Friday 3 April 2020 8:58 amEY Talk

COVID-19: What practical measures can businesses take to keep operating?

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COVID-19 Response Leader, EY UK

EY’s latest COVID-19 webcast focused on the pressing challenge of business continuity, asking what measures companies can practically take to keep operating in these extraordinary circumstances.

Clearly, businesses are dealing with very different and evolving sets of challenges – from companies experiencing massively increased sales, to those battling sudden falls in demand and businesses who are still unsure what the future holds.

Read more: COVID-19 – A framework for business response

Our webcast addressed the challenges faced by each of these groups, with four essential themes emerging from our discussion:


  • Health – Protecting everyone’s physical and mental health is a priority. Practical measures to protect staff, customers and suppliers include staggering working hours and barriers to limit physical interaction. All companies should continue to care for their staff – active and furloughed.
  • End-to-end supply chain – Visibility is key to identifying and managing issues in the end-to-end supply chain. As much as they can, companies need to support their suppliers and customers – the health of any company depends on the health of its entire eco-system.
  • Infrastructure/data – physical and cyber – ‘Mothball’ assets safely, securely and with an eye to restarting quickly. Fraud and phishing threats are increasing. Companies need to inform and support staff to help repel threats and maintain data protection and ‘office standards’ of IT-hygiene at home.
  • Values – Don’t lose sight of purpose and long-term values and use these to help inform and prioritise your business continuity response. Companies will be judged on how well they respond to this crisis.

Read more: Coronavirus – The first test for purposeful business?


  • Product lines – Focus on bestselling lines to simplify every aspect of the business – from limiting factory change overs, to simplifying procurement and sales.
  • Sales – Help your sales teams remain connected with customers in an unfamiliar, virtual environment by simplifying sales processes and sales scripts.
  • Operations – Streamline operational processes to minimise physical staff and customer interaction, reduce training time, understand minimum necessary cybersecurity controls and limit pressure on shared service centres.


  • Operations – Adjust operations to protect staff – ‘social distancing’ in the factory and on the line. Explore ways to repurpose unutilised production lines to produce products in high demand, e.g. healthcare PPE, hand sanitizer.
  • End-markets – Explore ways to repackage industrial goods in low demand for consumer markets with high demand – and vice versa. e.g. toilet rolls, flour, disinfectants.
  • Customer proposition – Identify adjacent services across the portfolio that safeguard revenue streams with large customers. Migrate customers to digital equivalent services where ability to fulfil physical products is compromised e.g. swapping physical books to online learning or swapping outdoor and event advertising towards digital media.
  • People – Explore ways to redeploy underutilised employees – or consider labour exchanges. Flex working hours to support those with caring responsibilities. Utilise government schemes, but also consider alternatives – such as reduced working hours by agreement.


  • Board – Stay on-top of decision making, putting measures in place to ensure that management teams can take quick decisions and communicate these rapidly to the business and other stakeholders.
  • Employees – Keep in regular contact with all employees – active and furloughed. Utilise new technologies and ensure that communication is two-way to ensure a sense of ownership. Your employees can help you adapt working practices and stay secure during increased cyber activity.

Read more: COVID-19 and cyber – Critical actions for employees and business to take now

  • Customers – Companies are accelerating adoption of virtual contact environments and making increasing use of onshore home-workers to deal with increasing demand – and absenteeism in global shared service centres. Ensure the changes in the customer care environment and workforce still communicates a message of empathy, customer resolution and alignment to your purpose.

Responding to immediate challenges is an obvious priority. But, we’d also encourage companies to plan for the medium and long-term, recognising that decisions made now will affect your company’s future in the recovery and beyond.

To listen to the webcast in full, please access the recording here.

For materials and insights on responding to COVID-19, visit