative company examples of how the emergency can generate opportunities for creating new value. The study advances the scholarly discussion on the impact of emergencies on business continuity and can help leaders define response strategies and actions in the current challenge.

1. Responding to COVID-19

Since the first months of 2020, the world has experienced an unprecedented health emergency generated by the global diffusion of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and on November 30, 2020, the WHO reported about 62 million confirmed cases and 1.5 million confirmed deaths affecting 220 countries, areas, or territories.

Besides representing extraordinary health and social emergency, the pandemic is also a major threat to companies and the continuity of their business processes. Whereas business continuity represents a strategic organizational capability ( Wong, 2009 ) also associated with resilience ( Parker & Ameen, 2018 ; Sabatino, 2016 ; Sahebjamnia et al., 2015 ; Schätter et al., 2019 ), the literature has specifically discussed the relevance of crisis management for the survival of organizations ( Laufer, 2015 ). A classification effort was also conducted to identify key research themes and trends in crisis management ( Coombs & Laufer, 2018 ) along the different pre-crisis (prevention and preparation), crisis (response), and post-crisis (learning and revision) activities ( Coombs, 2015 ).

The interest in investigating business continuity and a company’s ability to respond to a critical scenario is significantly relevant in the most recent pandemic. The difficult contingency caused by COVID-19 represents an important context to investigate company reactions. The main positioning and research goal of this article is to analyze world-leading organizations and to build a framework of responses realized by those firms to ensure business continuity in the pandemic scenario. Besides analyzing responses aimed to ensure the preservation of current value, we have a secondary focus to discuss how the emergency can generate opportunities for organizations to create new stakeholder value.

After a review of extant approaches on business continuity and organizational resilience in emergency scenarios, we present an in-depth analysis of the responses of the first 50 Fortune Global 500 companies to the COVID-19 emergency as well as a content analysis of web pages and LinkedIn posts of companies dedicated to the pandemic. Then, we discuss how we isolated 77 actions aggregated into a five-level framework that encompasses operations, customers, workforce, leadership, and community-related responses. Finally, we describe six company cases as illustrative examples of organizations attempting to create new business value in the critical scenario.

2. Background

In recent years, there has been fervent academic interest in organizational responses to critical situations. Today, organizations are forced to build resilience against numerous events that threaten the continuity of their business processes ( Sahebjamnia et al., 2018 ). These include natural events (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes) and man-made factors such as cyberattacks, geopolitical crises and terrorism (e.g., Castillo, 2005 ; Sheffi, 2001 ), corporate crisis (e.g., Yang & Jiang, 2015 ), and market and supply chain crises (e.g., Chopra & Sodhi, 2014 ; Kleindorfer & Germaine, 2005 ; Sáenz et al., 2018 ; Strandvik et al., 2018 ). A significant stream of literature has studied the problem of planning and foresight for emergency preparedness and management ( Turoff et al., 2013 ).

Organizations strive to cope with emergencies and critical events to keep their reputation, be more resilient, and ensure continuity ( Parker & Ameen, 2018 ; Rezaei Soufi et al., 2019 ). The management of business continuity has evolved since the 1970s as a form of crisis management in response to the different risks that threaten an organization. It is a holistic management process that provides a framework for effective response ( Herbane, 2010 ), and business continuity plans have been developed primarily to minimize the effects of unanticipated events on the firm’s ability to meet customer requirements ( Zsidisin et al., 2005 ).

Scholars and practitioners have introduced several methods to assist organizations in improving business continuity (e.g., Botha & von Solms, 2004 ; British Standards Institution, 2006 ; Gibb & Buchanan, 2006 ; ISO, 2012 ; Lindström et al., 2010 ; López & Ishizaka, 2019 ). Activities include risk and impact evaluation, continuity plan/process design, implementation and measurement, testing, and continuous update of measures ( Cerullo & Cerullo, 2004 ; Pitt & Goyal, 2004 ; Speight, 2011 ). The literature emphasizes compliance with continuity standards ( Freestone & Lee, 2008 ; Tammineedi, 2010 ), risk management ( Nosworthy, 2000 ; Schätter et al., 2019 ), and organizational culture ( Alesi, 2008 ; Rapaport & Kirschenbaum, 2008 ). Typically, the focus has been on ensuring the continuity of a specific business domain such as IT infrastructure ( Bajgoric, 2006 ), supply chain ( Benyoucef & Forzley, 2007 ), or outsourcing ( De Luzuriaga, 2009 ).

With a particular focus on supply chain and business continuity, Zsidisin et al. (2005) highlighted the importance of developing business continuity plans by addressing key concepts such as risk, uncertainty, and exposure. The authors examined how and why firms create business continuity plans to manage this risk and highlighted how various isomorphic pressures left firms with similar risk management practices embedded in their supply management practices. Based on the study of companies operating in different environments, the authors found consistency in their approaches to continuity planning and four interrelated tasks (i.e., awareness, prevention, remediation, and knowledge management) that form a framework for effective continuity planning ( Zsidisin et al., 2005 ).

Whereas business continuity is generically aimed to preserve the value that an organization provides with current activities, with business model innovation the organization is deliberately altering the core elements of its model as a way to develop a new-to-business model ( Bucherer et al., 2012 ; Heikkilä et al., 2018 ; Pohle & Chapman, 2006 ). The integration between business continuity and business model was recently advanced by Niemimaa et al. (2019) , who pointed out that while business continuity focuses on preserving current operations, a crisis could also be a source of new value. Recent research also provided methods for companies to evaluate the components of their business model against future uncertainties ( Bouwman et al., 2018 ; Haaker et al., 2017 ).

There has been an increase in scholarly interest in analyzing the strategic decisions and actions undertaken by companies to respond to a crisis is increasing. Whereas the COVID-19 outbreak has generated a large stream of research contributions focusing on different managerial dimensions, a comprehensive study of company responses along several organizational perspectives has not yet been introduced. We focus on these responses in the following sections.

3. Research process

Our study involves conceptual development work based on the analysis of available web-based information about the responses of leading corporations to the COVID-19 outbreak. Content analysis is a method of studying and analyzing communication in a systematic, objective, and quantitative manner to measure variables ( Wimmer & Dominick, 2000 ). The method can be used in social science to examine patterns in communication systematically. One key advantage of using content analysis to analyze social phenomena is its noninvasive nature in contrast to simulating social experiences or collecting survey answers. Practices of content analysis range from systematic observation of texts or artifacts to which assigned labels indicate the presence of interesting, meaningful content.

Different applications of web content analysis are described in the literature. Jose and Lee (2007) used content analysis based on website disclosures to study the environmental reporting of global corporations. Ting et al. (2013) performed an advanced website evaluation to assess the top 100 hotels. Maatota et al. (2019) used content analysis of storytelling elements and brand archetypes of LinkedIn ad campaigns. McCorkindale (2010) reported on the content analysis of the Fortune 50’s Facebook social networking sites, and Parsons (2013) engaged in content analysis of official Facebook pages to assess how companies would use social media to reach consumers. The methods in these studies include a combination of sample design and preparation, source identification, analysis of content and cases, and synopsis of findings. Along with such macro research activities, our research process included three initial steps, illustrated in Figure 1 .

Figure 1

Steps of the research process

Step 1, Sample design and preparation, is dedicated to identifying the population of companies to include in the study. We looked at big corporations since they are extensively affected by the COVID-19 emergency, and they face challenges at both the local level (e.g., progression of the disease in the local communities) and the global level (e.g., impact on international markets and global logistics). The study of response strategies undertaken by these types of companies is thus more able to address a comprehensive view of the multidimensional challenges generated by a pandemic scenario.

