The UK lockdown measures have created widespread closures of businesses and their premises, but with the easing of national lockdown measures and the maturing of test, track and trace capabilities local lockdowns may be a frequent business continuity challenge. With the phasing out of furlough and other business support schemes, organisations will need to rely on their own business continuity capabilities to mitigate the business and financial impacts of a local lockdown.
A local lockdown could be implemented in a targeted city, school, local community or business location (a warehouse/distribution centre, for instance). For most organisations with robust and reliable business continuity arrangements, these incidents should prove more manageable.
To date, with government mandated virus control measures implemented on a national level, the latitude in the approach adopted for response has been limited – unless a socially distanced business model can be adopted. With local lockdowns in some cases a greater degree of latitude and discretion may be possible and in others, existing business continuity arrangements might provide effective mitigation of the impacts of a local lockdown.
As ever, the organisation's business model and, more specifically, the way in which goods and services are delivered to the customer will dictate the level of flexibility available to respond to any restrictions. Nevertheless, when lockdowns are introduced on a more localised basis, organisations may have more latitude and flexibility when designing responses. Some planning considerations are:
- Community lockdowns will likely affect a subset of employees – how could these employees be kept productive or covered if they have been tested positive and are unfit to work?
- The lockdown of schools/childcare facilities could create childcare issues and create staff unavailability. Have we a mapped schools and employees so that we are in position to assess how a school closure might impact staff availability?
- How could we deal with pending deliveries from a locked down location?
- Would community lockdowns at a town or city level impact logistics? Are workarounds feasible?
- Remember that any of the above could indirectly impact your organisation if a key supplier is affected by a local lockdown.
Given that the virus has not been totally eradicated, we should expect location-specific lockdowns and, perhaps, even consider them as a necessary evil to avoid a second wave and a repeat of the nationwide lockdown of the past three months. There are, however, positives to focus on:
- Dealing with local lockdowns because of their more limited scope will fall into a more traditional business continuity response;
- Measures that have been adopted to deal with a national lockdown should lend themselves to dealing with a local lockdown; and
- The national lockdown has given many organisations business continuity plans a test like no other and organisations should be well-rehearsed in their response or, at least, understand which planning assumptions have been challenged the most.
It’s probably fair to say that local lockdowns will occur in some form at some time in some place. So, let’s not be complacent. As we breathe a sigh of (hopeful) relief and look forward to whatever 'normal' evolves, let’s gather up and log what we have learned and start applying these business continuity lessons learned now.
Steve Dance is the managing partner of RiskCentric, which specialises in the development of learning and resources for business continuity planning and crisis management.