This morning, the In-House Advisor convened a video conference of 15 General Counsel and Corporate Counsel to discuss how their businesses are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. The in-house counsel represented were from entities ranging from small, local companies, to large, multi-national enterprises. As a lead-in to the roundtable discussion, a brief presentation was given by two crises management experts, T.J. Winck and Dan Cence, of Solomon, McCown and Cence. Some of the key takeaways from the presentation and roundtable discussion were as follows:

Communications

  • One of the best ways to keep people in your organization calm is to repeatedly and consistently send out messages to everyone. You are better off saying too much than too little. Among other things, the in-house counsel attending said that their businesses are:
    • Sending out daily emails that goes out to everyone with an update.
    • Having “town hall” meetings with questions and answers once per week.
    • Maintaining an intranet page with updated Covid information.

Crisis Management

  • Be sure to have at least one member of your Crisis Management Team constantly monitoring the CDC and WHO, as new information is constantly coming out.
  • While everyone would like to think that the situation won’t get any worse, your crisis management team needs to assume it will get worse and figure out what it will do in each successive “worse” scenario. Failing to do that and focusing solely on managing the present situation is failing to prepare.
    • While it is easier said than done to try to predict what will happen going forward, looking at the experiences of businesses in countries that are “ahead” of us in the spread of the virus may help provide some insight into what may happen here and provide ideas as to what you can do to prepare for those eventualities
  • It is important to create redundancies in your personnel so that if someone becomes incapacitated someone else can take that person’s place in the least disruptive manner possible.
  • Be sure that your Crisis Management Team engages with those outside of it.
    • Getting input from outside the group may lead to better decisions, planning, etc. You don’t want your group being too insular.
    • If someone on your Crisis Management Team becomes incapacitated, it will be easier to replace him/her if people outside the team know what is happening.

Dealing With A Remote Work Force

  • How are businesses dealing with special requests from workers? There does not appear to be any best practices. Some companies are saying no to all special requests, while others (at least for the time being) are saying yes to most. The responses appear to have a lot to do with the size of the business and expectations for that business going forward.
  • In terms of working from home, it is critical to be sure that workers who have access to confidential information use company approved systems for accessing it and do not transfer such information to personal laptops, etc.
  • If you are concerned with how your employees are handling the situation and/or viewing the company’s response to the crisis, consider sending out a brief questionnaire, as one General Counsel noted his company did.