10 minute read 20 Aug 2020
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Nineteen for COVID-19: essential insights for better resilience to a second wave

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

10 minute read 20 Aug 2020
Related topics COVID-19

The best of our thinking around how business should respond to a second wave of COVID-19.

In brief
  • The COVID-19 crisis has offered many lessons for increasing business resilience, starting with leadership, through talent and technology, and into operations.
  • Leaders need to make time to take charge in a crisis, responding with careful planning and oversight to enable them to adapt as the situation evolves.
  • Across the organization, technology can enhance visibility and help your people stay on top of challenges – but managing finances is also a top priority.

Responding to COVID-19 has been one of the biggest organizational challenges in human history. Across the whole world, businesses and employees have had to adapt to radically different ways of working and living. Policymakers have had to dive deep into their toolkits (and pockets) to find solutions to keep commercial sectors afloat. And, all the while, doctors and scientists have had to work round the clock to understand and defeat the first truly global pandemic in living memory. 

These challenges remain. While the initial crisis appears to have passed in many regions, it persists in others. And with the ever-present threat of a second pandemic wave, we’ve gathered 19 of our most insightful articles to inform your response and preparation, spanning three themes:

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Chapter 1


Decision-making in a crisis.

1. Focus on building enterprise resilience

The COVID-19 crisis found the world unprepared, but despite this the reaction was both rapid and responsible. Nonetheless, challenges remained – especially as the business world moved from initial response to living with the pandemic longer-term. Building greater resilience into operations, decision-making, business models and ways of working to better weather future disruption became the single most important business imperative of 2020. Read more: Enterprise resilience: Nine areas of focus to reframe your future

2. Respond, don’t react

As the potential scale of the impact of COVID-19 started to become clear and more countries went into lockdown in March, we offered some advice on ways to plan for the pandemic and avoid being caught unprepared. Because while the pandemic was unprecedented in its impact, some of its effects on the world of business were all too predictable. A structured approach – identifying and addressing likely challenges of scale, velocity, duration, workforce, coordination and infrastructure – remains good advice as we progress to the next stage of the crisis. Read more: COVID-19 and pandemic planning: How companies should respond

3. Take virtual command of the crisis

Any decision-maker is only as good as their lines of communication. Much of today’s emergency command infrastructure was built in the wake of 9/11. With COVID-19 it needed to be updated to face a new crisis. Enter the virtual command center – a coordinated set of processes, applications and technologies that can offer unprecedented insight into operations and build substantial amounts of flexibility and resilience into operations. Read more: How the virtual command center can support business continuity for FIs

Global Integrity Report


of respondents indicated they thought COVID-19 posed a risk to ethical business conduct at their organization.

4. Maintain integrity and trust

Sadly, throughout history, unethical people have taken advantage of crises. The current pandemic has been no different. In EY 2020 Global Integrity Report, an alarming 90% of respondents indicated they thought COVID-19 posed a risk to ethical business conduct at their organization. More than ever, leadership must hold firm the reins of ethical behavior and harden their commitment to ESG activities. Read more: Is this the moment of truth for corporate integrity?

5. Lead digitally

With the rapid shift to remote working, CTOs and CDOs have had their hands full. Their responsibilities have rapidly expanded to include building whole-ecosystem collaboration networks with suppliers and partners, designing and embedding effective controls to maintain them, and co-creating AI and machine-learning-powered products and solutions to help them run smoothly. All these developments should serve them well, but require careful management.

6. Ensure boards provide back-up

Almost as important as the CEO’s leadership is the response of the board. From engaging with stakeholder groups, to compensating executives, to looking for the opportunities as well as the risks in the COVID-19 world – effective board oversight has been vital to navigating this unprecedentedly challenging market environment. We look at what’s been on the agenda for boards around the world. Read more: Board Agenda 2020: Eight priorities for boards as they tackle the COVID-19 crisis

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Chapter 2

Talent and technology

Maximize the benefits of tech and manage employees, wherever they are.

7. Keep your people healthy

Ensuring the wellbeing of employees has been at the forefront of organizations’ responses to COVID-19. It’s a monumental task, requiring a coordinated understanding of the needs of all workers (and their families), a clear interpretation of evolving government guidance and rethinking how people can work. Read more: COVID-19: How firms can protect their workforce, operations and values

8. Build more robust remote capabilities

In a way, the world is lucky COVID-19 has arrived in an era when communications technology has meant the choice between global health and economic functioning is not as stark as it would have been even 20 years ago. However, understanding the range of user needs, delivering the tools to meet them, and managing network load has remained vital for getting the most out of remote working solutions. Read more: How to build crisis-ready remote access capabilities

9. Boost cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has been a major technology concern during COVID-19; particularly as the rise of remote working gives potential cybercriminals exponentially more points of attack. An effective employer response requires everything from fresh assessments of its expanded digital footprint, to implementing new security analytics processes, and even new training for employees. Read more: Seven ways to keep ahead of cyber attackers during COVID-19

