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From Snow to COVID-19 and Beyond

A year ago today, our dogs were celebrating their 4th birthday, running around the garden in snow that had fallen overnight. Their environment had suddenly changed. It was unfamiliar - different in appearance, sounds, smells and feel to their little paws. They had no idea when things would return to 'normal.' They explored, sniffed, wagged their tails and quickly adapted. They played and were able to appreciate the best of the 'here and now.' They're just dogs, right?

Like our four-legged friends, at Red Laces, we're all about people and relationships so, a year later with social distancing and self-isolation, the world has seemingly changed for many almost overnight. We don't know how long this will last nor what life will be like on March 18th 2021. We can only guarantee hindsight of 2020.

So, what do we know?

We know that risk is dynamic in nature, transient and that new and different risks emerge albeit rarely on this scale or at such frenetic pace. We also know that when we emphasise focus on controlling one set of risks we may, inadvertently, introduce others.

In our experience, several large businesses create risk registers, risk assessments, emergency response and business continuity plans which are (in practice) often complex suites of documentation gathering dust, 'reviewed' annually, rarely tested and frequently disconnected with the reality of the current, evolving operation.

Start-ups and SMEs, in the absence of specialist (or maybe even generalist) risk-based teams, may not even be equipped or resourced to consider and plan effectively for the 'what if?' scenarios.

More positively, progressive approaches around risk management can actually unlock opportunities for creativity, innovation and growth.

2020 Strategic Oversight

So, in your business right now, the immediacy of reacting to breaking news is likely to be your reality.

Remember the risks that you were managing last month, last year? Have they disappeared?

Beyond this, what further risks might be exacerbated?

For instance:

Mental Health - many employees are self-isolating and increasingly being asked to work from home (maybe for the first time). How proactive is your business at putting in place new communication channels and support to empower them to protect their mental and physical health?

Cyber Security - many organisations will have a significantly greater need to utilise online and digital media to communicate with teams, customers and suppliers - including homeworking. This creates more novel opportunities for elaborate scams by hackers. Associated with this, organisational controls surrounding GDPR may be compromised.

Logistics - with greater pressure on E-commerce due to closures within the high street retail sector, have you considered potential for more drivers of fork-lift trucks and HGVs to become drowsy from cold and flu medication? Will automation machinery have the necessary downtime for maintenance and repair? Will there be sufficient training for high levels of temporary labour mobilised at short notice?

Catering - if you're exploring a new route to market (e.g. delivery services for a restaurant) have you considered temperature control, separation of raw and cooked foods, hygiene of vehicles, DVLA checks for drivers, training of food handlers and infection control?

Facilities Management - with on site staffing levels significantly reduced, widespread closure of buildings which could remain closed for months (e.g. shops, restaurants, offices, gyms, swimming pools) and potential impact on supply chains and contractors, how will you continue to ensure the appropriate testing and maintenance of systems for fire, Legionella spp., lifts and other equipment?

What all businesses require right now is strong leadership, integrity, agility and dynamic risk management with people at the heart of decision making.

After all, it's all about people!


Thank you to IIRSM Fellow Jonathan Dempsey of for sharing this blog.


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