We used the 2019 Fortune Global 500 ranking, an annual ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by the level of their revenues. We considered the first 50 companies, which represent a well-diversified group of organizations operating in different continents and countries (e.g., China, France, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., the U.S.) and in different industries (e.g., automotive, bank and insurance, energy, food distribution, oil, telecommunication, and utilities). Companies include world-leading players such as Allianz, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Bank of China, Berkshire Hathaway, BP, Daimler, Gazprom, General Electric, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco, Samsung Electronics, Toyota, Verizon, and Walmart. The sources used to collect data are twofold. First, we looked at the corporate websites of companies and particularly the pages dedicated to COVID-19 and the actions undertaken by the organizations to face the pandemic. Second, we analyzed the LinkedIn pages of those organizations with a specific focus on the posts providing information on how organizations are responding to the emergency. The output of the first phase was a worksheet with the list of organizations, along with key demographic data (i.e., home country, industry, and revenues) and the web addresses of COVID-related web pages and the LinkedIn page (main profile) of the company.

Step 2, Analysis of responses and actions , focuses on capturing information on the identified companies in terms of responses to the coronavirus emergency. We studied corporate websites and LinkedIn pages to identify messages, statements, and reports on COVID-19 and on how the companies are responding along multiple perspectives. Overall, we analyzed about 300 web pages and 400 LinkedIn posts, and we annotated relevant information for further analysis and classification.

The content search was aided by the fact that practically all the analyzed organizations have set up web pages specifically dedicated to COVID-19. Concerning the LinkedIn pages, the identification of relevant content was more complex as we needed to go through all the posts from February 2020 to the time of the study (mid-April 2020) to identify information related to the outbreak and the vision and responses of the company. The content analysis process was thus not characterized by a bounded or limited sample of key concepts to be searched. More than using a priori coding schema, we conducted a systematic reading of the corporate web sources and social network messages dedicated to the emergency, and we identified three general categories of information.

First, we coded with “scenario” the general information provided by the company about the pandemic and its impact on the industry and market. The extracted content is mostly derived from the reports of the companies of what is happening in the external environment, and this was used to enhance our understanding of the business-related aspects of the coronavirus outbreak. An illustrative (adapted and anonymized) company statement is: “The COVID-19 is rapidly diffusing in most European countries, and it is creating the conditions for a limitation of flows of people and products. This could strongly impact the logistic and dynamics of our industry.”

Second, we extracted the “strategies”: general policies or approaches defined by companies to react to the outbreak. Here, the strategy refers to how the company sees the crisis and what is its position in responding to the crisis, thus providing a relevant interpretation of where the organization stands and what is the vision ahead. An illustrative statement is: “Our company intends to react firmly to the emergency by following all the indications provided by health authorities and keeping to ensure first of all the health of our workers and customers.”

Finally, we identified “initiatives” (i.e., practical activities assumed by the companies along different areas). This content was the most relevant for our study since it is explicitly related to the actions realized by the organization in response to an emergency. Naturally, the information on scenarios and strategies was relevant to better interpret the purpose and scope of those actions, as one organization illustrated with this statement: “We are extending the service period for most of our products and enhancing our contact center to provide the best service possible to our customers.”

We triangulated content gathered from the websites and social network pages by looking at corporate videos and interviews (mostly delivered by top managers), broadcasts, and other sources available on the web. We collected all relevant information into a spreadsheet for further analysis and generated a long list of initiatives (actions) realized by the 50 companies by doing a high-level consolidation of similar items.

Step 3, “Response framework building,” was aimed to obtain an integrative inventory of organizational responses. After careful analysis of extracted data, we aggregated companies’ actions by deriving a taxonomy of common macro-areas that could group similar items: operations management, customer relationship management, human resource management, leadership and change management, and community management. Most of the initiatives were clearly about one of those groups; only in a few cases were initiatives potentially relevant for two or more categories, and in those cases, we selected the most relevant dimension. We also realized a cross-check of the taxonomy with business continuity methods, approaches, and cases found in the literature. We thus obtained a COVID-19 response model, which is described in the next section.

4. Framework of response actions

This study focuses on two key concepts: business continuity (in crisis and emergency scenarios) and value creation (through business model innovation). We looked at how companies attempted to address the critical challenges caused by the pandemic event through minor or significant process changes while also looking at how business models have been adapted to create new value by leveraging the difficult contingencies.

All the 50 organizations analyzed took coordinated actions to face the COVID-19 emergency. We isolated 77 responses related to 13 sub-areas and five areas of organizational activities: (1) operations and value system; (2) customer experience and support; (3) workforce and human capital; (4) leadership and change management; and (5) community and social engagement. The classification was obtained by aggregating the single responses into homogeneous categories (sub-areas) and then identifying more high-level areas able to include those categories. Figure 2 provides a snapshot of the five areas and the 13 sub-areas of actions undertaken by companies in response to the COVID-19 emergency. All the areas are detailed through the description of the sub-areas and the illustration of the specific actions.

Figure 2

A framework of response actions for COVID-19

4.1. Actions related to operations and value system

The first area of responses is related to the effects of COVID-19 on the management of the companies’ operations and value system ( Table 1 ). In particular, responses can be associated with three sub-areas according to their focus. Some actions are addressed to face the shifts in customer demand and the impact on the supply chain, which has brought companies to identify and measure risks, and to envision a possible future. Most companies analyzed were engaged in assessing the overall impact of the crisis on operations, as well as in defining scenarios of demand and sales evolution, also based on the use of advanced analytics and business intelligence systems. Different companies, such as AmerisourceBergen, have monitored inventory levels and customer purchasing behavior to assess any potential impact on the product supply chain.

Sub-areas and actions related to operations and value system

The second sub-area of actions is related to logistic flows, both inflows of resources and materials and outflows of products and services to customers. In this case, company responses are addressed to enhance digital connectivity across the supply chain while ensuring business-critical resources, processes, and services. Also, the inventory/warehousing and order management processes are being re-engineered to optimize routes and to reduce risks. As an illustrative example, Amazon has reported realizing more than 150 process updates to ensure the reduction of risks and enhance the ability to satisfy prioritized needs.

The third sub-area includes actions related to the continuity of manufacturing processes and/or the conversion of the same to address new market needs or to contribute to the community’s fight against the pandemic. Actions included the conversion of production to deliver protective materials and products, the optimization of production capacity, and the reconfiguration of plants to enhance workforce security. In such a view, companies like General Motors have engaged in the production of protection devices (like face masks) and collaborated with partners to provide pulmonary ventilators. Whereas supply chain management generally includes logistics and manufacturing, we separated the three concepts in our framework. Based on the analyzed responses, we needed to isolate actions generically addressed to assess the supply chain impact of the crisis (thus including an ecosystem view) from more specific actions targeted at redesigning logistic and transformation activities, which are mostly related to an internal view of the organization.

4.2. Actions related to customer experience and support

A large number of response actions found in the study address the impact of COVID-19 on the customer experience and the management of the customer life cycle ( Table 2 ). The first sub-area of actions concerns the customers’ buying experience, including the buying process, with a specific focus on touchpoints and physical interaction with the company. Most organizations have reengineered access to shops and facilities and adopted several prevention measures across all customer touchpoints. Digital channels and contact centers have been enhanced, and customer mobility was assessed and reported. Companies like Walmart have taken actions aimed to limit customer access and flows in shops (e.g., one-door entry), implement sanitation and social distancing, and provide sneeze guards in all stores. Companies have also provided payment relief and financial assistance to customers along with other kinds of support services.

Sub-areas and actions related to customer experience and support

Response actions have included the development of new training for customer teams, new forms of customer outreach and communication, and emotional support to customers. For example, AT&T has provided digital parenting solutions for families. The company’s ScreenReady site shares digital parenting tips and resources to help families stay connected, learning, and entertained at home during the coronavirus. Finally, several actions are addressed to respond to the marketing impact of COVID-19. Responses included the redefinition of brand strategies and the design of new purposeful payoffs, logos, and marketing messages. In this regard, Volkswagen and Audi have temporarily modified their well-known logos to communicate the importance of practicing social distancing.

