Many businesses had long-term continuity plans set up in the event of an emergency, like the pandemic. However, others were left scrambling to develop a new set of standards they had not previously considered necessary. The retail, restaurant, hospitality, travel and entertainment industries are just a few industries that rely on an active consumer base to stay in business. Some adapted to the crisis by retooling their business models, like the restaurant industry. Still, since most other industries rely on a financially-healthy consumer, they could continue to be expendable until economic recovery.
“Even though many organizations have returned to an in-person setting, now is not the time to let your guard down. Employers should stay vigilant on cleaning procedures and positive reporting policies,” said Matt McDonough, Director of Risk Services at Safety National. “Many employees will still have additional concerns, so it is important to communicate what the company is doing to keep the workplace as safe as possible.”
Here are five crucial elements to include in your continuity plan development and execution.
1. Develop your continuity plan and prepare alternatives.
By now, most businesses that returned to an in-office setting have adjusted to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and transmission in their workforce. Many organizations adopted flexible schedules, increased work from home opportunities, and staggered shifts to lower transmission throughout their workforce. Additionally, with many childcare facilities experiencing outbreak-related closures and stricter procedures, these accommodations proved essential to parents. Employers should be prepared to answer questions not previously considered regarding remote work possibilities.
For those in the essential workforce, particularly healthcare, understand the demands of personal protective equipment for your employees and how you can adapt if supplies run short. For businesses like restaurants, consider what your curbside or delivery model looked like and if you are adequately staffed to accommodate those needs in the future. Regardless of industry, spotlight your business’ vulnerabilities and have a backup plan for each.
2. Communicate with your workforce, clients and partners.
Be transparent. If you have a developed continuity plan in place, share it with your employees, clients and partners. Even if you are still developing a plan or are making adjustments as situations change, provide them with timely updates. Internally, have set procedures for employees to report their positive cases confidentially. Stay in touch with local health officials so that you can share local updates within your organization.
3. Educate your workforce.
As information becomes readily available surrounding a pandemic, share tips from reliable resources, like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Inform them of your company’s safety procedures for prevention, and if travel restrictions apply, enforce them. Remember that your employees may have feelings of insecurity, and they will be relying on you to feel informed and safe.
4. Reassess and prepare your workplace.
If you have employees coming back to a physical workspace, step up hygienic measures. Make face masks and hand sanitizer readily available and post safety signs in high-visibility areas, like restroom mirrors. Review areas where higher transmission is possible and increase their frequency of cleaning, including high-touchpoint areas like conference rooms, shared desks and kitchens. If you have a cleaning service, review detailed plans for increased sanitizing.
5. Prepare communications for worst-case scenarios.
How will you properly inform your staff if you are faced with layoffs or need to furlough employees? What if positive cases increase dramatically in your region, and you need to return to a full-time work-from-home setting? No business wants to face the possibility of relaying bad news, but understanding how employees may react can provide insight into their level of trust in your organization. Prepare how you will address these situations and develop communication channels proactively.
While businesses can never be entirely immune to how pandemics or other emergencies disrupt operations, employers always have the opportunity to be proactive and as ready as possible. Starting with these steps can be an accurate indicator of your emergency preparedness, while also displaying your commitment to the safety of your workforce, enabling more trust from your employees.