loader image

COVID-19 Part 2: Planning and the Escalation Plan

COVID-19 Coronavirus and the Workplace in BC; Part 2: Planning and responding with an Escalation Plan for COVID-19

With the announcement last night of BC’s first potential community transmission case, we thought it might be helpful to share some COVID-19 tips for employers in the BC region.

Firstly, lets still acknowledge that the overall risk of COVID-19 to BC employees remains low and for more current status updates we recommend that employers and employees keep themselves informed. Keep an eye on the BCCDC.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge that the risk feels like it is increasing. This can be very stressful mentally, employers and employees try and filter news themselves, while also trying to make their own and their families action plan. Stress takes its turn on mental wellness and can  impact your employees. 

Information helps people feel secure and we strongly encourage employers to prepare for the next phase of this crisis with our COVID-19 tips for employers, which will likely involve both increased community transmission and state/local government actions, such as school closures or movement restrictions.

Coinbase recently generously released their COVID-19 action plan. (To read more click here)


What to do next for the anticipated COVID-19 Outbreak?


  • Host a townhall, an all hands, create a slack channel, or send carrier pigeons. Choose your preferred means of communication and open the lines to your employees. Share that you have/are working on an action plan and stipulate a delivery date for when you will share this information by.  Questions that come up are “Will we close the office/company?” “How will we know when to close our locations?” “If I don’t feel safe/feel I’m at risk do I have to come into work?” “Who decided who gets to WFH?” “Can we insist people come in?” “What happens if I can’t work remotely for my role?”
  • Understand that some employees may be more at risk than others. We don’t want to create a culture of discrimination, isolation or fear. Encourage your employees to communicate with their managers and empower your managers to reach out to those that may not feel comfortable coming forward.
  • Have a clear policy, if you have multiple locations and varying work forces consider how location closures may affect ALL employees.


Allow time for your employees to prepare:


  • As Coinbase put it; “The best time to prepare was last week, the second best time is now.” Australia is going crazy for toilet paper, (and we aren’t sure that product is the most crucial.) It wouldn’t hurt to allow your employees to leave an hour or so early one day this week to buy some groceries and important household items. (Think bin bags, batteries, soap. etc). Enough to feed and support your family for 2 weeks – 1 month. Get your prescriptions refilled.



  • Assign one person as the primary company communication point. 
  • If you have a workforce in multiple locations consider creating a task force that will work together to create and organise the next steps.
  • Start thinking about what technologies you need in place to allow your work force to operate in a fully remote fashion, install and train ALL employees on these. Don’t just assume that everyone will know how to work them!
  • If you run a facility or company that requires your manual workforce to be onsite and in person, then you need to start thinking through what might happen IF there was a government recommended shut down OR you the company owner decided that it was time, For more information on how this impacts your employees and the implications from employment standards, see Mondays Blog!


Escalation plan:

Create an escalation action plan and share it company wide so employees know what to expect and can plan accordingly.  Set clear, measurable and precises triggers and actions.

Things to consider in the plan.

  • When will you close the office/ facility?
  • Who will make the decision to close you locations of work?
  • What can you do to allow your employees to feel safe and secure?
  • What technologies do you need?
  • Will this impact business/ Sales targets/goals and adjust according?
  • How can you maintain the company culture remotely?
  • What will you do to bring people back to the office after the crisis passes? (Because this to shall pass..) 

Coinbase’s Escalation plan:

Phase 1 Triggers

More than 100 instances of in-the-wild person-to-person virus transmission between people who are not close relatives/living in the same house and outside of a hospital setting, occurring within the commuting radius of a given Coinbase office. Measured mortality rate remains 1% or above (10x the seasonal flu). Observed transmission rate remains above 1.5.

Phase 1 Actions

  • We may ask certain populations of employees to WFH in the impacted area (e.g. if there is a hotspot of transmission)
  • We will offer optional WFH for all employees in the impacted area (especially important for those with potentially vulnerable populations at home, the very young, very old or those with otherwise compromised immune systems).
  • We will enhance office cleaning schedules to be more frequent/in-depth, especially around areas of high traffic (elevators, meeting rooms, bathrooms, food areas) along with specific mask disposal bins.
  • We will limit office visitors to essential personnel only (and work with recruiting to e.g. move interviews to video calls where possible)
  • We will ask all leaders to start making plans for continuity of operations/identification and movement of critical workloads/personnel to other offices or to WFH.

Phase 2 Triggers (aka local containment is failing)

More than 1000 events as above or any government quarantine actions in the commute range of a Coinbase office. Measured mortality rate remains 1% or above (10x the seasonal flu). Observed transmission rate remains above 1.5.

Phase 2 Actions

  • We’ll work with individual business owners to execute their critical workload movement plans to whatever office seems least impacted.
  • stop meal service in impacted office(s). Potentially moot, as we expect most employees will be voluntarily wfh at this point.
  • stop all visitors to the office(s) OR institute a visitor health screening program (e.g. airport style infrared camera in the office lobby + basic screening questions). Again, may be moot.

Phase 3 Triggers (aka containment has failed, it’s going to be a wild ride)

More than 5000 infections with an increasingly upward trend (Doubling interval is 10 days or less). Measured mortality rate remains 1% or above (10x the seasonal flu). Observed transmission rate remains above 1.5.

Phase 3 Actions

  • mandatory WFH in the impacted area(s)
  • All workload movement plans executed, including potential relocation of essential personnel outside the danger area.
  • at this level, I’d expect our ability to use 3rd party services like cleaning, snacks, etc to start to break down because of fear driven absenteeism.
  • I’d also expect to see regional isolation in the impacted area


Then What?

We don’t know how this situation will unfold but remember whatever you put in place now, you might have to walk back in the future. Start thinking about what your companies return to work plan will be.

Short term suggestions from BLANKSLATE Partners:

Work From Home (WFH):

  • Do you currently have a WFH policy, if so, is it relevant and up to date. 
  • If you do not have a work from home policy, is this something you would consider offering temporarily? If so, be sure to put in place the parameters you and your team need in order to function in this new environment. Know that it will be a challenging, stressful and emotional time for many people and you need to have a strong communication plan in place.
  • Consider building a communication alliance (See BLANKSLATE’s resource on this) for team work.


Encourage Virtual Meetings:

  • Limit the amount of people that physically need to be in a room together. Encourage virtual meetings.
  • Switch all interviews to Virtual interviews. (We love Zoom.)
  • Schedule 1:1s or group chats with other members of your team to stay in touch. Check out https://www.netflixparty.com/ for a way to schedule a remote movie night with friends! This one comes directly from Coinbase and we love it!


Recruitment and Onboarding

  • Review your Q2 workforce plan. If hiring is not critical to the success of business, put a pause on recruitment until we have more information.
  • Do you have new employees joining the company in the next month? Should you close your office how will you onboard these employees?Consider how you can onboard new employees virtually. Create a plan that will allow them to join the company in an authentic (yet remote capacity.) 


If you need further support with your planning please do not hesitate to reach out to BLANKSLATE partners, we would be happy to help you through this stressful time!