4.3. Actions related to workforce and human capital

The third response area ensures the well-being of the workforce and to reducing the negative effects of the outbreak while creating the conditions for enhancing the human capital of the organization ( Table 3 ). First, actions aim to ensure the safety of workplaces (e.g., offices, shops, facilities) by activating infection prevention measures. Responses include the definition of procedures for workplace hygiene and sanitization, rules for office layout and usage, the launch of employee-dedicated COVID-19 information portals, and the sharing of norms for physical interaction and employee tracking. For example, Hon Hai Precision Industry has used infrared scanning, severe social distancing measures in the workplace, and QR codes for employee tracking.

Sub-areas and actions related to workforce and human capital

Second, responses seek to support employee productivity, although in a smart and remote configuration. Organizations have taken actions to cope with employee infodemic (i.e., an overload of information, both online and offline) and disinformation, and they have defined criteria for workplace rotation, remote access, and competence development. As is the case with many other organizations, Trafigura Group has activated a social-spacing policy, including for office-based employees working from home. Finally, some actions focus on monitoring and managing cases of exposed and infected employees, defining leave and return-to-work procedures, and ensuring health assistance and psychological support. For example, Costco Wholesale has activated premium pay and paid time off for higher-risk employees and ensured the availability of protective masks and symptom screenings for employees and managers.

4.4. Actions related to leadership and change management

The fourth area of responses to face the COVID-19 emergency concerns actions focused on managing the current emergency while preparing the organization for the future ( Table 4 ). First, analyzed actions include the definition of a response plan and a dedicated management team, the creation of an emergency coordination task force, and the undertaking of stress tests to assess the working capital and resource preparedness of the organization. Verizon Communications has gathered purposeful senior crisis leadership and response teams able to face the emergency by identifying proper strategies and actions. Second, responses include the alignment of business leaders in terms of the organization’s strategy against the emergency, the definition of a portfolio of post-emergency actions and value-creation opportunities, and efforts to maintain the trust of people. For example, companies such as Honda Motors have put extra effort into their marketing and social media presence to enhance positive communication and encouragement for customers and the larger community.

Sub-areas and actions related to leadership and change management

4.5. Actions related to community and social engagement

The response area is related to the interaction of the organization with external stakeholders, both to contribute tangibly to fight the pandemic and by sharing knowledge useful to support first responders and the whole community ( Table 5 ). The first sub-area relates to money donations, financial support, and the provision of resources and products (e.g., protection masks, ventilators) to fight the pandemic. Actions include the provision of special discounts and gift programs to responders/helpers, contributions to open innovation initiatives by disclosing knowledge and intellectual property, and support to research entities. For example, BP has provided donations, free fuel, free delivery of food, and convenience goods to customers and partners.

Sub-areas and actions related to community and social engagement

Second, actions are addressed to ensure coordination with agencies and institutions and to share best practices and organizational experience, which can be useful for the community. Initiatives include the sharing of critical information and response tactics with responders, as well as the strengthening of public and private collaborations to define more effective response strategies. For example, Alphabet (the holding company including Google) is strongly engaged in assisting educational institutions with content, tools, and distance learning, and it has planned to launch a national platform to educate the community on coronavirus.

In this section, we have presented a comprehensive inventory of 77 response actions undertaken by 50 big corporations to the COVID-19 emergency, and we have aggregated the actions into a five-level business continuity framework. The next section discusses how the current emergency can also generate opportunities for creating new value.

5. Creating value beyond the crisis

5.1. drivers of value creation.

The literature on company behavior during recessions shows how companies can survive and even profit by modifying their marketing strategy ( Köksal & Özgül, 2007 ), increasing the R&D budget ( Laperche et al., 2011 ), investing in innovation ( Archibugi et al., 2013 ; Paunov, 2012 ), and enhancing their corporate governance ( Villanueva-Villar et al., 2016 ). The business crisis generated by the COVID-19 outbreak has also generated opportunities for organizations to go beyond simple business continuity and the preservation of current value.

A combination of transforming customer and supply chain trends and the necessary redesign of corporate processes has indeed stimulated the redefinition of strategies and actions able to generate new business value. Whereas some of the responses provided by organizations to the COVID-19 are mostly reactions critical for survival (e.g., protection of employee safety), others can be considered more transformational actions. These are aimed at developing new capabilities to respond to the current challenges while looking at the challenges as opportunities for future growth (e.g., digital health assistance and smart working).

We proceeded with a more in-depth analysis of our research data to identify interesting examples of initiatives, processes, or projects where the organizations are creating new value from a medium- and long-term perspective. Whereas new value can be generated by leveraging each element in the response framework ( Figure 2 ), the innovation potential seems to be related especially to three elements: (1) new products/services to address new customer needs; (2) improvement of virtual interaction and integration with customers; and (3) an enhanced image of the corporation as a socially responsible and community-oriented organization. Next, we illustrate these three value-creation avenues by providing six company examples.

Toyota started to face the COVID-19 emergency soon after its president announced the transformation of the company’s business model for the CASE era (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric) and the evolution of the organization toward a mobility company that provides resources and services for a connected city. Whereas the company has decreased its production due to COVID-19, Toyota has maintained employment and increased investment in the R&D of electric cars. It was able to create new customer-related value by introducing new car models to the market and by improving virtual interaction with customers who can explore and make purchases in virtual showrooms via WhatsApp video, Facebook Live, web chat, or phone. The company has adopted a product- and customer-centric view, which looks at the after-emergency in terms of new societal and market needs. Toyota has provided value to the community by full-scale production of medical devices and by offering Japan Taxi models to transport patients with mild symptoms. Also, the company has cooperated in the production of equipment such as makeshift beds for hospitals, disinfectant containers, and simple partition walls for use at medical facilities.

BP has robust business continuity plans in place to make sure that the company can supply energy, fuel, and vital petrochemical feedstocks uninterrupted. In retail sites, BP has increased cleaning procedures and encouraged customers to practice social distancing while also taking precautionary measures such as removing the sale of open food products. BP has also undertaken socially responsible initiatives by supporting governments and partners with donations and free fuel to emergency services vehicles, such as ambulances and helicopters. Working with the U.S. government, leading universities, and high-tech companies, BP’s Center for High-Performance Computing has been used for research on COVID-19. These new collaborations have provided the basis for strategic renewal and a new paradigm of extended collaboration (with countries, cities, and industries) aimed at creating new value.

Amazon has updated 150 processes, from social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying and temperature checks. It established a $25 million relief fund for its partners (e.g., delivery drivers) facing financial hardship or quarantine. To address increased customer demand , the company has focused on fast delivery of high-priority items, such as household staples and medical supplies. Amazon has provided the option of unattended delivery and defined a system to prevent price gouging. The company has also addressed the needs of customers and looked at the current situation as an opportunity to create value with new services. To help communities around the world, Amazon has made donations and provided work to 175,000 additional people. Finally, it launched a global initiative with participation from 35 global research institutions, startups, and businesses to accelerate COVID-19 diagnostics, research, and testing.

The change in insurance firm AXA’s business profile due to the pandemic has been notable. The company started providing its customers with apps for video medical consulting and new processes for online incident communication. It has also reached new customer segments. For example, AXA collaborated with the Accor hotel chain, which offered its customers free access to AXA’s medical teleconsultations from hotel rooms. Moreover, AXA has invested heavily in R&D. It provided €5 million for research to develop responses to infectious diseases, and notably to COVID-19, including the building of post-crisis solutions. The company has also supported the COVID-19 task force launched by the Institut Pasteur to develop new diagnostic tools and treatments. AXA supported an open research initiative in which a digital platform brings together engineers, practitioners, and researchers collaborating to design, test, and provide efficient emergency solutions.

