Global Coronavirus Preparedness

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    Patrick Quinlan - Convercent CEO

    To our customers,

    We are closely watching the evolving coronavirus news, and are considering the impact on our customers, our communities, our employees and families. Like you, we are still learning, but we feel the time has come to take action. It is becoming clear that organizations that don’t communicate proactively with their employees are experiencing greater unease. We highly recommend that you work with your teams to send a coordinated and clear communication to all employees. Ethics and compliance teams are uniquely positioned to mitigate increased risk within their organizations, especially as it pertains to appropriate response to fears, harassment and bullying, and the degree to which the organization can request disclosure of personal or family illness.

    We want to immediately share three things while we continue to develop our response:

    • We are committed to maintaining your access to Convercent: Our existing Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is designed for global resiliency, and we will maintain service continuity for you during this critical time. It‚Äôs more important than ever that you be the critical resource for your employees. We will provide a briefing document for you to share internally with your teams to answer questions and provide transparency around our BCP.
      • Convercent has implemented and maintains a business continuity plan designed to ensure our ability to meet ongoing responsibilities to our customers. The plan is validated and revised no less than annually to ensure we can meet all operational requirements of the business continuity plan. This plan is inclusive of pandemics, in that each of Convercent‚Äôs departments have formally verified remote working, duplication of knowledge, and access necessary to business tools ensuring continuous service. We are monitoring the situation very closely, not only for our own internal business but also with our business partners.
      • Global Telephony:¬†At this time, there have not been any recently detected issues with our hotline numbers. However, we are monitoring the situation closely, and already proactively test our hotline numbers on a frequent basis. COVID-19 may impact telecommunications in certain¬†areas.¬†Affected communities are restricting movement significantly, and many businesses are altering work patterns, imposing travel freezes, and moving to home-office arrangements. The demand pattern on local and national telecoms networks has changed drastically, causing strain and impacting international telecommunication services as well. In the event that audio quality and connectivity issues occur, it may take the local telecommunications carriers longer to resolve issues due to the altering of work patterns and travel freezes.
      • We remain committed to communicate¬†promptly¬†any issues that affect our services.
    • We are committed to partnering with¬†you¬†as you engage with your employees and proactively respond to this crisis.¬†For those of you with access to these Convercent applications, we suggest the following actions to help manage and mitigate the risk:
      • Campaigns/Policies:¬†Do you have new or updated policies or procedures to share with your workforce? Should they work from home, or do they need to get travel preapproved by a certain department?¬†Update your policies, and¬†send an update to your employees.
      • Ethics & Compliance Portal:¬†Health and safety is a key component of all our ethics & compliance programs. Update your portal and use it as a vehicle to communicate with your employees on the steps being taken to address the coronavirus and link to any key company resources.
      • Awareness: Proactively communicate the heightened risk of bullying and harassment, as employees react with fear to individuals who have flu-like symptoms or have recently returned from high-risk areas. Ensure employees know how to legally and effectively assess the level of risk and act appropriately.
      • Helpline:¬†Direct employees to your helpline to record their concerns or observations about the Coronavirus. That is what Helpline is intended to do‚ÄĒhelp you understand and navigate keys risks across the organization. Receiving and addressing these concerns via your helpline allows Insights to help you analyze and predict risks and vulnerabilities related to the virus.
      • Disclosures:¬†With your disclosures process, you can create an optional declaration of illness or absence that can be routed to a specific person or department for consideration. Just like the COI declarations, you can create a central repository for coronavirus declarations.

    In the coming days, we will share additional information on resources and support we can offer through our services and our community. We will also host a webinar next week to expand on these thoughts.

     

     

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    Asha Palmer

    Thank you for these notes Patrick Quinlan - Convercent CEO Jeremy Robinson.

    I see the Helpline/Hotline as an essential tool in receiving and understanding whether and where the coronavirus risk presents itself within the company. By pointing employees to the Helpline, E&C can help find answers to their questions as well as assist the business in determining whether there is a concentration of risk in one city, department, or unit...and, consequently, determine how to appropriately address that risk or disseminate information.

    Seeking reports via the Helpline could also help E&C gain visibility on the coronavirus' impact on company culture. If the coronavirus is indeed linked to a rise in xenophobia, discrimination, or bullying, E&C plays a key role in protecting employees from this behavior.

