The COVID-19 pandemic has been called many names. If we are to be straight and definitive about it, most see it as a spread of a viral disease, a contagion that halted our way of life as we knew it before the pandemic struck. Seen from another perspective, it is a global health crisis that, as the UN Secretary General described in a 2020 speech, calls for solidarity and improved “health emergency preparedness”. From an economist’s point of view, it is a risk which slowed economic growth and crippled global financial markets.

But if there’s one thing that businesses have learned during the pandemic, it is that we must always expect and prepare for the worst. It means taking a look at risks that can have long-term effects and looking for ways to prepare, survive, and bank on our organization’s resilience to withstand such challenges. Seems easy to do, right? Well, not really.

Making the right preparations

Amid gradual business recovery, the potential rise in COVID-19 cases still looms as a threat, as cited in the Regional Economic Outlook 2022 report by Singapore-based ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office. Hence, being prepared is the way to go. But where do we start?

Preparing for the unexpected entails coming up with an efficient critical event management and business continuity plan which has the scalability and capacity to withstand something as unforeseen as the COVID-19 health crisis.

Adopting business risk management strategies

In a nutshell, risk management refers to a set of actions that is undertaken to identify threats and predict their impact to business.

A McKinsey article provides that organizations stand to benefit from employing a new approach in risk management and mitigating the effects of critical events. To do this, risk management activities must be inclined towards promoting three components: detection of potential risks, determining the appetite for risk taking, and deciding on which risk management approach to use.

On top of adopting risk management protocols, it is best to take a long, hard look at other internal policies of a particular company. Research shows that maintaining a collaborative and healthy work culture is highly beneficial and has direct effects on increased productivity. Think of it as a situation with a domino effect. When employees are happy, they are much more likely to huddle together, brainstorm effectively, and come up with innovative means to improve policies and plans that when adopted will help the firm better withstand external disruptions and unpredicted critical events. Promoting employee well-being? Check. Improving company policies? Check. Whichever way you look at it, several key business areas will be improved and covered.

Ensuring quality service

Being prepared also means being able to deliver high-quality services even amidst emerging risks such as the growing hostilities in Ukraine, threats of continued high inflation, and even fraud and cybersecurity issues.

A Grant Thornton insight cited that in a world looking for more options for high-quality audit services, businesses must imbibe and showcase an “unwavering focus on quality, along with purpose, unique culture, brand and market focus”.

For firms in other sectors, what this necessarily entails is making significant strides in improving particular aspects of business. If your company is in telecommunications or retail, for instance, developing customer service policies and putting in extra effort to adjust to clients’ needs can do a lot to maintain brand loyalty. A Forbes article suggested that taking “quiet but dramatic” steps to boost customer service can yield good business results.

It is hard to look for a silver lining amidst uncertainty and unforeseen disruptions. But we can start by looking closely at the positive repercussions of these events and by turning an otherwise devastating experience into something fruitful and beneficial for business in the long run. Preparing for something unaccounted for will only be a setback if we let it, and if we choose to stray from the idea of employing innovation and transformation.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 23 November 2022