When a Business Continuity Plan is not just about business

Business Continuity Planning, or BCP as it’s more colloquially known, is a core planning requirement of pretty much all businesses. For the Risk Management Team at Adaptive, it goes beyond what is generally expected; we don’t just want to make sure that we can produce work as normal, we want more.

Despite the time and effort required, I think that our clients and team would be a little disappointed if we only looked at the nuts and bolts of BCP (and frankly, we’d disappoint ourselves). When we were going through the stages of our COVID-19 BCP, we made a few updates and improvements that support not only business as usual from a functional perspective but support the well-being of our staff and the Adaptive culture and the quality of the service that we provide to our clients.

1. Pandemic BCP

Ready to work remotely

Thankfully, we were already well prepared for working from home because, as a reasonable employer, we offer flexible working to our staff. Further to that, we are also used to distributed working.

Our London and Barcelona offices, and our New York and Montreal offices, often work together to deliver projects for our clients. We work closely with our clients during project delivery, and they are frequently working from their own offices either in the same city as one of our own offices or more remotely (Hong Kong or Chicago are two recent examples).

While everyone working from home is an extreme, we already had the work practices, tools and a strong distributed work culture. What we are focused on is ensuring that with no clear end date in sight, we acclimatise as best we can and ensure our teams are mentally and physically healthy and productive.

Preparing our teams and clients

Our Risk Management team worked together on rolling out our BCP for the pandemic scenario.

At the very beginning of this threat, we set up a dedicated Slack channel to discuss the developing situation and made preemptive checks with staff regarding ability to work from home (keep your work machine and associated kit with you so you are ready to WFH, what challenges do you have that would prevent you from WFH etc.), underlying health conditions that caused them concern and checked in with clients that they were happy for our teams to work from home should the requirement materialise.

Checking quality sources

We kept a very close eye on the news from quality sources such as World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE) and updated our advice to staff accordingly. We agreed a 3-stage plan specifically geared around this developing situation and incrementally messaged that plan to staff (offering facts and our stance, without being alarmist) and circulated those on a company-wide channel on Slack. These were followed up by local directors in person/via Zoom to make sure that our guidance was clear.

We also sent notifications to all of our clients to reassure them that we had plans in place and that there would be little to no disruption to the services we provide. When we decided to close our offices, we did a final check with staff and clients that everyone was prepared and appropriately kitted up to work from home.

2. Maintaining Standards

Keeping our virtual interaction as real as possible

Our CEO has a bugbear regarding webcams and headsets and feels that no one should be working at home without them! All of our guidance to staff in preparation for lockdown emphasised that they should always have their Adaptive and/or client kit with them and to ensure that this included headsets!

We specifically asked staff to use headsets and webcams when in meetings with their colleagues – we are disconnected enough without talking to blank screens. The visual aspect means that we can still pick up on some social cues, get a sense if someone is confused, concerned or whatever. When people use their machines without headsets, the sound quality can be really poor and can cause real frustration and issues.

Small tips that make a difference

Our advice to staff regarding working from home has included getting into a routine, dressing appropriately for work (or newsreader style – aka as business up top and pyjamas below!) and over-communicating with clients and colleagues. What do we mean by over-communicating? It’s about leaving nothing to chance or misunderstanding, making yourself heard, listening carefully, checking understanding, ensuring that your team and the client are aware of the value that you are adding (and being invaluable!), making sure that no one is labouring under a misapprehension.

WFH = More productivity?

The fact that everyone seems to be focusing on how working from home has boosted their productivity during this time has given me cause for concern; doing things quickly, doesn’t mean that they are done well. What about collaboration? What about pausing to work through an idea with a colleague or the client? What about doing a little test on a concept? What about taking a moment to show a more junior team member how to approach a problem? What about learning-by-observing work habits and patterns from other colleagues?

Our teams are massively collaborative and working through problems, concepts etc. together helps us to come up with even better solutions and ensures that our clients are delighted with outcomes. Whilst we work to deadlines, just getting to those deadlines is not good enough. If our work doesn’t create a solution and offer quality to our clients, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

3. Staff Well-being and Adaptive Culture

Balancing Mental Health, work and family

A key aspect of our BCP for this pandemic was to look at how we could help staff to maintain good mental and physical well-being during the lockdown/work from home recommendations.

We have Mental Health First Aiders throughout the company and in all of our messaging regarding the developing situation, encouraged staff to contact those people as necessary. We had previously run a brown-bag on mental well-being and are updating and running that again shortly. All local directors are also keeping tabs on their teams and working with local HR to ensure that we regularly contact everyone and check in.

For many, even without underlying mental health issues, there is stress associated with working from home when partners, pets and children are about too. We asked people to simply do their best. These are very strange times and expecting the status quo would have been folly.

Separating work and home life

We are also conscious of and have communicated about the necessary separation between work and home life; it’s so easy to keep working past a sensible time and to log back in during an evening – it’s not at all healthy though and so we check in on each other and call out when someone seems to be working long hours/late in the evening.

Keeping the Adaptive culture up!

The Adaptive culture is something that is hugely important to us and our success, and so was a key consideration in our planning specific to this pandemic and its potential impact. We put together a somewhat mis-named Social Committee whose remit is to support the Adaptive culture whilst we are all working remotely. The committee is made up of people from each of our offices, all with differing regular roles, so that we get a real mix in terms of ideas to keep people in the Adaptive fold. Activities and initiatives so far have included:

  • Tips for working from home brown-bag (including productivity tips)
    • ‘Pub quiz’
    • Virtual coffees and breakout zoom rooms
    • Photo competitions
    • Virtual bake-off
    • Home workouts Slack channel
    • Gaming sessions
    • Board game sessions
    • Mindfulness, Mediation and Yoga panel
  • We are also in the process of reinvigorating participation of our ‘check-in’ tool, 15Five.
  • Our local directors have also given Zoom-based company updates on a weekly basis, followed by general chat and our CEO gives a global company update on a bi-weekly basis, keeping everyone up to date.

In the end…

We have worked collaboratively, imaginatively and with real focus to ensure that we maintain standards, our sense of togetherness and well-being. This situation is ongoing and we certainly don’t feel that we have the finished article; the various teams involved in our BCP planning and Social Committee continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we don’t slip. Our commitment and focus on our valued colleagues and clients remains absolute.

Author:

Marie Downes

Chief Talent Officer, Adaptive Financial Consulting Ltd

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