     

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    Thomas Fox

    Philip-great points from the HBR article. For CCOs and compliance professionals. Stay alert for CDC and NIH announcements. I have a podcast coming out on it Tuesday on Innovation in Compliance where health policy expert Ben Locwin gives the two top precautions you can take (1) wash you hands with soap and (2) if you feel you are coming down with something DO NOT go to work. Stay home and recuperate. (Yes, your Mother's advice was right on both scores.)

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    Jenna Thomas

    We've published a COVID-19 action plan for compliance leaders, including how to mitigate risk and impact within your org, how to use the existing tools you have at your disposal, and the questions to raise with your team that will form the basis of your E&C response to coronavirus. You can find that here:

    A COVID-19 action plan for compliance teams

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    Philip Winterburn

    Harvard Business Review just published this informative article (here). It focuses on 12 key points of guidance, the details are in the article:

    1. Update intelligence on a daily basis.

    2. Beware of hype cycles / news cycles.

    3. Don’t assume that information creates informedness.

    4. Use experts and forecasts carefully.

    5. Constantly reframe your understanding of what’s happening.

    6. Beware of bureaucracy.

    7.  Make sure your response is balanced across these seven dimensions

    8. Use resilience principles in developing policies.

    9. Prepare now for the next crisis.

    10. Intellectual preparation is not enough.

    11. Reflect on what you’ve learned.

    12. Prepare for a changed world.

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    Philip Winterburn

    This article explores action you can take now to mitigate some of the supply chain risk your organization may face with the rise of a possible pandemic. (here)

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    Jenna Thomas

    Thank you to those who participated in this morning's conversation on ethics and compliance in the face of coronavirus. If you haven't watched it yet, click here to access the recording.

    We had some great questions and ran out of time to address them all, so I'm posting them here in the community for our expert panelists Asha Palmer, Autumn Sanelli, and Patti Saunders to address. I also encourage community members to weigh in if you have insights to share! Dr. Marc Quinlan's answers to the medical questions are at the bottom of this comment.

     

    Do you have guidance on how to straddle confidentiality of any employees who may test positive with communicating to people who may have interacted and been exposed to the affected employee?

     

    What is known about any legal risks a company could face if they do not allow work from home then there is an employee who contracts the virus?  Could employees make liability claims?

     

    Given the CDC guidelines for individuals that are at higher risk, as employers, what are the thoughts around limiting their work/exposure without violating EEOC or ADA laws/regulations? As a legal, HR and Risk Management team we are grappling with how to educate our employees about the CDC guidelines but still find ourselves caught between providing a "workplace free from hazard" (EEOC) and restricting work (therefore pay) for certain demographics. It's certainly an ethical and compliance challenge as leaders to our employees and as leaders being financial stewards of our company.

     

    What are global locations (outside the US) doing for hourly labor workforce without the option to WFH and still get paid because there is no "alternative job duties" to support it?

     

    What will Convercent's response be if associates call in regarding the virus?  What allegation type etc. will this be directed under? AND Do we add the allegation type Coronavirus or did Convercent do this for us?  If so, how did the auto routing for this allegation type get routed?

     

    Presuming a high proportion of home workers will be using a VPN, what impact might this have on workers' anonymity when reporting an issue through the portal over the VPN?

     

    How can E&C play a role in the concepts of "social distancing" and "flattening the curve"?

     

    Asha Palmer you spoke about the critical need to monitor and manage if our communication and E&C programs are functioning the way we intend them to, not only at this point in time (COVID) but in the future as well. What are some of the best practices you leverage with your clients on monitoring the efficacy of E&C programs and communication? How do we know it works, especially when we have siloed systems?

     

    What does quarantining essentially mean? Is that very different from isolation?
    This is taken directly from the CDC: "Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.  Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.  Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick."

    Once confirmed positive, when can someone be sure they are no longer contagious and should return to work or other activities?

    There is probably not a formula answer to this.  Some people are going to be sicker than other, requiring oxygen and this may limit there return.  And honestly we are not exactly sure, the virus may live for weeks.  I think the CDC will offer more guidance once we have more data, but I think that the number is going to be close to 2 weeks after symptom resolve.  This is not a firm estimate as we are not exactly sure yet.  

     

    If someone in your household is quarantined, do others in the household also need to be quarantined?
    The safe answer here is going to be yes.  If they are asympomatic x2 weeks and/or has negative testing, the household is likely in the clear.  Obviously there can be extenuating circumstances with this.