The drug wholesale company AmerisourceBergen has increased inventory on items related to COVID-19 treatment and supportive care. The company has business continuity plans that include monitoring inventory levels and customer purchasing behavior for any potential impact on the product supply chain. General Electric, and in particular GE Healthcare, developed a new product, the Venue Go ultrasound system, which includes an artificial intelligence feature, the auto B-lines tool, that highlights and counts B-lines, which may signal COVID-19. The tool provides a lung diagram and generates a lung ultrasound score that helps clinicians to follow the progression of the lung condition in patients as they fight the virus.

6. Discussion

6.1. highlights and contribution.

This study has contributed to the extant business continuity literature by introducing an empirically derived inventory of response actions taken by leading companies during the COVID-19 crisis. The framework includes five dimensions, which are divided further into sub-areas and actions that address operational aspects affected by the outbreak. The dimensions range from internal operations to supply chain management, from human resources and leadership to relations with customers and stakeholders. We also include a community and social engagement perspective, which is not typically considered in the business model literature (e.g., Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010 ). This finding shows that, at least in exceptional circumstances, the relations between a company and its local community are an important part of the company’s activities and value-creation potential.

Although many articles have depicted company responses to critical emergencies (e.g., Alesi, 2008 ; Castillo, 2005 ), we contributed with a comprehensive and evidence-based analysis of actual responses by large organizations to face the pandemic. Additionally, whereas emergency and business continuity studies have focused on general and crisis-independent activities such as risks and impact evaluation, continuity plan/process design, implementation, and measurement (e.g., Cerullo & Cerullo, 2004 ; Pitt & Goyal, 2004 ; Speight, 2011 ), we identified specific fine-grained actions aimed to ensure the continuity of business operations over a large spectrum of management dimensions.

Finally, the contribution of our study may be found in the integration between business continuity and business model innovation for value creation ( Bouwman et al., 2018 ; Foster & Dye, 2005 ; Haaker et al., 2017 ; Niemimaa et al., 2019 ). All large corporations have acted to ensure the continuity of their current business operations. However, as our illustrative cases show, some companies are also able to create new value by reaching current and new customers via digital channels, redirecting more resources from current operations to R&D activities, or increasing the companies’ social responsibility and involvement with their local communities.

6.2. Managerial insights

Some insights can be derived that could be useful for application in other companies dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 or thinking about improving their response strategies for future (likely although undesired) events. In the area of emergency management and crisis response, key success factors have been discussed in the literature, including adaptability, agility, communication, coordination, leadership, and technology application (e.g., Harrald, 2006 ; Zhou et al., 2017 ). We found these aspects in the investigated companies and their responses to the crisis and used them to formulate four main recommendations.

  • 1. Companies have been urged to develop an immediate reaction to the operational breakdown and the risks of infection within and outside the organization. Successful answers have been based on the implementation of agile business processes (which has involved redesign or adaptation of existing activities) and the use of digital technologies as key enablers.
  • 2. Most organizations have been forced to rely on available crisis management capabilities and financial and technical assets useful to face and overcome the emergency. Successful responses thus have also been based on the existence of technical reserves useful to ensure the sustainability of operations in the transition phase and to support smooth adaptation of the organization to the changing business situation.
  • 3. Organizations have developed a real-time awareness of the impact of the pandemic through advanced data gathering and monitoring capabilities. Successful responses have been based on the adoption of effective business analytics methods and tools that support information-rich communication and leadership.
  • 4. Organizations have been challenged with risks of declining sales due to switching customer needs and demand. Successful responses have included the creation of diversified and modular product/service portfolios and adaptable business models that can support a faster recovery.

7. Concluding remarks

In this study, we investigated the responses of 50 world-leading companies to the COVID-19 emergency, and we integrated the responses into a descriptive framework. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the most extended attempt to build an inventory of real actions undertaken by large companies to deal with a common global emergency.

The research is not without limitations. First, business continuity has been historically associated with medium and large corporations, and our research also focused on big organizations. However, the concepts of business continuity and resilience against emergencies should be extended to small organizations, which face the crisis generated by the pandemic along different and equally significant dimensions. Second, we used data available online (web pages and social network posts), which is the information shared by organizations about their responses to COVID-19. However, such public information is not necessarily able to describe the policies defined and actions undertaken by the companies comprehensively. At the same time, corporate communications messages conveyed through public outlets like websites and social network posts may be biased as possibly self-serving statements, which might not represent the situation with either accuracy or comprehensiveness. Access to real company knowledge and objective analytical reports, where possible, would thus allow researchers to strengthen the model by adding more fine-grained actions implemented by managers.

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school business continuity plan covid 19

Continuity in crisis: How to run effective business services during COVID-19

What’s happening.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a serious threat to people, businesses and economies across the world.  Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey  shows just 12 percent of organizations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus. Smart leaders must focus on how they can best protect their people, serve their customers and stabilize business continuity.

During times of crisis,  business operations —the intelligence engine of an organization—are more important than ever. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are being tested by rapidly evolving challenges, such as travel restrictions, and as large-scale  remote working  becomes a reality.

of organizations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus, according to Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey.

of senior executives rarely update their operating model, according to initial data from an ongoing Intelligent Operations survey by Accenture and Oxford Economics.

Organizations must respond rapidly and robustly to maintain business continuity. Accenture recommends the following:

school business continuity plan covid 19

PREVENT: What to do now

Take immediate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of employees. Prioritize actions that put your people first and exploit the capabilities that global business services offer:

  • Enable people to work and connect with colleagues from diverse and secure locations and create safe working environments through regular sanitization.
  • De-densify workspaces, curb large meetings and ensure that protocols are followed in canteens, elevators and areas of common use. Limit all non-essential business travel and client visits and align with local health and safety guidelines.

school business continuity plan covid 19

PREPARE: What to do next

Identify priority processes and establish a command center. Take actions to meet the needs of your key stakeholders:

  • Identify priorities and critical processes, including functions such as employee payroll, healthcare and supply chain (to keep goods moving and services ongoing); also, highly important processes and other services such as payments, and necessary services in healthcare, insurance and banking.
  • Establish a  command center  for a virtual workforce to measure quality, productivity, compliance, insights and intelligence, people engagement and workforce well-being.

school business continuity plan covid 19

PREDICT: What to do for the longer term

Be proactive and create a customer-oriented plan that is sustainable. Prioritize actions that help you pre-empt the impact of volatility:

  • Bring together highly skilled, distributed teams that can log in anytime, anywhere and deliver on customer commitments at scale.
  • Build a broader ecosystem around the organization’s workforce to enable collaboration across a broader set of priorities—including healthcare and childcare. This will lead to improved morale and engagement levels resulting in better business outcomes.
Remember, empathetic leadership and communications are two key areas that aid human resilience in difficult times.

school business continuity plan covid 19

Where next?

Here are five ways to help your organization achieve intelligent, resilient operations:

school business continuity plan covid 19

1. Establish a resilient culture

Organizations should continue to execute work in a collaborative manner—with critical knowledge workers augmented by digital capabilities.

school business continuity plan covid 19

2. Create broader ecosystems based on social collaboration

Move beyond employee workspaces to broader ecosystems that employees can access, such as healthcare or childcare.

school business continuity plan covid 19

3. Employ agile, elastic workplace models

The best combination of  working from home and the office , depending on the nature and type of work and relevant skills required, can be enabled by technology, data, security and  cloud  computing.

school business continuity plan covid 19

4. Build a human+machine workforce

Make transactional processes more digital and focus on value-led, proactive operations driven by data and analytics to reduce stress on operations.

school business continuity plan covid 19

5. Adopt a distributed global services model

Use a mixture of service models to de-risk the organization in a volatile world. Distributed global services mean that high performance can be delivered anytime, anywhere.

