Amid the global concerns about the growing impact of coronavirus on the world economy, 51 percent of companies around the world have no plans or protocols in place to combat COVID-19, a Mercer study has shown.
Mercer’s Business Responses to the COVID-19 Outbreak Survey features insights from over 300 companies from 37 countries. The spot survey was conducted between February 6 and February 19 2020.
From its origin in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the globe. It has symptoms similar to a cold or flu-fever, cough and shortness of breath. But its complications, including pneumonia, respiratory distress and kidney failure, can prove fatal.
Experts are still gathering data to determine the full characteristics of the disease. The virus appears to be more contagious and more severe than seasonal flu.
According to the survey, 27.2 percent of companies do not have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place, while nearly 24 percent are currently in the midst of drafting one.
The study indicates that in terms of demography where the companies are headquartered, Africa has 0.3%; Asia 12.7%; Australia or Oceania, 5.8 %; Eastern Europe accounts for 2.6%.
The study shows that Latin America and the Caribbean 4.2%; the Middle East 0.3%; North America 53.7% and Western Europe has 20.8%
The survey also found that working from home or working remotely will remain a crucial factor for companies, with nearly half (42 percent) currently encouraging employees to work remotely, particularly in highly affected areas.
An overwhelming 92.2 percent of companies have said that working from home remains their option of choice during an office closure.
The study further suggested that having a solid business continuity plan (BCP) in place that focuses equally on operations and employees will help organisations navigate effectively during these challenging times.
Many employees rely on their employers to monitor and assess the situation and share key findings with them, meaning that organisations have the opportunity to support their colleagues which includes:
Didintle Kwape, Associate Consultant, Mercer while commenting on the survey, stated that “As of today, there have been only a few cases of coronavirus reported in Africa. However, we have seen the negative impact on businesses that the coronavirus outbreak has caused in other parts of the world.
“It is important for organisations in Africa to also be prepared in case an outbreak like this occurs”, Kwape said.
Implementing a BCP enables ongoing operations while ensuring that the organisation is least affected when facing a disaster, whether it is a cyberattack, earthquake or a medical epidemic, such as coronavirus, that is impacting businesses globally.
Most companies are monitoring the situation with World Health Organisation (WHO) and local government advisories while remaining cautious of the possibility of evacuating employees and their families from areas affected by the virus.
In the event of an evacuation, two-thirds of companies (63.4 percent) surveyed stated they would continue with employee allowances in varying durations and depending on the employees’ role within the company.
According to the survey, businesses have vastly reduced unnecessary travel and are weighing in on banning travels globally, particularly to areas highly affected by the virus. More than 80 percent of the companies that have required employees who recently travelled to highly affected areas apply an isolation period, where they work from home, are still paying their employees for the duration of the quarantine, reiterating companies’focus on maintaining employee health and safety.
“Treating employees equally and considering impacts to different populations. For example, while expatriates could be evacuated to their home-country, local employees may remain”, the Mercer study indicates.