    If you were exposed to someone who was symptom free but who later tested positive, should you self-quarantine?
    Yes.  The virus has shown that it can be shed when we are symptom-free, which is why we quarantine.  It is also why Coronavirus has spread so easily, as people can be spreading it before they even feel sick.

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    Asha Palmer

    Another question asked was: “How can E&C play a role in the concepts of "social distancing" and "flattening the curve"?

    There are many roles E&C can play in the business approach to ‚Äúsocial distancing‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúflattening the curve,‚ÄĚ including shaping the original strategy, but our main role once there is a strategy, is (1) monitoring the strategy and ensuring it does not lead to a rise in discrimination, harassment, or bullying and (2) engaging with employees and giving them an opportunity and voice to express how they feel about the company‚Äôs response. There are varying views amongst our employees on ‚Äúsocial distancing‚ÄĚ but instead of debating or disagreeing, listening will be a key role for E&C professionals.

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    Philip Winterburn

    This is an interesting article on the possibility of COVID-19 driving a rise in corruption.

    https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2020/03/04/addressing-anti-corruption-risks-from-the-coronavirus/?cmp_share 

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    Patti Saunders

    COVID-19 continues to have an escalated and cascading impact on our E&C Community and their businesses. We want to update you on a couple of resources we have made available to our community.

    First, for our Convercent customers, we want to make it easy for you to leverage your program to engage with your employees and identify risk associated with COVID-19. Your Helpline is there to help you understand and navigate key risks: to that end we have added a new issue type to our case management system. Customers can utilize this issue type internally to identify potential hot spots where there may be symptoms or concerned employees. The identification of these data points will aid in targeted education, training and restrictions to accommodate the situation.

    Customers can activate the new issue type for two purposes:

    • Allow your program administrators to identify incoming reports that are related to the COVID-19. Navigate to My Organization in your dashboard and click on Manage My Organization. In the Communication Section, select Issue Types and check the box for Coronavirus.
    • Enable the issue type for employees to select on intake. Customers can enable the issue type to be an additional category for employees to choose during the intake process. To enable the Coronavirus issue type for employees, navigate to Manage My Organization. In the Communication Section, select Intake Channels. Choose the intake channels in which you would like to add the Coronavirus issue type.

    If you have any questions on how to enable the new issue type, please reach out to your customer success manager or support@convercent.com.

    Second, as a community, we need to be talking openly about the role E&C professionals can play and share ideas on how to effectively engage in, and drive, these conversations with our businesses. Join me this Thursday at 10 AM MDT for an open and honest conversation about what COVID-19 is, how it may impact communities and corporations in the months to come, and ways to mitigate the business impact of the outbreak using your existing E&C tools and processes. Our conversation will include the perspective from the medical front-lines to bring additional clarity in a moment of conflicting reports and confusion.

    To join the conversation, please RSVP online.

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    Asha Palmer

    The question was asked, "what are some of the best practices you leverage with your clients on monitoring the efficacy of E&C programs and communication? How do we know it works, especially when we have siloed systems?"

    This question is difficult to answer without knowing your program, however, efficacy as it comes to Coronavirus messaging can be measured in the following ways:

    1. Frequency and Consolidation - we are undoubtedly being inundated with COVID-19 messaging so the more E&C messaging can be woven into business messaging, the better. If the CEO sends a message, have the end of the message encourage employees to share their fears or concerns via the Helpline or some other centralized avenue.
    2. Response - if employees are reaching out and asking questions or raising concerns about COVID-19 then your messaging is effective, and you've built the necessary trust within the organization so people feel comfortable reaching out. This could be in-person or via a Helpline or via managers; however, ensuring all contacts are recorded in one central repository is key to assessing efficacy.
    3. Taskforce Inclusion - are you being included in COVID-19 taskforces and business continuity planning? You should be. When people know what you do and value your opinion and perspective, they include you in these business-critical activities because they know you care about and help manage their risk.

    There are many more ways but hopefully these few suggestions help start the assessment.

     

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    Chris Steinbeck

    Telecom Infrastructure Information Updates

    There may be impacts on telecommunications due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Affected communities are restricting movement significantly and many businesses are altering work patterns, imposing travel freezes and moving to home-office arrangements. The demand pattern on local and national telecoms networks has changed drastically, causing strain and impacting international telecommunication services as well.  Due to this, lines in affected areas may have audio quality and connectivity challenges.  In the event any of these occur, it may take the local telecommunications carrier/s longer to resolve the issues due to the altering of work patterns and travel freezes.  Per our telephony testing partner, Spearline, they have been monitoring worldwide telco performance. As it stands right now, per Spearline on a general informational scale (Not specific to Convercent), there are only 4 countries that may (or had) experienced challenges with call quality and connectivity. Those countries and details are as follows.

