Is your business prepared to deal with the coronavirus?

Organisations should be thinking about their crisis management plans now

Is your business prepared to deal with the coronavirus?

As the coronavirus continues to spread, how ready is your business to deal with the impacts such as a skeleton team or people working from home?

K3 Consulting’s Karyn Gould said New Zealand organisations should be thinking about their crisis management plans now, particularly with the traditional flu season also coming up, or in preparation for unseen events such as earthquakes.

“What will you do if team members can’t get into the office or their children can’t go to school? Do you have a work-from-home plan, will you pay for their additional wi-fi or mobile phone costs, and how generous will you be around sick leave? These are the sort of questions you need to be able to answer now,” said Gould.

Foundation requirements which should already be in place are up-to-date emergency contact details for all team members and contractors, an agreed “call-tree” for who to contact in the event of a crisis, a health and safety policy that covers employer practices and likely employee concerns, and a process for providing regular updates.

Gould added that businesses should be carrying out risk assessments and analysis and then putting plans in place to protect workers’ health, safety and wellbeing.

“In the case of the spread of a virus, the most obvious risk will be if a worker has been in contact with someone who is sick or they have contracted the virus. However, the potential fear and personal disruption impacts are much broader.”

Ask yourself the right questions now, so you can take action quickly and effectively when needed.

What can you do to mitigate the requirement for team member absence or isolation?

Gould said it’s important to consider these impacts:

  • Will you allow remote working for team members, and what flexibility do you allow for this?
  • What are the acceptable risks of travel (limited or frequent; car versus plane) and the potential exposure for team members to large crowds?
  • If there is a major outbreak and team members are temporarily suspended or asked to take an indefinite period of leave without pay, what process would you follow? This would require genuine consultation and agreement. If remote working becomes necessary, what resources will people need (e.g.  computers, subsidised wifi or mobile costs especially given the reduction in home landlines, access to networks and files, safeguards for sensitive information) and can the business provide this?
  • What reporting will be in place to assess the quality and quantity of remote work?
  • How do you manage a virtual workforce to prevent feelings of isolation or the spread of misinformation?
  • How will team members communicate differently with clients? This could be from a practical perspective, such as redirecting client calls, or from a client experience perspective.
  • Will the business support any interrupted childcare services or school attendance by allowing parents to work from home or take leave?
  • What if an employee uses all their sick leave – do you have policies in place for using annual leave or taking sick days in advance?
  • If illness does strike and you end up with a skeleton team onsite, will the remaining team members be expected to cover the full workload or will you focus on urgent work only? Have you got access to temp agencies to fill the gaps? What if temps aren’t available?
  • Looking wider, what if your suppliers or business partners are in a similar situation? Do you have contingencies in place if your IT provider or payroll service can’t operate normally?

Moreover, leaders will also need to be supported to ensure they feel confident providing information to their teams. For example, if leaders haven’t managed remote workforces before, how will you upskill them?

Throughout any crisis, communication is key. You need to provide timely information to team members on latest developments and let them know who to approach for more information and support, according to K3.

Some employers set up a hotline with a recorded message or send out regular email updates. Reassure team members and customers of the measures you are taken to ensure their well-being in your workplace.

Finally, it’s important to demonstrate care and concern to anyone who is confirmed or suspected of infection.

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