As governments across the world wrestle with the spread of the corona virus the question for companies of all shapes and sizes is, how should our organisation respond?
Guidance from the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) offers practical information on how to support an effective pandemic response and limit the impact of an outbreak.
Businesses and organisations have an important role to play in the pandemic response, particularly when it comes to communicating and implementing good practice advice around hygiene, use of personal protective equipment and behavioural changes.
The BCI stresses the importance of having a clear, communications strategy across the organisation so that all employees and stakeholders are fully aware of pandemic policies and action plans.
You should ensure that a nominated person is monitoring the pandemic and gathering information from an authoritative source such as Public Health England (PHE).
Other key actions recommended by the BCI are:
Ensure management and team leaders are clear about the organisation’s priority activities, people, skills and minimum staffing arrangements. This information should be available in a Business Continuity Plan.
You should prepare for employee absences. You should know which employees are trained and can provide back-up for others who become ill (especially those with business critical roles).
Modify your policies to give greater flexibility to normal working arrangements.
Reduce the number of people in the workplace at any one time through flexible working hours or rosters.
Reduce activities involving large groups of people (e.g. all-staff meetings, employee birthdays or other social events).
Provide (or expand) opportunities to work from home (taking into account network connectivity, security and bandwidth/performance requirements) and make sure there are enough laptops available.
Make greater use of telephone or video conferences rather than face-to-face meetings
Provide for employees with children or unwell adults at home, or for employees who are reluctant to use public transport to get to work.
Such policies should consider administrative, legislative (Occupational Health & Safety) and workplace relations requirements and procedures as well as psychological safety and morale.
Establish welfare policies for employees who seem to display symptoms, have been caring for someone with the virus, or who have returned from travel in or through a known infection zone. Such policies might include:
- Protocols for those whose health is ‘in-question’ who want to come to work.
- Monitor who sits next to a person who has not turned up for work that day.
- Return to work protocols for those who have had the virus and have recovered.
- Presenteeism – how to deal with employees who should be at home but insist on coming to work
- Protocols for visitors and suppliers (e.g. the contractor who refills the water cooler, or cleaners who are present out of hours).
- The means of monitoring / enforcing these practices within the workplace.
Consider reinforcing internal peer support or other welfare mechanisms (counselling) to assist employees with health concerns.
Ensure the workplace has adequate supplies of cleaning and hygiene products in accessible and visible locations (keeping the workplace hygienic is a collective responsibility).
Confirm employees, customers and suppliers are aware of the organisation’s pandemic continuity plan, and alternate working arrangements, and they understand how they may be affected and involved.
Avoid the use of social media as a source of trustworthy information (unless from official or trusted parties) and reinforce this advice with employees.