There is a lot of information, and misinformation, being shared about Covid-19. With the continued spread of the virus and impacts felt across the globe, your organization, like most, has probably discussed what the outbreak might mean for your company in the next weeks and months.
It’s time to reevaluate your business disruption plan:
Workforce unavailability: whether it be from illness, school closings, etc., it’s important to understand how excessive absences will impact your business and clients. What work is critical? How can it be accomplished if key people are out of the office? How will you meet your client commitments?
Be sure to consider how your organization will handle hourly employees, employees who may not have functions that can be performed from home, employees who may have to use PTO but may not have enough accrued to meet what is needed, and remote employees (full time or part time). You may need to consider modifying existing policies on a temporary basis for these situations. Be sure you understand and follow wage and hour laws in your State when it comes to non-exempt and exempt workers.
Prepare your company for working remotely if that’s an option: If it is possible for employees to work from home make sure they can should they need to. Have your employees test working from home over the next week so you know they’re set up right, have the right licensing, know how to access the programs and their work, and that there are no other technology issues.
Promote office-wide healthy habits:
- Dishes: If your company uses regular dishes and/or silverware instead of plastic/paper run the dishwasher on the sanitize setting.
- Washing hands: Remind people to get into the practice of washing their hands regularly and properly (water, soap and scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, towel dry and turn off water with towel).
- Sanitize the office: Set out anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in kitchens and snack areas, around common areas and encourage the team to use them. Ask the cleaning crew to be extra detailed and disinfect all work area, hard surfaces, common areas, doorknobs, elevator buttons, phones and keyboards, etc.
- Shaking hands: put a moratorium on handshakes for now. Hang up some signs with alternate, fun greetings (like bumping elbows or the Vulcan greeting).
Cross-Train on Key Functions: Cross-train employees on all essential functions and processes. Be sure your key processes are documented so if one person is unable to come in or perform certain duties, another can jump in.
Think about Travel: Restrict or limit travel for pregnant women, people with health concerns, and individuals over 65. Monitor US, State and local travel guidance and adhere to any restrictions.
Communication and Decision-Making: Know how your organization will share the steps you are taking to keep employees and clients safe and the business up and running successfully. Have a solid plan for emergency communications with employees such as travel restrictions, office closures, etc. Who decides what to do, when, and how to communicate it clearly? How will that be done effectively? How and what will you communicate to your clients/customers? Make sure your entire management team understands the process.
Confidentiality: Organizations will want to adhere to confidentiality guidelines by ensure the anonymity of anyone on your team who is confirmed to have the virus. Be wary of, and immediately remediate, any stigma or discriminatory activities in the workplace based on race, gender, or other assumptions.
Consider Your Vendors, Suppliers and Service Providers: Speak with key vendors, suppliers and service providers to understand their business continuity plan and how it could impact your business. If your organization is exposed to higher risk for a specific situation (such as if your supply chain focuses on countries heavily affected by the Coronavirus) do a thorough risk assessment around potential impact to the business, employee health risk, travel restrictions, earnings projects, supplier preparedness, special inventory management plans, etc.
Don’t feed into unwarranted panic: People get nervous when planning for the unknown and out of the ordinary… and hysteria is contagious (especially when news outlets and social media are flooded with stories and hype). It is essential to put intent around WHAT and HOW you communicate. Take the edge off of fear by communicating in a simple, focused, calm manner and always from the perspective of prioritizing the safety of your employees and clients/customers.
Stay informed: Get as much accurate, up to date information on the situation as you possibly can and adapt and guide your employees and clients accordingly. Most local, national and international governments and/or health departments/agencies will provide regular updates on the status of a situation as well as protocols to follow. Make sure you are not spreading inaccurate information.
These tips will help your organization prepare for and successfully navigate any unusual event/situation.
You can get the latest information on the Coronavirus from the CDC’s website, including more information on prevention and guidance for businesses: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html