In a briefing last week, Marsh also revealed the four areas that businesses should prioritise during this global outbreak including regular communication with staff 

Working from home is workable on paper but hard to implement.

This was one observation made by James Crask, consulting director and resilience advisory lead at Marsh Risk Consulting revealed in Marsh’s live webinar ‘coronavirus planning, response and recovery’ last week through a series of presentations on the Covid-19 pandemic that looked at aspects of how to navigate the impact on businesses.

He said this was because of technical constraints, meaning there are issues with the number of users that can access IT systems from home.

”There’s a level of IT stress testing that need to be done to make sure that those systems will work for employees working from home,” he added. 

Hardware issues were “particularly acute” for businesses that were heavily regulated where working at home was scarce.

“Long-term alternative working arrangements can be quite damaging to staff morale and mental wellbeing,” Crask said.

This he said was the top question Marsh is getting from businesses – how do you keep staff engaged? How do you keep morale up?

“Employers have the same duty of care for staff working at home as they have in an office environment, so it’s really important to stay in touch, keep connected and make sure you are listening to staff concerns and anxieties,” he said. 

Poor business continuity plans

He also revealed there are four immediate areas that businesses should prioritise during this time.

These include regular accurate communication with staff through various touchpoints, businesses should consider how their supply chain is impacted and put plans in place to minimise disruption.

He also suggested changes to working patterns such as a shift towards remote working and regular communication with shareholders. And finally, the financial impact of the steps taken.

Crask added that Marsh has been working hard with its clients and has observed a relatively poor level of protection for business continuity plans in a crisis such as this. It found that clients are having to either drastically revisit their plans or rewrite them completely.

This is because most of those plans assume staff will be moving from one location to another which is not appropriate in the current scenario.

As well as how to support staff and their families that are affected by Covid-19 and how this is communicated across the business.

Government structures on the other hand seem to be getting in the way of timely risk information reaching the decision makers, and therefore having an impact on those needing to execute them.

Crask said: “Businesses should ensure mechanisms so that these issues can be escalated quickly.”

This would be a crisis management structure for most businesses.

What about the future?

Crask added: “We will eventually emerge from this crisis but the actions that we take now will make a huge difference in whether we recover stronger as organisations and as a society.”

He recommended keeping staff engaged and happy, understanding how the business might be impacted on various levels by the crisis using different modelling scenarios, and to think about how the business’s insurance policy might work should a claim be made.

No overarching stance

Meanwhile Clarissa Franks, head of placement, risk management at Marsh said: “Insurers have not given an overarching coverage determination or stance on Covid-19 for any line of business.”

As the situation is so fast moving, Franks added the latest from the US is that some federal stimulus uses commercial business interruption policies to pay claims that would be funded by the government even where that coverage has been excluded from the policy.

She questioned how this might be handled in the UK and the rest of the world.

Marsh has been receiving questions about the influence of governance on claims payments.

She recommended for renewals to provide as much information as possible and start the process early.