How to prepare for coronavirus to protect your business and employees?
More and more companies around the world are feeling the effects of the crisis and prepare for coronavirus.
Stocks market plunge and the number of coronavirus cases surges.
How can you protect your employees and your business to mitigate the pandemic threats?
There are now more than 100’000 confirmed cases of coronavirus (novel coronavirus or covid-19) around the world. At least 100 countries have coronavirus cases.
In the US alone, as of March 13, 1600 cases were reported and the death toll reached 41.
Here are the things you can do to educate, prepare your employees and clients, protect your business and prepare for coronavirus.
You need first to understand, then mobilize your team and finally plan ahead.
Understand: Key facts about coronavirus
What is coronavirus?
The coronavirus is named after the crown-like spikes on its surface (corona means crown in Latin). There are 7 known coronaviruses, that can infect humans.
The name covid-19 refers to the year 2019, the year the virus was first discovered.
This is a “zoonotic” virus, which means transmitted between animals and people.
Civet cats transmitted the SARS virus to humans, while the MERS passed from dromedary camels to humans.
So far, the closest match to covid-19 was found in a bat in China’s Yunnan province. But other researchers argue that viruses found in pangolins are even closer with more than 99% genetic match. Pangolins are sought after in China for their meat and their scales.
What are the symptoms?
Watch for cough, fever, difficulty to breathe, shortness of breath as listed by the CDC. In some cases, sore throat, even vomiting or diarrhea.
You can be infected and even don’t know you are sick: symptoms can be mild to non-existent for 80% of those who become infected.
In severe cases, the infection leads to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even patient death.
Protect your employees and help them to protect themselves to prepare for coronavirus
Your employees are the key: to protect your business against coronavirus, you need them to be protected.
How does the virus spread is not yet totally understood: however, direct contact with an infected person seems the more likely mode of transmission.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets are expelled and can be inhaled by other individuals (within 6 feet).
It is unknown how long the coronavirus can survive on a surface (between 3 hours to 9 days depending on the nature of the surface). But if droplets from an infected person land onto a surface, another person rubbing her nose or eyes after touching the surface might well get infected.
But the good news is that your favorite household disinfectant (or diluted bleach solution) can deactivate coronaviruses on indoor surfaces. Check the environmental Protection Agency list of disinfectants proven to be effective in fighting coronaviruses.
The main recommendations to prevent infection spread among employees and generally are:
- Regularly washing hands with soap or hand sanitizer and water, (wash your hands before eating, after using the toilets, after blowing your nose, after touching animals). Follow the CDC recommendations on how to wash your hands properly.
- Covering mouth and nose, when coughing or sneezing
- Only consuming well-cooked meat and eggs
- Avoiding any contact with anyone exposing symptoms of respiratory difficulties (coughing or sneezing)
Mobilize to prepare for coronavirus
Who is in charge there? Build a cross-functional task force
This is not a one-man show!
Build a task force around Human Resources, Communications, Operations, legal and finance, and IT departments.
You need enough stakeholders to well represent the company departments and bring thought diversity.
But avoid bringing to many people to the table. If the decision-making process is too long, your response time will increase and hinder your preparation for coronavirus.
Bring in a strong sponsor
Establish the governance of the task force: whether you call it “steering committee”, or “C-level sponsor”, you better send a message to the employees and customers that decisions will be taken.
Make it clear what kind of decisions can be taken and implemented by the task-force.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicate: people want to know and understand why decisions are made. Set up the cadence of communications, so that your employees can count on them.
Define what to communicate on using the standard, “what’, “when”, “who”, “how”, “how often” and “why” framework.
Besides official communication, internal communication (upward, laterally and downward) also plays a key role.
Assess the possible impact
Prepare for coronavirus: Avoid legal risks by reviewing your policies
The last thing you want is your company being sued by some employees for getting infected by the coronavirus.
This could happen in the workplace or during a company gathering.
Or while on a business trip organized by and for your company.
As the employee should demonstrate that the infection was caused by the working conditions, which means that there was no other opportunity for exposure, it is unlikely that the company will finally be responsible for the medical cost. But why take the risk?
First, you should communicate clearly to your employees that their safety is your number one priority.
Review your travel policies to protect your business
Build an MVTP (minimum viable travel plan) restricting business trips to the bare minimum.
Using resources like Zoom you can hold a video conference of up to 100 participants. Free software like Skype or Viber allows group call chats.
Then re-evaluate the opportunity of any large-scale event. Does it really make business sense? What are the pros and cons? Could a video conference be organized instead?
Chances are, there will be few benefits to hold such gathering in the midst of the pandemic. So, don’t hesitate to postpone or cancel these events.
Update your business continuity plan to prepare for coronavirus.
The dreaded business continuity plan management exercise…
Weel this time is for real! Time to take this one out of the drawer, where it might have been collecting dust years after years!
What would happen if you become sick? Or if you need to self-quarantine as you discover that you have been exposed to a contaminated person? Who will be in charge then?
Do you have a solid communication system with your employees, your clients in case you need to go 100% remote?
Which supply chain disruption is most likely to happen? any redundancy already in place?
The situation is bad but could get worst, unfortunately. How will your company survive in different scenarios?
How will your key business functions continue in different levels of disruption?
Update your work from home policy or program.
According to a Gallup report, more than 40% of US employees benefit in one form or another from work from home programs.
Don’t have it yet? Well, that’s the perfect time to implement one.
Can employees efficiently work from home? Can your IT infrastructure, like VPN handle the load? Or will the accounting system go down from the overuse in just a few hours?
Being well prepared for coronavirus will help you face what can be the most severe business disruption of the past 30 years.