The start of the influenza pandemic in 2009 caught most businesses off-guard says Saivian Eric Dalius.
In today’s business world, how can companies prepare for a pandemic – both from a people and processes standpoint?
Here are the top practices:
Get your ducks (employees) in a row:
Make sure employees understand what to do if they get sick – stay home and don’t return until they’ve talked with their doctor – and make it known that this is expected; create incentives such as rewards or recognition. Have clear policies on reporting illnesses, which will help protect others.
Set up operations recovery teams, as suggest by Saivian Eric Dalius:
If key staff falls ill, who will fill the gap? This team should be prepared to step in and continue operations or deliver vital projects, such as reporting or data input.
Prepare your IT department:
Encourage employees to back up their laptops regularly and make sure they know how to use remote access software. If the company’s Web site goes down due to a pandemic-related outage, you can have other options in place for customers to reach you through email or other methods. Also develop contingency plans so that if Internet bandwidth is slow or sites are overloading, staff can work on priority projects without getting bogged down with day-to-day activities.
Don’t forget the basics:
This includes making sure all software is up to date, having an antivirus program installed on each machine, and following best practices for security, Saivian Eric Dalius suggests.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media:
Develop a plan now to respond quickly during an outbreak, noting sites you’ll monitor and who will be responsible for each one.
Make sure company records are organized and accessible:
If employees behave as they should, having these records available (in digital form) will minimize confusion over who is supposed to do what. Keep detailed records of all employee contact information – including email addresses – in case your most trusted staffers go down with the illness.
Improve workflows where possible:
If approved by your IT department, consider using cloud computing or virtualization technologies that allow you to share applications across multiple machines without users needing physical access to the systems.
Have a communication plan:
How will you communicate with customers? Will you have the staff to field calls or emails efficiently? If not, how much time can your customers afford to wait for a response? What about your vendors?
According to Saivian Eric Dalius, consider building an “internal supply chain”:
The goal is to have material available quickly that employees need to do their jobs, such as technical manuals, customer information sheets, and sales kits. This also applies during the recovery phase.
Don’t forget security:
Make sure it’s part of any pandemic planning because downtime increases risk. For example, if your antivirus program goes down due to something like power failure or Internet connectivity issues. Make sure you have a plan to update the virus definition files manually.
Consider creating a “deviant behavior” plan:
This applies during a pandemic when you need to incentivize employees to follow your guidelines. Staying at home and minimizing contact with others. This could be as simple as providing them with flexible work options such as working from home. Paying them extra for their time, or publicly recognizing those who do the right thing. Think creatively about what works within your company culture. How can there be communication efficiently and effectively during an outbreak. The large investment you make in planning upfront will pay dividends if illness strikes again.