With the coronavirus, recently named COVID-19, in global news headlines daily, many Americans are realizing that they need to take strategic steps to keep themselves and their family safe. The same is true for the workplace.
As a business-owner, it is important to anticipate some of the challenges that a contagious virus may present to your business, in the form of employee health, employee absence, productivity lapses, business continuity, and your bottom line.
Employers like you should take action to protect your human resources and future business operations. Below are a few things to keep in mind for your workplace. For much more information, consult expert resources from the CDC, OSHA, and the EEOC.
Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
1. Engage in basic preventive measures. There are several suggested preventive measures that are inexpensive and easy to obtain, such as providing tissues and hand-sanitizers to employees, and encouraging regular hand-washing. You can also hang posters in bathrooms and eating areas on the proper way to stop the spread of germs. If available, you can strongly urge employees to get vaccinations (like flu shots), and provide incentives to employees who do so, such as paid time off to get the shot or reimbursing employees for the cost of the shot.
2. Create a pandemic preparedness protocol. Take proactive steps to protect your employees and your organization; after all, it’s better to be prepared for something that doesn’t happen, than unprepared for something that does. A pandemic preparedness plan is as important as a disaster preparedness policy, and since there is a possibility that this virus could recur again next year, it’s best to have a solid plan in place now.
3. An effective pandemic plan addresses such topics as:
- Workplace safety precautions
- Facility shutdowns
- Employee telecommuting, quarantine, or isolation
- Employee travel restrictions
- Provisions for stranded travelers unable to return home
- Mandatory medical check-ups, vaccinations, or medication
- Mandatory reporting of exposure, such as employees reporting to employers and employers reporting to public health authorities
4. Prepare your workplace for the four stages of pandemic preparedness: A) preparing for the threat, B) implementing preventive measures, C) getting through the pandemic, and D) managing business recovery post-pandemic. As you make a pandemic plan, conceptualize what you will do in each stage to keep operations going (this is an instance where job benchmarking is very helpful); communicate with your suppliers; communicate with your customers; communicate with your employees; review your existing paid leave policies to determine whether modifications should be made; prepare for the possibility of postponing or canceling scheduled events; and prepare how you will pause and restart operations, in the event that your facility needs to shut down temporarily. You may also want to anticipate counseling or EAP resources for employees who may be personally impacted during the pandemic.
5. Stay calm. A crisis such as a pandemic can create confusion, and even panic, among employees. Equipped with a pandemic preparedness plan, executives can respond in an orderly, rational way; the plan will reassure employees that management is concerned about them and their safety.
It is tough to think about worst-case scenarios, but being prepared is better than wishing you were, so don’t delay in developing a plan for scenarios that may occur during a pandemic. Doing so will go a long way to ensure that you, your team, and your company emerge stronger and more resilient once the pandemic subsides. Be sure to check the CDC website every day to track COVID-19.
Chris Thomas, SHRM-SCP is the Principal Consultant with The CTCS Group in Canton, GA. The CTCS Group is focused on providing HR Leadership, Behavioral Assessments, and Consulting to help small businesses grow and thrive. You can subscribe to this blog or request a free consultation at www.thectcsgroup.com.
Disclaimer: The information and recommendations provided in this document should not be considered legal advice and should not substitute for legal advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. Recommendations are provided based on good faith assessment and interpretation of the available legal and regulatory resources.