Resilience is probably the word of 2020, in all aspects of life.
Even Katy Perry (in collaboration with the Spanish singer Aitana) recently released a song called “Resilient”. In Spanish, resilience is not a broadly used word, and it’s even difficult to place it in a sentence. “Resiliencia” is not even easy to pronounce, is it? This is one of the many reasons why, in the Spanish Business Continuity world, it has not been historically used. Nevertheless, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed that this trend has begun to change last year.
Beginning of the Pandemic
In 2020, Spain was one of the first countries in the world to be hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy entered this nightmare at the end of February 2020, and Spain was suffering the same 15 days later. We were following the news from Italy and we knew there would be a replication in Spain.
Those first months were really stressing, professionally and personally. I am not going to say that they were the most stressing moments in my life, as I lived through the 2016 Brussels bombings. At that time, I worked for the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium (one of the European Union Institutions) and I experienced a lockdown for 5 months following the November 2015 Paris attacks. At that moment, we knew that we had to be careful and have everything ready in case Brussels was attacked. Then, it happened, and it was all over in a month. Therefore, living a lockdown was not a first for me as an individual and BC professional. With the current pandemic crisis, the problem has been the length of it.
On the contrary, this pandemic started suddenly. Banks or multinational companies, such as the one I work for, Getronics, monitored what happened in Asia. Either you have interests there or you have offices. We foresaw what was about to happen in Europe and we took measures worldwide. I remember my colleagues from Latin America telling me there it was summer, and they had no cases. Why did they have to implement such strict measures? Well, in Europe there were no cases when it started in China and look at us now. Nobody in the world is exempt from catching it.
Spain and America: Similarities and Differences in Reaction
Spain, in many aspects, is very similar to the US. We are not a federal country, but we have many competences handled by regions (the Autonomous communities of Spain). Among them is the public health system. The main difference from the US is that our health system is public. Everyone has the right to use it and, although private health systems exist, they are just voluntary. Therefore, whoever controls this system has the power to fight the pandemic. At the beginning, the Spanish Government took control. Convening a State of Alarm was a delicate decision, as our constitution only foresees it for emergencies. The reason is that we lived in a dictatorship for 40 years, and nobody wanted to remember those days when one single person held all the power. Therefore, the government control was temporary, and it needed to be approved by all political parties. This agreement was not easy to keep, but it worked. For a few months, Spain enforced the most restrictive lockdown in all of Europe. It was needed, as the situation was critical (on March 25th, we surpassed the death toll of all China).
Nevertheless, the economy versus health debate started to rise. The Autonomous communities started to complain, as they wanted to regain control of the health system. Thus, the government did not count on enough support from all political parties. As a result, the State of Alarm and the lockdown measures ended on June 21st. With that decision, Spanish people started to behave as if the pandemic was already over. No alarm meant no virus. And there was no virus, for a short time. The strict lockdown and rising temperatures made it possible.
One thing a US reader needs to know about Spain is that we are a country that essentially lives on tourism. We are the second most visited country in the world. During a pandemic, this is a problem on many levels. No trips or flights means no tourists. Therefore, workers who make their living from tourism are in trouble because they cannot work from home. This is one of the reasons Spain ended the State of Alarm so abruptly in June, to allow tourists to come during the summer. The long-awaited tourists did not come, and this measure only encouraged the Spanish population to think that everything was ok, that the virus was gone, and they could go on with their lives.
However, neither politicians nor the public realized this was a long-term fight. Meanwhile, we Business Continuity professionals did. We were worried about how politicians and people were behaving and measures in most of big companies continued to be restrictive. In fact, we were right. Only a month later cases, started to worryingly increase again. Some regions also started to enforce measures such as the use of facemasks or controlled lockdowns in locations with the most cases. By September, we were living a second wave. Restrictions were in effect all over Spain, but measures were different from one region to another (which is still the case right now). But once again, economy first. Madrid, the region with the most cases in both waves was against stricter measures. As a result, this brought awful consequences in terms of deaths but also, in terms of the economy. If a country doesn’t control the pandemic, how is it going to improve their economy?
I think American people and Spanish people are quite similar. I believe we love partying, socializing and being with friends. We love going to restaurants and concerts. This is something that has continued, despite all the lockdown measures enforced (curfews, banning gatherings of more than 6 or 10 people together, cancelling the Three Wise Men parades, etc.). Thus, we now have the third wave over us.
BC Professionals: What We’ve Been Doing
With one of the worst economic outcomes in Europe and being one of the countries with the worst numbers in cases (on October 21st, Spain passed 1 million COVID-19 cases), political fights have made the situation almost unbearable. Once again, BC professionals attempted to foresee the future, and we monitored what happened in Canada and in the US after Thanksgiving. We realize that today’s situation in Los Angeles is something Spain might face later.
In addition, BC professionals in Spain have grown together. We have found many ways to exchange information. What has been a great success among all this horror is how well we have collaborated. On January 2020, the first Spanish Business Continuity Institute (BCI) Chapter meeting took place. The pandemic debate was not hot at that moment but the desire to collaborate was there. In fact, all efforts bore fruit as in July, when the BCI officially approved the creation of the first Spain BCI Chapter with me as Committee leader. Over the last year, we organized 3 meetings (webinars, obviously) with 16 speakers and more than 100 participants each, all of them with the pandemic as a theme. We also created a LinkedIn group that today accounts for more than 120 members. Spanish BCI Chapter Committee members were in close contact during the whole process, exchanging best practices and information on lockdown measures. Collaboration was productive, and still is. One of the main conclusions drawn was, indeed, the need to think further. Business Continuity procedures and processes are designed for recovery as soon as possible, with a special focus on prioritizing activities according to their criticality (over time). However, this pandemic has shown the need to prioritize in a first phase but to also adapt procedures for a long-term crisis. This is when the word resilience became more popular. Nowadays, we are not only BC professionals, but we are also resilience professionals. It has become a necessity. We need to anticipate and plan for the unforeseen.
The key is to adapt and be flexible, as has been the case in most big companies in Spain. However, all this is not possible if we are not open to exchange and collaboration. Thus, this is my wish: let’s work more together.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in