March 18, 2020

COVID-19 and the Board’s Responsibility During An Outbreak

COVID-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus, is steadily making its way across the United States after washing through China, Italy and most of Europe. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named the virus a “pandemic” as it continues to spread across the globe. It is the responsibility of the board of directors to remain aware of the changing circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus and the potential impact to their organization. 

The board of directors for every company is tasked with the mission of providing sound guidance to the companies they govern. With the increasing numbers of contagious people and the panic beginning to grow in the United States, is your board of directors ready to handle the effects the Coronavirus could bring to your organization? The following five tips can help keep your board and organization running smoothly during the outbreak. 

1. Reporting and Communication Expectations

In stressful and uncertain times, everyone from shareholders to employees will be turning to the board of directors for answers. Having a structured reporting and communication plan will ease tension and help to quickly and efficiently disseminate the information your company needs. “Companies are not required to update their guidance in light of the disease and its effects, but in terms of shareholder relations, it can be a difficult issue to avoid talking about – and poses the added difficulty of being a fluid situation. In the meantime, it is best to say that the existing guidance was correct as of the date it was issued, that the situation is evolving and that the company takes it seriously, is monitoring developments and will issue new guidance when it knows more, according to Brown.” (Ben Maiden, Corporate Secretary)

Better communication can help limit errors in a time of mass confusion. If your organization doesn’t have an up-to-date crisis management plan, it’s time to make one

2. Policy Approvals in an Emergency

In an emergency situation, does your board have a plan, quick access, to approve policies? If your company were to be affected by Covid19, and in-person meetings were off the table, would work grind to a halt? Utilizing virtual voting and e-signature tools can keep your board functioning in times of crisis. Virtual voting is most often used in the boardroom as a replacement for paper voting for the ease of gathering, tracking, and storing the vote data. Boards of directors who function globally need to adopt processes like mobile voting procedures that translate to today’s rapid collaboration methods. Today, board meetings reach far past the boardroom table and span cities, states, and countries. 

E-signatures will also be crucial to your Coronavirus contingency plans. Having the ability to collect signatures on documents without in-person meetings or requiring your directors to print, scan, and email those signatures will expedite business and simplify the process for everyone. 

3. Remote Meetings for a Healthy Board

Under normal circumstances, remote meeting is a useful tool for a modern company. During a viral outbreak, it can save lives. As the WHO has recommended limiting travel, especially for those in the health and age groups most dramatically affected by the virus, many workplaces are enacting their remote working policies. Boards should factor this into how they schedule their meetings. A remote board meeting may not be the first choice for your less digitally savvy board members, but it is preferable to spreading the virus. Using a tool that allows for screen sharing or a presentation mode can help keep all of your board members on the same page as you go through your virtual meeting. 

4. Secure Communication Channels

Boards of Directors see the most confidential information about a company, so it is crucial to follow stringent security practices. Having secure communication channels for the board to utilize will always be a top priority. However, remote board meetings will not work without the ability for board members to comment, discuss, and manage conversations securely. Email communication is too easily hacked and is not considered a “secure” channel for communication when you are talking about the highly sensitive information the board deals in. The ideal solution would be a discussion feature that allows directors the ability to collaborate on the documents in a secure platform. 


5. Access to Existing Policies

Are your existing policies easy to access and review if the need arises and the board is unable to meet in person? Significant documents such as your Business Continuity and Crisis Management plans need to be accessible from anywhere on any device. In a situation where those policies need to be securely reviewed, revised or given input on, board members need a place to have those discussions and view those documents. As your policies continue to adapt and react to the pandemic, updating your existing policies will become critical. Ensure there is a secure document repository that your team has access to, but avoid free and low-cost file-sharing systems, as they are rarely secure enough for the boardroom. 

Govenda and Your Coronavirus Plan

Govenda uses the communication and collaboration tools built into their board portal to ease the burden on boards of directors. If you are interested in how Govenda can help you improve your governance practices and help your board through a pandemic, start a conversation today.  

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