Client case studies

As the situation unfolds, we will continuously update our materials, so please check back regularly.


The impact on consumer goods

Navigating the human and business impact

The industry impact of coronavirus

Productivity in uncertain times through the Elastic Digital Workplace

A brand. New. Purpose.

COVID-19: Responsive customer service in times of change

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Building supply chain resilience: What to do now and next during COVID-19

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Channel shift: Prioritizing digital commerce

school business continuity plan covid 19

Kaushal Mody

school business continuity plan covid 19

Paul Jeruchimowitz

Credit Union Insight

Best practices for updating your business continuity plan during COVID-19

school business continuity plan covid 19

In recent weeks, circumstances surrounding the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic have prompted many businesses in the financial services industry to revisit and update their business continuity and pandemic plans. An effective business continuity plan (BCP) is a necessary tool to guide your organization through unexpected scenarios and ensure no disruption of service to your customers.  

Lessons Learned from COVID-19  

One of the most critical lessons from COVID-19 is the importance of effective business continuity planning. A BCP reflects the time and effort your institution has put forth, and there is no substitute for a thorough and tested plan. As your institution continues responding to the COVID-19 situation, ensure your BCP is up to date and comprehensive with the following best practices.  

  • Identifying gaps: If your BCP is not regularly reviewed, gaps in your plan or processes can easily develop, and your institution should identify and create responses to address these gaps. For example, most plans likely included the provision that most employees should work remotely in the event of a pandemic. However, that requires businesses to test virtual private network (VPN) connections and coordinate logistics, including plans for those employees who don’t use laptops or have required technology at home. Many businesses were recently forced to confront those IT issues quickly as they adapted operations in response to COVID-19, showing that identifying potential gaps is a critical step.
  • Responding to Unique Scenarios: There is no silver bullet when it comes to continuity planning—an institution’s BCP should be formulated on a case-by-case basis. Every organization has different scenarios to consider and respond to, especially during an event like COVID-19. For example, some institutions chose to take employees’ temperatures as a precaution against inadvertently spreading the virus, making it necessary to include information about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and state specific privacy regulations in the BCP. Organizations should also include plans and procedures addressing potential changes to business operations in response to unexpected events, including identifying essential workers for your institution.  
  • Maintaining Communication: In response to COVID-19, many financial institutions are closing their lobbies, reducing hours or encouraging the use of digital banking channels. These changes should be clearly and consistently communicated to employees and customers. Employees need updates on business operations and policies, while customers need information about accessing bank facilities and their accounts, making deposits and obtaining loans. Open communication will ensure that all parties stay engaged and aware of relevant updates, which is especially important in an evolving pandemic situation.  
  • Revisiting Strategic Plans: Since most strategic plans include specific goals set before an unexpected event, your institution should revisit those plans and adjust accordingly after experiencing disruption. Due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, many organizations are undergoing impromptu strategic planning to update their plans based on operational and business changes, and institutions should also consider an increased demand for certain products and services, such as digital banking, during the planning process.

Preparing for Future Pandemics

Though a BCP and a pandemic plan have distinct differences, the global COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of planning for both. Health experts have discussed the possibility of COVID-19 returning in the fall, so businesses should begin planning for this outcome during the upcoming summer months. Consider addressing these important topics as your institution begins reviewing your pandemic plan.  

  • Coordinate with Vendors: When planning, businesses must communicate not only with employees and customers, but also with critical vendors. If your institution relies on a vendor to help provide an essential product or service and the vendor experiences a disruption, your operations—and customers—will be affected. If you haven’t already done so, your institution should plan to acquire feedback from critical vendors on their specific action plans. This also applies to third-party and even fourth-party vendors.  
  • Anticipatory Planning: Your pandemic plan should also include processes for tracking employees and any potential impact that absences could have on day-to-day operations. If an employee contracted the virus during a pandemic, how would your operations be affected? By identifying back-ups for essential employees and systems, your institution can avoid disruption. Don’t wait until your business is confronted with an unexpected situation—act now to ensure your customers will continue to be served if key individuals cannot work.  
  • Changing Business Needs: When updating your pandemic plan, your institution should consider how a pandemic could affect your day-to-day operations. Because of COVID-19, many customers are relying on digital banking solutions . Institutions should consider how they will service and setup accounts for customers who have been slow to adopt digital banking, all while complying with necessary regulations. Additionally, institutions should develop a documented strategy to scale response efforts accordingly.  
  • Cyber Insurance: With cybercriminals preying on fear and panic during a pandemic, cyber insurance is an important component in protecting your institution and customers, but there are a variety of factors that must be considered. For example, if your institution has retained a forensic investigator, were plans made to have the investigator approved by your insurance company? Your institution should also consider whether your insurance includes coverage for only a certain number of customers impacted versus only a certain dollar amount. Or does it cover both? Another consideration is whether your insurance covers specific services, such as credit monitoring protection for customers affected.  
  • FFIEC Guidance: The Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) updated its Business Continuity Management Booklet in 2019 , which is a useful resource for business continuity planning and also includes information on pandemics .  

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is changing the landscape of banking, and your institution must be ready to adapt. A strong BCP and pandemic plan will allow your institution to focus on developing new business opportunities and serving your customers.

Keith Monson

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school business continuity plan covid 19

Business Continuity Planning During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The element of surprise is often part of an attacker's strategy; therefore, it is not uncommon for a disastrous attack to occur without any warning. For example, it is difficult to predict ransomware or an APT attack. Most incidents are unique, and the organizations must have the proper plans to recover quickly, minimizing downtime. Without a contingency plan, surviving from sudden incidents can take longer and cost the organization more money because of the loss of reputation and productivity.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have found it is critical to creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) if they don't already have one. Otherwise, they must review and update the existing ones to respond effectively to sudden incidents, especially the ones raised during the ongoing pandemic.

A BCP describes how a business will continue operating during an unscheduled disruption in service. The BCP will list the different procedures and provide instructions on what should be done when a disaster takes place, such as a flood, an earthquake, or in the case of a cyberattack (e.g., ransomware).

BCP covers all work aspects that affect an organization's work, such as business processes and functions, human resources, third-party providers, and business partners. Many people confuse the BCP and the Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). There is a clear distinction between the two. For instance, DRP is considered a sub-component of BCP and deals directly with restoring IT infrastructure and other related services after a crisis. In contrast, BCP looks at the comprehensive picture and restores the entire enterprise after a crisis.

This article will discuss developing a general BCP to respond to sudden incidents during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the aspects of technical and compliance regulations.

Start The "Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Planning" Course >>

General elements of a BCP during the COVID-19 pandemic

Before expanding on the main elements of a BCP, consider the following three points:

  • Defining the types of disasters applicable to an organization's work area; for example, earthquake, fire, flood, power or Internet outage, general lockdown, and cyberattacks, such as ransomware or APT attacks.
  • Consider in-house resources to help create the BCP. Examples of such resources include Incident response plans, policies, procedures, existing business continuity plans.
  • List all possible business assets that may be affected during the incident or pandemic.

Having this info in hand will help to develop a general BCP.

First: Communication

Having reliable communications is the most crucial element in a BCP. The pandemic has forced most companies to shift their workforce to adopt the work-from-home model. A BCP should address the type of communication during the pandemic and the person/s responsible for managing these communications. The following areas should be defined:

  • What are your organization's communication needs? For example, do you need to communicate with external partners and third-party providers, do you need to communicate with customers? Is there a need for internal communications between the different departments?
  • Define communications methods: Are you going to communicate via phone, fax, email, or group chat. Are you going to use video conferencing services, like Zoom, to make remote meetings?
  • Identify the person or team members responsible for delivering and supporting organization communications.

