Will you be ready if the H1N1 virus hits your business? According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25% of businesses do not reopen after a major disaster such as a flu pandemic. The most important thing that you can do is to develop a written plan and do it now!
Under the heading of prevention, encourage your employees to get the flu shot. Consider placing posters in your break-room to remind people to wash their hands and practice good workplace hygiene. Place hand sanitizers at strategic locations such as next to all keyboards and phones. Now might be the time to encourage social distancing, limiting handshakes, etc. Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick so that they do not spread their illness to their co-workers.
Review your Sick Leave Policy to be sure that it is flexible, non-punitive, and well-communicated. Consider allowing employees to work from home if possible or to come in on off-hours to allow them to care for sick family members during the day.
Review your job descriptions to identify which tasks are critical and which can be postponed if necessary. If you begin to lose employees to illness, can the remaining staff combine the critical tasks and keep the business functioning? Update your procedure manuals so that anyone can step in and perform the essential tasks if necessary, even if there is no one available to train them. Take the time now to do some cross-training for your essential tasks.
Worst case scenario, who can you bring in to staff your business if you have a major outbreak? Contact family members, neighbors who are not working full time, etc., who might be willing to help you out in an emergency. Bring them in for some high-level training if possible. Talk to your area temp agencies now to develop a plan to cover for your skilled positions.
Look at some of your other essential functions, such as suppliers and subcontractors, to evaluate whether your business can keep going if their business has to shut down for a period of time. If not, identify alternatives. Who will take care of business if YOU are sick or home caring for a family member?
Develop a list of contacts based on your above plan. Communicate, communicate, communicate so that all of your employees know what to do and where to find the information.
If you are looking for more information, the Department of Homeland Security, the CDC, and the SBA has issued a guide to help you develop a plan. You can access this along with other flu related information at www.flu.gov.