By the time the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the country was made public in early February, the discussions around updating the Business Continuity Plan for a possible outbreak has made its way to the agenda. The Eastvantage Management Committee meeting, a bi-weekly event attended by heads of departments and the company founders, has been strategising around the response to the virus as early as the news hit and as soon as the situation in China forced businesses to a grinding halt. Despite careful optimism that the virus would somehow be contained and leave the rest of the world alone, it made good business sense to treat the epidemic threat as a case of “when” and not “if”.
Eastvantage’s Business Continuity Plan
Our Business Continuity Plan, which usually gets activated for more common reasons such as internet downtime and natural disasters, was updated with a more specific response to an Epidemic/Pandemic scenario in the latter part of February. This document took into account important areas to examine, including personnel, equipment, assets, business commitments, and chain of command.
The BCP Incident Manager convened with Operations Business Partners to urgently conduct a business impact assessment per account, in order to identify staffing shortage response and the capability to cover for gaps in the case of high absenteeism. Business impacting information such as the following were covered:
- Essential Services
- Priority Levels
- Individual and team capability to work from home
- Availability of resources
- Shared network routing options
- Training needs for backups
- Modified operations performance tracking
- Updated employee and next of kin information
What followed based on this data are the preparations for deploying laptops, getting desktops ready for deployment, and getting mobile wifi devices ready for employees who have identified challenges working remotely. Additionally, our BCP was aligned with the building administration as well as our HMO service provider to protect the health and well-being of our workforce.
The announcement for an ‘Enhanced Community Quarantine’ was made on March 17, Tuesday. While severe restrictions were already in place to prevent unnecessary movement, some form of exemption was still afforded outsourcing workers to facilitate remote working arrangements. In 2 days, approximately 85% of all operational accounts were set up for remote work, and by March 23, we were 100% operational.
What enabled us to achieve this?
Our BCP was activated on March 12, the first time the president made an address regarding the quarantine in Manila, without restrictions on workers’ movements. We forecasted that from that point, it had the potential to change drastically and fast, so we had to be trigger-ready with a response when it does.
Our customers and their offshore staff can attest to numerous catch-ups and form filling-up requests in the weeks before March 17. We conducted a BCP team meeting twice a day, every day, which is in effect until April 8, or until the situation achieves a form of balance.
In the end, what enabled our successful transition was the foresight to bring the issue to the table early, and to prepare our workforce for what might lay ahead. When the time came to activate our Business Continuity Plan, we were not caught off-guard: most of our employees knew what to do and were mentally prepared to shift gears.
Enhanced work mode
Now on our third week of working remotely and we are finally settling in with this new routine. We’ve been taking care of each other and having sync meetings every afternoon so we keep ourselves in the loop.
Most of us are working from home for the first time, full-time. After a few adjustments, we regained our regular cadences and are now on an enhanced work mode in the midst of the current global situation. Also, seeing each associate’s homes during meetings add a new touch to our regular routine, it makes it more personal.
Yong Mustard, our Happiness Ambassador, has been on a mission to have one-on-one chats with employees to check on their physical and mental well-being. Some miss the office and prefer a professional environment; some welcome the change and find it refreshing to work from home. Overall, everyone agrees that the support received from the management and the IT team, along with a handful of heroic volunteers, was crucial in enabling our people to carry on with their jobs. With this they are able to in turn support themselves and their families during this challenging time.
Eastvantage is grateful for everyone’s resilience and hard work, and we’ll continue to brave tough times together.