Second: Technology

This section includes remote access, applications, and backup requirements.

Remote access : Since the pandemic has forced most organizations to access their resources remotely, consider these questions: How will employees connect remotely? Via remote desktop connection, VPN, or another service provided by using a third-party provider?

Also, consider who is allowed to connect remotely and to which resources. Is the remote connection secure? Is the handling of remote data done securely?

Applications : Identify the primary services and applications needed to continue the normal work operations. If transitioning to work-from-home, are employees still able to use this program or service remotely?

Backup : What are our business backup requirements? Are we going to store the backup offsite or onsite? Are we doing regular backup testing to test the efficiency of our backup solution?

Third: Compliance Requirements

Compliance standards impose strict restrictions on remote access, authentication, and authorization mechanisms. Hence, an organization should understand its compliance requirements and align them into its BCP, especially if remote access is implemented as a part of the BCP procedures.

Fourth: Policies & Procedures

Policies are developed according to the organization's current technologies and work processes. A BCP needs to document the various procedures necessary for remote connection, endpoint device configurations, and password policy. Organizations should make sure that all employees understand these policies and know how to implement them properly.

Fifth: Updates

A BCP should remain current to reflect the work environment changes, procedures, and technologies used.

Business continuity is a top priority for any organization, whether it is a small company or a big enterprise. Remaining operational means sustaining a customer base and staying competitive in an ever-challenging world. A business's ability to restore its IT functions plays an important role in responding to sudden incidents; however, what about the rest of the functions? A BCP is an organization's response to remain operational as a whole during an unexpected crisis.

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Ilo is a specialized agency of the united nations, the six-step covid-19 business continuity plan.

“This six-step COVID-19 business continuity plan has been developed by the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities (ILO-ACT/EMP). This tool is designed to support EBMOs assist its members during the COVID-19 crisis. It aims to establish the risk profile of an enterprise and the level of vulnerability to COVID-19 in terms of its impact on People, Processes, Profits and Partnerships (the “4Ps”) and develop an effective risk and contingency system for the business.


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Risk & Compliance

school business continuity plan covid 19

Business continuity and COVID-19: lessons learned


Financier Worldwide Magazine

school business continuity plan covid 19

May 2022 Issue

Adapt and survive or wither and die. That was the invidious scenario foisted upon many companies throughout the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – a predicament that also served as a wake-up call for business continuity processes and their real-world application.

For sure, the pandemic exposed myriad process inadequacies. While the efforts of some companies to maintain their business operations went relatively smoothly, others were less fortunate, finding that their processes were not up to scratch and essentially incapable of adapting to the pandemic-generated ‘new normal’.

“COVID-19 turned business continuity planning on its head, as it forced companies around the world to rethink their operations and, in many cases, embrace totally new models for work,” says Tim Minahan, executive vice president of business strategy at Citrix. “While many had begun moving toward remote work as part of their business continuity plans, few were prepared to do so at the speed and scale the pandemic required.”

According to Agility Recovery’s ‘Business Continuity Lessons Learned from COVID-19’ report, the top challenges companies faced in responding to COVID-19 were supporting the health and safety of their employees, followed by maintaining employee productivity and morale, which the report states is proof that many companies struggled to adapt to a work-from-home strategy.

“Many companies were reluctant to consider ‘work-from-home’ a recovery solution before the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Doug Langley, a senior consultant at Agility Recovery. “In the early days of the crisis, most transitioned to work-from-home, but now we are finding more than 80 percent of companies tell us they are in a ‘hybrid’ mode. Now, companies are redoing their risk profiles, recognising home working as a viable option.

“Those companies that had not implemented a work-from-home plan scrambled and adjusted to successfully execute and continue operations,” he continues. “And although the changes they implemented established a solid foundation, they should not assume they will be able to execute if an emergency impacts access to their facilities.”

Furthermore, the need to adapt so quickly also meant that companies had to re-evaluate their business models, especially where lockdowns caused problems for those that had complex and globally interconnected supply chains, or where face to face interactions were curtailed.

“Over the last two years-plus, it has been difficult for companies to deliver business as usual, while keeping up with the accelerating pace of change,” says Quentin Dunstan, organisational resilience market development manager at BSI. “The impact of COVID -19 created huge uncertainty in markets and leaders had to find ways of working around the challenge and ensure that colleagues were kept safe, and jobs safeguarded wherever possible.”

Learning lessons

As we begin to move beyond the most severe ravages of the pandemic, it is critical that companies validate their ability to execute a range of business continuity strategies – proving that they have learned from the harsh lessons that COVID-19 has taught them.

“Worker shortages and supply chain disruptions sparked by the pandemic challenged companies around the world to find new ways to maintain continuity,” asserts Mr Minahan. “Savvy companies placed digital workspace technologies at the heart of their business continuity strategies, and in doing so, gained the agility, speed and efficiency required to manage resources in the dynamic way that today’s business environment demands.”

So, while COVID-19 has indeed instigated a great deal of organisational change, according to KPMG, there are 10 key business continuity lessons, outlined below, that companies have particularly learned off the back of the pandemic.

First, all companies need to prepare for unexpected situations. Many companies sent their employees to work from home during the pandemic but did not have laptops or videoconferencing available. These companies did not manage risks associated with an interruption of business activities at all or completely inadequately.

“ Forward-thinking companies’ stance will be to create and review easily accessible business continuity plans – a game changing posture that will increase their resilience and allow them to structure their operations to adapt to a rapidly evolving landscape. ”

Second, processes to keep, and those to set aside. It is not possible to control all processes. Therefore, companies must focus on protecting those that are most important. These include processes that add value to customers or are essential for the operation of a company, such as production and call centres, and communication tools.

Third, do a thorough risk analysis and think about probability and impacts. Many companies have forgotten that a low probability does not mean a low risk. A low probability with a huge impact signifies a big risk. COVID-19 pandemic has taught companies to think of all situations that may arise.

Fourth, recovery plans are not enough. Continuity not only addresses system failures, but also the need to increase performance in the short term. Companies should define what procedures they will use to secure alternate supplies and train their employees in other positions they can fill.

Fifth, update plans at least once a year. An initial risk analysis should be reviewed at least every year or after each major organisational change. If the risks have remained the same, a company will not have to change the plan, but changes bring the need to rewrite the whole plan.

Sixth, practice recovery and continuity plans every year. Recovery and continuity plans are often left somewhere in a filing cabinet, all dusty. Ideally, every employee must know the plans, and everybody should know what the announcement of the plan means for them.

Seventh, manage continuity continuously. Continuity management is one continuous process which companies need to manage in compliance with guidelines and policies. It should also have its own strategy and manager. Furthermore, mistakes and issues should be recorded and learned from, with plans adjusted accordingly.

Eighth, do not subordinate continuity to operations. Companies often incorporate continuity management under operations. However, it is business that is responsible for protecting key activities such as continuity management. Therefore, companies should keep continuity management separate and ensure it is not adapted to the needs of operations.

Ninth, risk management must be aligned with suppliers. It is important that companies coordinate the protection of important activities with their suppliers. Any supplier can fail. So it is important to have others on standby who can jump in quickly and supply anything necessary. A stock of essential materials and parts should also be kept.

Finally, crises never come alone. Amid multiple crises, companies should have a team ready that will prioritise and coordinate solutions to all problems. They can also contract backup capacities with partners in advance, helping them out before they manage to restore processes.

“With governments across the globe having been forced to take action to protect their citizens throughout the pandemic, there were many things that were outside companies’ control,” observes Mr Dunstan. “However, an important lesson was that every country would go through distinct phases from survival through to getting back to the ‘new normal’.

