The COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization. For now, the focus in China and beyond has been, rightly, on the immediate medical response and limiting the capacity for the virus to spread. But there may also be wider economic consequences, for China and for the many international businesses with operations there. People are displaced, the movement of goods restricted or suspended, and supply chains disrupted.
There are huge efforts being made across the world to contain COVID-19. The virus could be successfully contained in a relatively short space of time but even if it is, it will leave a long tail of implications for businesses to manage. Crises of any form are rarely isolated and contained – they tend to unfold in unpredictable peaks and troughs – and that’s why COVID-19 should focus the minds of business leaders across the globe.
Managing crisis is a fact of business life. 69% of participants in our 2019 Global Crisis Survey have experienced at least one crisis in the past five years and 95% expect to face one in future. It’s not a matter of whether a crisis will hit, but when – and whether a business survives intact is directly related to how well it’s prepared.
The COVID-19 outbreak presents specific potential business challenges around people and commercial operations (we’ll talk more about supply chain challenges in a separate blog). On an operational level, restrictions on employee movement creates immediate challenges, but the impact of the fear factor on the workforce (and potentially on the reputation of the business if it’s directly affected) is equally relevant. In both cases, timely and effective communication – with both internal and external stakeholders – is absolutely critical. So what should business leaders be considering in light of COVID-19?