Radar for resilience: getting business going after coronavirus
We are living in the limbo of a Before Coronavirus (BC) and After Coronavirus (AC) world. The question of how dystopian or utopian life turns out to be rests with how resilient we make UK business.
The other great limbo of life, Brexit, posed a similar question: ‘project fear’ – dystopia, or ‘take back control’ – utopia. Depending on your personal interpretation of both and Britain’s place in the world, there was an opportunity to vote in a referendum and General Election. ‘Take back control’ won.
The irony of Brexit, and for the government, is that the only thing that has taken control is a virus. Business across the UK has spent the last few years preparing resilience measures for leaving the EU; nothing was done for the resilience now required and in fairness, business or any government could be not be expected to have predicted the situation of now. With the 75th anniversary of VE Day coinciding with lockdown, there was no criticism in the celebrations of the government of the time failing to stockpile Spitfires and radar pre-1939. The Spitfire and radar came from British ingenuity, inspiration and fortitude during a time of existential crisis impacting the whole nation, just as there is an existential crisis impacting the nation now.
The facts today are that this is not wartime Britain and the Britain of today is not the wartime population and nation it was then. The government message and what was needed at the start of lockdown was to remain at home, keep calm, carry on, tap into the stoic British character and see it through. This was the message that was needed then and it resonated with large parts of the population, especially those classed as vulnerable to COVID 19, the elderly and those of us with underlying medical conditions acutely susceptible to the virus.
In terms of business resilience, the resilience lockdown provided was to preserve and protect the workforce. This was and is now achieved – as things stand and the empirical evidence of cases and deaths in the UK appears to show, the general health and age of the workforce in the UK can survive COVID-19.
There will always be a risk of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 and a risk of developing symptoms, just as there was a risk during SARS, Avian Flu H5N1 and Swine Flu H1N1 (according to the CDC– Centers for Disease Protection and Control – between 2009 and 2010 H1N1 infected 1.4 billion people and killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people across the globe).
The interesting difference between H1N1 and COVID-19 is H1N1 was virulent and caused deaths to younger adults and children, whereas COVID-19 is virulent and causes deaths to the elderly and those with specific underlying medical conditions.
A cautious movement out of limbo is now starting; the message from the government for business is to be ‘Covid Secure’ and conduct COVID-19 Business Risk Assessments. There are copious volumes of information on being COVID Secure, online at Gov.uk and the HSE website. The information is excellent, but the very volume of it and sometimes bureaucratic feel, can make it impenetrable and disengaging to the vast majority of business, especially SME business, the pulse of the nation.
Being Covid Secure is needed, but for someone running a business, it can be seen as a defensive and back-foot message. What is needed to get businesses back, especially to get SME business back, is a message from within the business community that businesses understand and will engage with. Businesses want to provide confidence, assurance, diligence and trust for their employees, customers and clients. They just need to be engaged with, assured, messaged and incentivised in their own business language and given a means to do it that is easy to understand.
Getting every business in the UK engaged to complete a COVID 19 Risk Assessment and the awareness measures to control and manage the risk of COVID completing an assessment provides, will create collective resilience across the country.
For the business community, in getting the UK back to business, to those they employ, and the customers and clients they serve, in reducing the impact of any future second wave transmissions, this is today’s radar.