“And while these phases were dependent on the extent and speed of spread of the virus, it enabled companies to plan despite the heightened level of uncertainty,” he continues. “Another lesson learned was that predicting the shape of the ‘bounce back’ was very difficult and what transpired was the sum of many individual actions rather than one confident point of change.”

Business continuity planning

One of the core components of business continuity is to have recourse to an effective business continuity plan – an ideally bespoke programme that can protect a company from the consequences of a major incident, such as financial losses, a damaged reputation and lost productivity.

According to Agility Recovery, companies should consider an all-hazards approach to ongoing business continuity planning and testing, including: (i) implementing pre-disaster actions to ensure a constant state of readiness and take steps to safeguard assets and vital records if an early warning is received; (ii) communicating disaster preparedness and response efforts before, during and after an emergency to keep clients, employees and regulators fully aware of the situation; (iii) utilising a cross-section of people to develop, test and implement disaster preparedness and response plans; (iv) ensuring backups are available for not only data but also personnel, worksites, vendors, equipment and other resources; and (v) treating disaster preparedness and response plans as ‘living documents’ to be updated as circumstances change.

“Business continuity testing has never been more important,” insists Mr Langley. “No longer are we just responding to a hurricane; we are responding to a hurricane causing flooding and outages during a pandemic. Organisations need to use scenarios in testing that include simultaneous incidents leading to multiple impacts with components based on lessons learned during the pandemic.

“Include all potential stakeholders such as board members, customers and third parties, and if an event is long lasting, such as the pandemic, consider after-action reviews throughout the incident,” he continues. “Companies have an increased appreciation of resilience since the beginning of the pandemic and expect leadership to impart their knowledge throughout the organisation.”

Also, what cannot be understated is the importance of good leadership. “Good leadership is essential at a time of continuing uncertainty,” says Mr Dunstan. “While no-one can predict the future with certainty, leaders can operate within the parameters of what is known and can be controlled. For some, this will involve how to ensure their companies survive, while others may see opportunities that their organisations can explore and create value from.”

Game changer

As the recovery from the pandemic continues, forward-thinking companies’ stance will be to create and review easily accessible business continuity plans – a game changing posture that will increase their resilience and allow them to structure their operations to adapt to a rapidly evolving landscape.

“The extended duration of the pandemic has confirmed for many that there is a real need to have a plan when the unexpected occurs,” notes Mr Langley. “There appears to a be a heightened recognition of the value of planning ahead and we have a window of opportunity to transition that heightened awareness into solid action.

“On top of the pandemic, there are other pressures which are causing changes in behaviour, such as the reduction in airline travel, the drive to carbon neutrality, climate change and sustainability,” he continues. “So, while COVID-19 has been an accelerant of change, there are many other game changers that are now coming into the focus of leaders, and these will all impact business continuity over time.”

For Mr Dunstan, leadership is a key component of how companies respond to the impact of a global event. “The realisation that such events can actually happen, means that leaders will be required to take a longer term view of their company’s direction of travel and performance,” he concludes. “The pandemic has been a game changer in that business is unlikely to return to the way it was prior to the pandemic, but there will be equilibrium in the ‘next or new normal’.”

© Financier Worldwide

Fraser Tennant

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What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

Sarah Mervosh

By Sarah Mervosh ,  Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris

Four years ago this month, schools nationwide began to shut down, igniting one of the most polarizing and partisan debates of the pandemic.

Some schools, often in Republican-led states and rural areas, reopened by fall 2020. Others, typically in large cities and states led by Democrats, would not fully reopen for another year.

A variety of data — about children’s academic outcomes and about the spread of Covid-19 — has accumulated in the time since. Today, there is broad acknowledgment among many public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of Covid, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting.

While poverty and other factors also played a role, remote learning was a key driver of academic declines during the pandemic, research shows — a finding that held true across income levels.

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic .” Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. In-person means a district offered traditional in-person learning, even if not all students were in-person.

“There’s fairly good consensus that, in general, as a society, we probably kept kids out of school longer than we should have,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who helped write guidance for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommended in June 2020 that schools reopen with safety measures in place.

There were no easy decisions at the time. Officials had to weigh the risks of an emerging virus against the academic and mental health consequences of closing schools. And even schools that reopened quickly, by the fall of 2020, have seen lasting effects.

But as experts plan for the next public health emergency, whatever it may be, a growing body of research shows that pandemic school closures came at a steep cost to students.

The longer schools were closed, the more students fell behind.

At the state level, more time spent in remote or hybrid instruction in the 2020-21 school year was associated with larger drops in test scores, according to a New York Times analysis of school closure data and results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress , an authoritative exam administered to a national sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.

At the school district level, that finding also holds, according to an analysis of test scores from third through eighth grade in thousands of U.S. districts, led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard. In districts where students spent most of the 2020-21 school year learning remotely, they fell more than half a grade behind in math on average, while in districts that spent most of the year in person they lost just over a third of a grade.

( A separate study of nearly 10,000 schools found similar results.)

Such losses can be hard to overcome, without significant interventions. The most recent test scores, from spring 2023, show that students, overall, are not caught up from their pandemic losses , with larger gaps remaining among students that lost the most ground to begin with. Students in districts that were remote or hybrid the longest — at least 90 percent of the 2020-21 school year — still had almost double the ground to make up compared with students in districts that allowed students back for most of the year.

Some time in person was better than no time.

As districts shifted toward in-person learning as the year went on, students that were offered a hybrid schedule (a few hours or days a week in person, with the rest online) did better, on average, than those in places where school was fully remote, but worse than those in places that had school fully in person.

Students in hybrid or remote learning, 2020-21

80% of students

Some schools return online, as Covid-19 cases surge. Vaccinations start for high-priority groups.

Teachers are eligible for the Covid vaccine in more than half of states.

Most districts end the year in-person or hybrid.

Source: Burbio audit of more than 1,200 school districts representing 47 percent of U.S. K-12 enrollment. Note: Learning mode was defined based on the most in-person option available to students.

Income and family background also made a big difference.

A second factor associated with academic declines during the pandemic was a community’s poverty level. Comparing districts with similar remote learning policies, poorer districts had steeper losses.

But in-person learning still mattered: Looking at districts with similar poverty levels, remote learning was associated with greater declines.

A community’s poverty rate and the length of school closures had a “roughly equal” effect on student outcomes, said Sean F. Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who led a district-level analysis with Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard.

Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. Poorest and richest are the top and bottom 20% of districts by percent of students on free/reduced lunch. Mostly in-person and mostly remote are districts that offered traditional in-person learning for more than 90 percent or less than 10 percent of the 2020-21 year.

But the combination — poverty and remote learning — was particularly harmful. For each week spent remote, students in poor districts experienced steeper losses in math than peers in richer districts.

That is notable, because poor districts were also more likely to stay remote for longer .

Some of the country’s largest poor districts are in Democratic-leaning cities that took a more cautious approach to the virus. Poor areas, and Black and Hispanic communities , also suffered higher Covid death rates, making many families and teachers in those districts hesitant to return.

“We wanted to survive,” said Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy group in Memphis, where schools were closed until spring 2021 .

“But I also think, man, looking back, I wish our kids could have gone back to school much quicker,” she added, citing the academic effects.

Other things were also associated with worse student outcomes, including increased anxiety and depression among adults in children’s lives, and the overall restriction of social activity in a community, according to the Stanford and Harvard research .

Even short closures had long-term consequences for children.

While being in school was on average better for academic outcomes, it wasn’t a guarantee. Some districts that opened early, like those in Cherokee County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and Hanover County, Va., lost significant learning and remain behind.

At the same time, many schools are seeing more anxiety and behavioral outbursts among students. And chronic absenteeism from school has surged across demographic groups .

