This week JCB employees will start on a reduced week of 34 hours as a direct consequence of the viral infection coronavirus. For the 4,000 affected, the reality will likely make them fearful for the future in what is a breeding ground for rumour. Behind the scenes, for HR, unions and management this swift response to what might appear an unforeseen event would have been well planned.

With supply chains and sales now global the agility of most industries and companies is being tested. Bain & Company reports China is responsible for 30% of global luxury good sales, while in publishing almost all printing takes place in China. Pivoting to new markets unlocks risks like exchange rate impacts and whether supply can meet demand. Expectation is the bounce back can be quick – but only if the virus is contained as it gets warmer.

For now the virus is proliferating and borderless, which leads to questions that may not have been considered.

  • If mass quarantines are triggered in the UK, can your employees work from home?
  • In the age of the cyber hack, do employees have the necessary secure mobile network access to do so?
  • Does everyone even have a laptop, and who pays the phone bill?
  • If a work travel ban to Asia is announced, can your employer also stop your long awaited, long saved-for trip to Thailand.
  • And, if not, what are the policy and experience consequences for employee and employer and on engagement and commitment?

Lessons need to be taken from coronavirus now and locked into business present and future.

At H+K, we help organisations to mitigate against these sudden risks by building in management interventions much earlier. Our issues-mapping approach considers the key touch points and audiences throughout your operation that could be impacted.

By understanding where there are gaps and opportunities, we can then design a strategy tailor-made for you. We have taken this approach at H+K. All employees have access to an app with important information. Specific updates are flagged if vital through company channels also too. The app provision means we can be contacted in and out of work.

Our experts can counsel you on relations with employees, customers, suppliers, the communities that you operate in, as well as trade associations, regulators and investors. We then design and offer interventions including training, behaviour change campaigns, policies and communications support.

If coronavirus is contained, what form will the next health risk take? Is another equally infectious virus likely, and is coronavirus here to say each season? What of the public health impacts of antimicrobial resistance, and its consequences for business and society?

Taking a proactive approach to these questions reduces risk, increases stakeholder confidence, and minimises potential confusion and reputation damage.