The COVID-19 pandemic has been causing widespread panic and trepidation. It has already infected over 240,000 people and killed more than 10,000 across more than 160 countries. Health care facilities across the globe are getting overwhelmed by the rising number of patients. Moreover, many countries have commenced national lockdowns, which, in turn, is taking a toll on the global economy.
Businesses across the globe are grappling with repercussions of the outbreak as “quarantine” and “social distancing” become the buzzwords. How do you ensure business continuity without jeopardizing the health and safety of your employees? The only solution is to devise an infectious disease readiness plan. If your business doesn’t have a strategy yet, then it is high time you get started.
Here are the six critical components of infectious disease readiness:
The only way to prepare for an impending outbreak is to keep a close eye on the world around you. The key is to monitor various news sources and government announcements. This, in turn, helps you identify any threat before it escalates out of control. It also gives top-level decision-makers time to plan and implement emergency protocols.
Additionally, you should set up a dedicated analyst team that regularly obtains information from various sources. Apart from letting you identify risks, it helps you understand how an incident is progressing. You can even set automatic alerts to notify key decision-makers when an incident crosses a specific threshold of severity.
This is the stage where you should also determine the legal repercussions of an outbreak. You should analyze your existing policies do not compromise the wellbeing of your employees to maintain business continuity. It’s equally crucial to understand your responsibilities and obligations as an employer.
Likewise, you should regularly track the whereabouts of key stakeholders. These include senior-level decision-makers, employees who will likely get affected as well as vendors and suppliers. Additionally, you should have a clear idea of their travel plans, personal and professional, in the upcoming months.
How can you prepare to tackle an outbreak when your employees don’t have the correct information about it? It is highly important to educate your employees about the disease and its symptoms. You should also outline the steps they can take to safeguard themselves and others. These could include tips on personal hygiene, healthy diet, social distancing, etc.
Likewise, it is essential to help them understand what they should do if they contract the infection. You can disseminate all this information using various channels, including emails, social media, and text messages. Additionally, you should create a document outlining the preventive measures and distribute via a mass notification system with the ability to share files. These steps can go a long way to alert your employees even before an outbreak comes knocking at your door.
Any crisis is bound to stir panic and hysteria. An infectious disease outbreak isn’t an exception. The most effective way to keep the situation under control is through strong and insightful leadership. The idea is to give your employees someone to look up to for guidance and support.
The first step is to identify key decision-makers. Apart from top-level executives, such as CEOs and COOs, you can include people in managerial positions. The key is to select people who can remain calm and resolute when faced with a storm. Think of them as your emergency responders.
The next step is to form an incident response team and assign clear responsibilities to each member. In the event of a crisis, the responders shouldn’t have to waste time waiting for authorization from senior officials. Prompt decision-making and action can go a long way to reduce delays in conveying crucial information and applying preventive measures. This, in turn, helps protect your employees while minimizing the impact of the outbreak on your revenue.
Timely and transparent communication with all key stakeholders is one of the most crucial aspects of infectious disease readiness. It isn’t just about letting them know when the outbreak occurs. The key is to update them about the steps you’re taking to control the situation. It can go a long way to keep them calm and restore their faith in your business.
The first thing you should do is send out regular updates to all your employees. These updates should include accurate information about the outbreak and its impact. Make sure you keep the messages concise and simple. Moreover, it is recommended that you use a system that facilitates two-way communication to let your employees respond to your alerts.
Likewise, you should also maintain regular communication with your suppliers and vendors. It lets you identify if any of your suppliers are located in the affected areas. This, in turn, enables you to determine the impact on your supply chains and business operations.
It is equally important to update your customers about the steps you’re taking to ensure uninterrupted operations. Even if you’re going for temporary closure, let them know. You can use an emergency notification system to send these updates. You should also use other channels such as social media to convey crucial information. Here’s how you can select the perfect emergency notification system for your business.
5. Policies & Partnerships
What happens if an employee contracts the infectious disease? In the absence of adequate paid leaves, sick employees will be forced to report for work, potentially infecting their coworkers. That is why it is essential to re-evaluate your leave policies and allow extended sick leaves for affected employees. This is also a good time to review employee benefits and insurance policies.
Additionally, you should also consider implementing remote working facilities. Make sure you conduct a few trial runs before employees are forced to work from home due to the outbreak. It is also recommended that you build relationships with trading partners and public health agencies. Such partnerships will ensure that your business runs uninterrupted while employees are regularly screened for infections.
The end of an outbreak or pandemic doesn’t mark the completion of your infectious disease readiness plan. In the aftermath of the pandemic, it is essential to look back at the strategies you implemented. Make sure you maintain proper documentation at every step. It is equally crucial to determine whether these steps were useful in maintaining business continuity and protecting your key stakeholders.
This is critical because it lets you identify the loopholes and gaps in your strategy. Moreover, you should determine the impact of the outbreak on your business and revenue. The idea is to learn from these mistakes and be better prepared for the next pandemic.
While you can’t control the spread of infectious disease, you can develop a plan to minimize its impact on your business. Start with sourcing and monitoring critical data to identify threats and risks. Identify key decision-makers and outline clear responsibilities for each of them. It is also essential to educate your employees and staff about the disease, its symptoms, preventive measures, etc.
Maintain continuous communication with all key stakeholders, such as employees, suppliers, and customers. Let them know what you’re doing to minimize the impact of the outbreak on your business. It is also recommended that you revise existing leave, confidentiality, and insurance policies. Lastly, when the outbreak has ceased, make sure you evaluate the strategy and its impact to identify any gaps and rectify them for the future.
What steps has your company taken for infectious disease preparedness? Share your views in the comments section below.