These are signs, experts say, that even short-term closures, and the pandemic more broadly, had lasting effects on the culture of education.

“There was almost, in the Covid era, a sense of, ‘We give up, we’re just trying to keep body and soul together,’ and I think that was corrosive to the higher expectations of schools,” said Margaret Spellings, an education secretary under President George W. Bush who is now chief executive of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Closing schools did not appear to significantly slow Covid’s spread.

Perhaps the biggest question that hung over school reopenings: Was it safe?

That was largely unknown in the spring of 2020, when schools first shut down. But several experts said that had changed by the fall of 2020, when there were initial signs that children were less likely to become seriously ill, and growing evidence from Europe and parts of the United States that opening schools, with safety measures, did not lead to significantly more transmission.

“Infectious disease leaders have generally agreed that school closures were not an important strategy in stemming the spread of Covid,” said Dr. Jeanne Noble, who directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department.

Politically, though, there remains some disagreement about when, exactly, it was safe to reopen school.

Republican governors who pushed to open schools sooner have claimed credit for their approach, while Democrats and teachers’ unions have emphasized their commitment to safety and their investment in helping students recover.

“I do believe it was the right decision,” said Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which resisted returning to school in person over concerns about the availability of vaccines and poor ventilation in school buildings. Philadelphia schools waited to partially reopen until the spring of 2021 , a decision Mr. Jordan believes saved lives.

“It doesn’t matter what is going on in the building and how much people are learning if people are getting the virus and running the potential of dying,” he said.

Pandemic school closures offer lessons for the future.

Though the next health crisis may have different particulars, with different risk calculations, the consequences of closing schools are now well established, experts say.

In the future, infectious disease experts said, they hoped decisions would be guided more by epidemiological data as it emerged, taking into account the trade-offs.

“Could we have used data to better guide our decision making? Yes,” said Dr. Uzma N. Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in Livingston, N.J. “Fear should not guide our decision making.”

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the Covid-19 Pandemic. ”

The study used estimates of learning loss from the Stanford Education Data Archive . For closure lengths, the study averaged district-level estimates of time spent in remote and hybrid learning compiled by the Covid-19 School Data Hub (C.S.D.H.) and American Enterprise Institute (A.E.I.) . The A.E.I. data defines remote status by whether there was an in-person or hybrid option, even if some students chose to remain virtual. In the C.S.D.H. data set, districts are defined as remote if “all or most” students were virtual.

An earlier version of this article misstated a job description of Dr. Jeanne Noble. She directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department. She did not direct the Covid response for the University of California, San Francisco health system.

How we handle corrections

Sarah Mervosh covers education for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools. More about Sarah Mervosh

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. More about Claire Cain Miller

Francesca Paris is a Times reporter working with data and graphics for The Upshot. More about Francesca Paris

Creating a COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan

Epson October 12, 2020

Creating a COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan

Before COVID-19, your business continuity plan likely included processes for known emergencies or business disruptions, such as unexpected server downtime, tornados, fires, floods, and possibly even earthquakes. If your business is like most, however, you had not considered stay-at-home orders, contactless service, social distancing requirements, and employees quarantined for exposure to a highly contagious disease.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began this spring, your business quickly dealt with new situations that you had never considered or planned for. While you and your employees made decisions and developed strategies on the fly, you probably experienced high levels of stress and even more disruption to your business due to the time spent planning new processes.

What is a Continuity Plan?

The short answer is a document that gives you a road map on what to do in specific situations, such as disasters and emergencies. Because you create the business continuity plan when not under stress or a time crunch, the processes and decisions are likely much more strategic than simply reacting to an unexpected event. The goal of the plan is to reduce the disruption and impact of the event on the business, such as downtime, loss of revenue and closures.

Because COVID-19 required you to dramatically transform some operational methods and product offerings, it’s also likely that sections of your business continuity plan are now inaccurate and out of date. As the pandemic continues and is apt to be part of our reality for at least the near-term future, updates to your existing business continuity plan need to include COVID-19 related disruptions.

In addition to updating your current plan with your new processes, your business needs to create a continuity plan for the many possible COVID-19 related disruptions that you may face. In the days ahead, instead of experiencing the stress and feelings of helplessness felt in the pandemic’s early stages, you and your employees can quickly move into action. There are likely unexpected twists ahead that we can’t predict, and a pandemic-specific plan will provide you with the building blocks for a response instead of starting from scratch.

Five key areas to include in your plan

While the specific plan and details of tasks vary based on industry and business size, businesses should address the following key areas. Use this list as a guide, and customize the steps based on your specific needs. The bullets guide you through areas to address and consider when developing your plan.

Exposure occurring at the office, site, or retail location

With infections increasing in many localities, the likelihood of an exposure incident at your place of business is high. This means a person informs your business that they received a positive COVID-19 test and was at your location while they were possibly contagious.

  • Determine all key contacts to be notified in the event of an exposure, and create a notification chart with their contact details.
  • Determine cleaning requirements after an exposure incident occurs at your site. Research cleaning services and purchase supplies so they are on hand.
  • Develop and document detailed processes for cleaning, and distribute to appropriate contacts.
  • Determine the likely length of shutdown following exposure, and develop procedures for closing while cleaning procedures are carried out.
  • Develop inspection processes for post-cleaning, and distribute to appropriate contacts.
  • Create a list of nearby testing sites that can be provided to people who may have been exposed.
  • Create a template of communications to send to anyone involved in the potential exposure, and have appropriate departments, including human resources and legal, review the letter.
  • Develop reopening procedures to be followed after a shutdown due to an exposure incident.
  • Communicate processes to all employees and vendors to follow in the event of exposure.

Lower revenue due to lower sales or social distancing requirements

As the pandemic continues, many businesses face the reality of extended revenue loss and deficits. Businesses in this situation should begin long-term strategic planning to address the biggest issues and create long-term plans. A business continuity plan can help address short-term deficits.

  • Create a list of creditors and vendors to contact for potential extensions.
  • Research loan and relief packages available to your business.
  • Create a list of short-term cash options, such as equity, credit, and loan options.
  • Brainstorm short-term revenue options, like selling items typically used by your customers, such as groceries or materials.

Shutdown of operations

  • Having a plan for a complete shutdown of operations for an extended period of time, either due to a government or an industry regulation mandate or at the discretion of your business, will greatly improve the process and reduce stress.
  • Review the events and processes used during a previous shutdown and determine areas for improvement (if applicable).
  • Create a detailed process for shutting down operations, including a notification chain, equipment, and marketing activities.
  • Create templates of communications for notifying employees and customers.
  • Develop procedures for reopening after a shutdown.

Continued remote work

As the pandemic continues, many companies are extending remote work mandates for employees.

  • Determine a decision chain for making the decision for extending remote work.
  • Consider key data and metrics to evaluate when making the decision, and establish benchmarks to help guide the decision, such as “remote work continues until X metric is met.”
  • Review current remote work procedures and determine areas for improvement.
  • Evaluate current equipment used by employees for technology needing upgrades.
  • Create communications to employees notifying them of remote work extensions and any changes to current processes.

Supply chain disruption

In the early days of the pandemic, many businesses experienced supply chain issues. As the pandemic continues, businesses may encounter similar or new supply chain disruptions.

  • Review past supply chain issues during the pandemic.
  • Determine items at high risk for future issues or critical items that will cause significant disruption.
  • Research and distribute alternate vendors or potential substitutes for each high-risk supply chain issue.
  • Determine key benchmarks to help predict an increased risk of supply chain issues.

As the pandemic continues, you can increase your business’s odds of not only surviving, but continuing to thrive, by approaching obstacles as proactively as possible. With a concrete plan, your business can more easily react to any predicted challenges that COVID-19 puts in your path.

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