10. Understand remote working

One of the most visible changes to business-as-usual has been the global implementation of remote and home-working practices. This brings its own organizational and emotional strains. Make the most of these unique working conditions by learning how to engage, support and listen to remote workers. Read more: Four ways to enable your workforce in remote-working environments

11. Rethink the payroll

Payroll – simply getting paid – is critical to keeping employees engaged and secure. But COVID-19 threatens this, even without considering the hard choices around redundancies or furloughing staff. From new, rapidly-evolving government legislation to remote payroll workers not being able to access physical assets like paperwork, confronting these difficulties requires identifying challenges ahead of time. Read more: Seven ways COVID-19 will affect global payroll operations

12. Automate effectively

Along with remote working, automation technologies like robotic process automation and artificial intelligence have helped accelerate responses to the pandemic. They’re even helping the fight against the virus itself: we worked with one organization to automate COVID-19 test administration, allowing it to minimize time-consuming manual work, enabling more timely and effective treatments by doctors, and better data to help analyze the disease. Read more: How automation is enabling COVID-19 test result reporting at speed

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Chapter 3

Resilient operations

Maintain business-as-usual in unusual times.

13. Enhance supply chain visibility

Closed borders and mass quarantining of workforces dealt a body blow to global logistics operations. More than ever, real-time visibility into supply chains has proven critical to enabling operational resilience. Yet only 6% of respondents to a recent EY webcast poll were confident in this capability, making addressing it a business imperative. Read more: COVID-19: Why real-time visibility is a game changer for supply chains

14. Rethink how factories function

Unlike many white-collar offices, factories have not had the luxury of shuttering their doors and moving to remote work. Making sure these facilities remained safe places to work across the pandemic has meant everything from revising safety procedures for on-the-ground workers, and communicating them effectively, to forecasting future demand accurately, so that adaptive procurement, logistical and financial steps can be taken. By putting people first, organizations can build and maintain trust with their employees, their customers and their stakeholders. Mike Bertolino, EY Global People Advisory Services Leader.

By putting people first, organizations can build and maintain trust with their employees, their customers and their stakeholders.
Mike Bertolino
EY Global People Advisory Services Leader
15. Find new sources of liquidity

Cash flow keeps businesses alive in the best of times. In the worst of times, it's even more critical they take action to make sure they stay, well, in business. Governments around the world have leveraged a wide range of strategies to keep companies afloat – in the US alone, $20 trillion has been made available in more than 140 jurisdictions. This complexity led us to create a tracker to help businesses to understand the lay of the land. Read more: How to better satisfy your cash needs during COVID-19

16. Consider financial reporting challenges

The impact to financial reporting is not the first priority when a crisis hits – bit with one on the scale of COVID-19, there were several substantial challenges for anyone responsible for preparing financial statements, audit committees and auditors. From maintaining liquidity and assessing impaired assets and fair value to modifying contracts and seeking government assistance, such a large-scale crisis required a significant rethink of some of the fundamentals of reporting and effective compliance. Read more: Five financial reporting issues to consider as a consequence of COVID-19

17. Identify potential tax breaks

Among the tools being rolled out by governments have been tax responses – particularly as slowing economic growth before the crisis limits the range of options open to them. More than 120 jurisdictions had introduced emergency economic stimulus measures as of April 2020. This has included a range of approaches, from direct tax credits and relief to administrative relief in the form of rolling back filing and payment deadlines. As governments continue to adapt their policies as the crisis and its aftermath unfold, information about local tax incentives can be found on EY tracker. Read more: How governments are using tax to help economies affected by COVID-19

18. Keep closing your books in a crisis

Another challenge to day-to-day operations posed by COVID-19 is closing books at the end of the month – tough at the best of times, but a potential nightmare during a pandemic. Leaders need to focus on two areas: developing effective, technology-enabled teaming strategies, and setting priorities to address high-risk items in a timely manner. Read more: How to manage your close process virtually

EY Capital Confidence Barometer


of companies are either actively changing or reevaluating their supply chains.

19. Learn from others

We know what companies should be doing. What have they actually been doing? The EY Capital Confidence Barometer reveals 87% are either actively changing or reevaluating their supply chains, 48% say M&A is a priority and as many as 71% are already undergoing a transformation program to prepare for what comes next. Read more: Three ways private companies are battling COVID-19

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The arrival of COVID-19 forced a rapid evolution in how businesses operate. As we move to the next phase of the era of the pandemic, there is still much to be learned from the challenges and responses of the early stages of the crisis. At the heart of these changes was an enhanced focus on resilience – from leadership strategies to the way businesses operate through their people and technology. This transformation – reframing the future of organizations, industries, and society – has put adaptability and operational resilience at the very top of the agenda.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

Related topics COVID-19