We have watched as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has moved across the globe since the end of 2019. Every day, we see media reporting a growing number of confirmed cases in a greater number of countries. And it is now in Canada and in your home province. If you have not yet started, now is the time for businesses to review their business continuity and get serious about developing a plan.
Plan for business disruption –The tolerance for employee absence is unique to each organization but it is important that an organization identify what percentage of absent employees would create significant disruption to business operations and plan accordingly. Could the business function with a loss of 30% or greater of their employees? If the entire business is operating out of one location, how will a regional, national, or global health crisis disrupt operations? Can the business operate with employees working from home? Find solutions to these questions to minimize business disruption.
An ounce of prevention – COVID-19 spreads either through close contact with an infected person or through contact with contaminated surfaces. While it may be difficult to control the transmission of the virus, there are steps an employer can take to maintain a healthy environment:
- Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick. Ask them to return to the office only after they are free of symptoms for at least 14 days.
- Keep surfaces clean. Instruct facilities personnel to clean surfaces thoroughly.
- Minimize group meetings to reduce the potential for transmission. Use video conferencing or other technologies. When group meetings are necessary, ensure that there is appropriate air circulation.
- Encourage good hygiene. Post signs in bathrooms to remind employees to wash their hands with soap and water. Place additional tissue boxes, hand sanitizer and garbage cans in strategic locations where employees congregate such as break rooms, lunch areas, or collaboration spaces.
- Where possible consider work from home options for employees.
Business Continuity – While the best time to create a business continuity plan is well in advance of a crisis, there are steps that you can take now to prepare for the worst. Start by identifying which organizational processes will be most affected by a disruptive event. Anticipate the types of disruption that pose the greatest risk, and proactively implement policies and procedures to mitigate their effects.
Every organization has a duty to protect the health and safety of its employees. That duty is even greater during a critical event involving infectious disease like the COVID-19 Pandemic. A systematic approach to planning for employee safety during a disruptive event is recommended.
Issues to consider and plan for:
- Be aware of & review federal, provincial, and municipal health department recommendations, and integrate into your plan.
- Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce.
- Identify possible exposures and health risks to your employees.
- Plan for downsizing services but also anticipate any scenario which may require a surge in services.
- Recognize that in the course of normal daily life, all employees will have non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
- Stockpile items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, & recommended personal protective equipment.
- Provide employees and customers with easy access to infection control supplies.
- Develop policies and practices that, if necessary, can be introduced to separate employees, customers, and the public.
- Identify a team to serve as a communication resource so that employees and customers have access to accurate information throughout the crisis.
- Work with employees & their union(s) to address leave, pay, transportation, childcare, absence, & other human resource issues.
- Provide training, education, and informational material about business-essential job functions and employee health and safety.
- Work with your benefits provider, and provincial and municipal health agencies to provide accurate information to employees and customers regarding medical information specific to the event.
- Assist employees in managing additional stressors (i.e. Employee Assistance Program – EAP).
Follow these essential steps to create the foundation for a Business Continuity Plan:
- Conduct a risk assessment to identify critical processes & functions.
- Identify compliance requirements.
- Identify essential employees to deliver critical processes and functions.
- Determine the agility of the workforce and resources needed during a disruption.
- Review current (or develop) policies regarding remote work, paid or unpaid sick or personal time.
- Review (or develop) policy to encourage sick or unwell employees to work remotely or isolated from other employees.
- Align business travel to align with government-mandated travel restrictions.
- Define internal and external stakeholders for conveying communication.
- Identify critical suppliers & partners and review their business continuity plans.
- Train response team members on responsibilities during a disruption.
- Test the Business Continuity Plan by conducting tabletop exercises.
- Communicate strategies with employees, customers, consumers and partners.