COVID-19: What does keep calm and carry on mean?

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The famous flyers were printed during WWII to help raise the morale of the British public as threats of German air-raids loomed. So what does keep calm and carry on mean? It certainly doesn’t mean hoarding toilet paper, but it also doesn’t mean ignoring the problem.

It’s about adapting to new circumstances and getting the job done.

Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Coronavirus a pandemic, this simple morale-boosting poster from 1940’s Britain is more relevant than ever. Businesses still need to run, their staff need to remain level-headed, listen to experts and keep the ship on course.

In practice, this means executives still have the same objectives and their assistants still have to facilitate their work—plan board meetings, manage & attend events, sort travel, book team building and organise professional development for themselves and other staff.

Even in the face of strong headwinds business doesn’t stop, it just needs to adapt to new conditions.

The WHO has a comprehensive breakdown of recommendations for lowering risk in the workplace, which includes simple but effective measures like wiping surfaces with disinfectant, keeping hand-sanitiser handy and promoting good coughing and sneezing hygiene.

A simple measure such as putting a hand-sanitiser station outside the lunchroom or staff cafe can significantly reduce the rate of infection.

But what about meetings and events? A number of large events have been cancelled due to the virus, but executives still need to meet stakeholders.

The WHO recommends reducing the size of your events in the short term. It’s easier to keep track of the health of a smaller number of delegates. This doesn’t mean cancelling your larger events, but perhaps redesigning them or breaking them up into smaller modules. This also goes for events that you and your executives attend.

In a recent example, one EA decided to bring two or three managers to a board meeting and dial the rest in remotely—a great way to keep the risk low, while still getting key people in the same room.

Also, organising an event in regional areas can help reduce risk. The sparsely populated regions are less likely to be impacted by the virus and are hungry for your events post-bushfires.

Business is a plate-spinning act. The plate needs to stay in constant motion or it hits the floor and smashes. It’s about a constant, informed momentum. Keep calm and carry on.