How to Maintain Quality during a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging for business. Due to government advice, many organizations worldwide have to significantly change their ways of working because many colleagues are working from home. This has in many cases, been a completely new way of working. In other instances, remote working had already been partially implemented.

Key challenges have been being to keep businesses operating combined with managing safety and security. This is true for both those able to work, those working from home and those who will need to prepare for an eventual return, whether full time to the workplace or a hybrid model, which will likely be partial workplace/home working.

ISO standards are a positive way of demonstrating your trustworthiness and commitment to your business partners, colleagues and customers, therefore retaining them is essential.

ISO 9001 and communications during the pandemic

ISO 9001 is the management system standard that describes how to develop a Quality Management System (QMS). It defines that you have to ensure your colleagues are properly trained to do the job they are undertaking. It also looks at how you select and work with your partners and suppliers.

It is also not a standard that you dust off a shelf. It is designed to ensure you have processes in place which means you are putting quality at the heart of your organization.

Many businesses have had to flex the structure. This might be temporary or permanently, so it is important to communicate these changes internally, so that everybody knows who does what.

You will already have an internal audit process in place and the first step is to review what needs to change of be updated in your policies and procedures to account for working from home/socially distanced workplace to remain compliant.

In the times of the pandemic, which means a lot of uncertainty and differing local social distancing guidelines, you will need to give thought to your colleagues’ skills. This could be relating to the effective use of new communication channels used while working from home. You will be giving thought to how to best work effectively in a remote and secure way. It is also possible there is some on-site working and communication is important for both colleagues and customers.

Communication is covered within Clause 7.4. If you are certified to the ISO 9001 standard, you will already have developed and implemented a communication process to determine what to communicate whilst considering its compliance obligations and the quality (reliability and consistency) of the communicated information.

If you have flexed your customer offering, added new services, or taken some away, your QMS and scope should reflect this. Regular but timely communication is important both internally and with your customers. These should also be reflected in social media/websites and other digital communications. 

Your QMS will also define a clear criteria for suppliers and partners. You will take this opportunity to ensure that your supply chain will not affect your service delivery. Other important changes in the QMS would include scope, address, number of staff, etc. which must be communicated to your certification body.

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