Your office prepares for tornadoes and floods. You practice fire drills and you might even receive training for active shooter threats. But the flu season is coming and most offices don’t prepare for this people-specific disaster.
Unlike disasters where buildings collapse or infrastructure is damaged, pandemics leave everything functioning — except people. Troy Jester, Vantage Point’s President and leading emergency preparedness trainer notes, “If you can’t get people into work, then what good is your disaster planning up to now?”
Businesses with front-line employees working with customers need to think differently about how to protect themselves and their customers. Space people further out, have sanitizing wipes at every desk and juncture where people interact, and keep sanitizing gel near anyone who shakes hands and speaks closely with people. “There’s no scientific number to protect people, but we recommend six feet of distance based on conjecture from a CDC study for ‘social distancing’,” adds Jester. “At the very least, move meetings into larger rooms, keep sanitizer in there, and lighten up on the office donuts and other food that litters break rooms. Use individually packaged food instead,” he says.
“Employers may find another way to protect their operations is to move as much as possible online,” says Jester. “We recognize some employers frown on the work-from-home model, and it doesn’t work in every industry, but it works in a lot if done well.” Employees who work from home can avoid becoming sick or infecting others. Divide your staff into categories about who can work from home, who can’t, and what degree of severity everyone in-between can and can’t come to work. You may find as flu season wears on your non-mission-critical employees work from home, then your tier-two employees, and on the way up to mission-critical employees.
Consider altering daily routine for staff and operations, too. You may check envelopes, papers, and packages delivered by customers, staff, or other humans daily. If you handle a high volume, the chances for increased infection go up. Instead, let them sit for 24 hours in a dry area — that will weaken or kill some viruses. Keep wipes and masks handy, and remind employees to wash hands every few hours, before eating, and after using the restroom.
Businesses may be able to turn the flu season into a marketing opportunity. You can hand branded bottles of sanitizing gel to customers. Or, if customers need to sign or punch data into a keypad or tablet, hand them a capacitive ink pen — then tell them to keep it.
Unlike other threats where we encourage people to run, hide, or fight, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from a virus. You can’t move to another building or just go home forever. Our only option is to fight. Document your processes and prepare to distribute as much as you can remotely, but double your cleaning and sanitizing efforts to fight off losses and update your disaster plans. Consider funding a flu shot vaccination day or at least encourage staff to get one on their own. Make sure they understand their benefits and what it will cost.
Do you want to get more help updating your disaster plans? Vantage Point Consulting offers preparedness and training programs for all kinds of disasters, including pandemics and viral threats. To learn how to get a custom action plan and report, contact us before the flu season starts in earnest.
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