    • USA - The¬†US could become the next epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to The WHO due to a large acceleration in cases.While the North American network is adjusting to demand shifts brought about by ‚Äúshelter in place‚ÄĚ orders and Work-from-Home transitions, the performance of core services remains robust.
    • China ‚Äď Initially had a decrease in call quality but has improved. It is currently stable at this time.¬†
    • South Korea ‚ÄďHas experienced volatile connectivity since January 27th, with a drastic 5% fail rate during its worst period. It largely recovered by February 8th. Audio quality saw volatile swings. but recovered in early March.
    • Japan - Connectivity issues have increased as a result of intermittent capacity issues where some carriers are reporting over double the amount of normal traffic.
    • Italy -¬†Continues to show huge swings in connectivity rate. Call quality, while not quite restored to normal levels, remains acceptable and stable
    • Spain¬†- Next, behind Italy, along the per capita impact ladder, with a higher population overall and getting more news coverage than the Swiss. Spain has 900 cases per 1M population, and the network shows signs of stress. Connection failure rates have approached 1.5%, though audio quality continues at acceptable levels.
    • France - Saw a significant dip in connection rates, approaching 5%, with failures noted on March 17th. Good quality maintained through periodic slippage has been observed.
    • Germany - A¬†declining connection rate is showing, with 1.7% failures noted on March 17th. Good quality has been maintained, though periodic slippage is showing.
    • Croatia - An earthquake on Sunday, March 22nd results in >20% failure rate in connections observed on the day of impact. Audio quality in Croatia was also impacted significantly and has not yet recovered or stabilized fully.
    • Switzerland - Swiss performance remains relatively strong, Though some notable volatility in connection rate, audio quality remains at a high-performance level.

    Other countries affected by the COVID-19 that are showing signs of connection failures and audio quality degradation are included in the table below. 

    As an important note,  we still have not seen any detected issues with our hotline numbers reported in the above countries (Either via our automated testing or through callers reporting issues). However, we are monitoring the situation closely and already proactively test our hotline numbers on a frequent basis.  We will continue to update this post as information changes.  

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    Philip Winterburn

    As many of us start the grand experiment of widespread working from home see this article from Harvard Business Review for some insights: https://hbr.org/2020/02/whats-your-companys-emergency-remote-work-plan

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    Jenna Thomas

    Because there is so much to discuss, and the situation is evolving so rapidly, we'll hold another webinar on Thursday, March 26 to discuss the role of ethics and compliance in the face of coronavirus. Our panel will dive into the legal implications of coronavirus for businesses, and how ethics and compliance teams can lead their companies through this ongoing situation: http://bit.ly/2TLDqya

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    Jenna Thomas

    We've gathered all our content related to coronavirus, plus articles from Law.com, The National Law Review, Compliance Week, and more, in this resource center: https://www.convercent.com/coronavirus-resources-for-the-ethics-and-compliance-community

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    Cole Krems

    Dear Community,

    I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge those whose lives have been directly impacted by the Coronavirus. Our thoughts and wishes are with them and their loved ones.

    Convercent is deeply committed to your success while you best manage your business in this time of concern. Our commitment to you remains undeterred and we will continue to strive in providing a world class ethics platform.

    For the health and safety of our employees, customers, partners and community, Convercent has enacted a business continuity plan for its offices. We have implemented a policy restricting all travel and in-person customer visits. Additionally, all of our team members are working from home and are equipped with the necessary tools to continue uninterrupted support. This plan ensures you experience the continued high level of service and support you are accustomed. Our teams, platform, and systems are available to deliver an uninterrupted experience.

    If you have any questions or concern, please contact your support representative as we are always happy to work with you.

     

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    Jenna Thomas

    Hi all,

    We had some terrific questions during today's webinar. I've copied them below and we'll have our panelists weigh in here on the discussion thread.

    What is E&C professional’s responsibility if employees providing essential services refuse to come to work despite all the precautions at the workplace, and are thereafter terminated. If these ex-employees decide to make a report on the WB hotline, How should we handle these if we agree with management decision?

    In specific COVID-19 reports, how do we trust the information from the local leader on measures vs. conduct an appropriate "investigation" to check the claims of the employee?

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