6 Things to Consider in Making a Pandemic Preparedness Plan for Businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to wreak global health and economic havoc, has exposed the lack of planning and preparedness of businesses in dealing with such events. While some may argue that this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, having a pandemic preparedness plan for businesses is a must so companies are better equipped should another pandemic happen.

  1. Plan for Pandemic’s Impact on Business

The current pandemic should serve as a lesson for businesses: A solid plan for dealing with a pandemic is a must-have.

Companies should start by developing or updating their business continuity plans. Having teams responsible for making and continuously updating these plans is a must as it will also come in useful in dealing with other emergencies.

Businesses have to establish the decision-making process during these times. Furthermore, they have to identify employees, services, and other inputs that are critical to maintaining business operations.

Developing plans and financial forecasts for both a sharp increase and decrease in demand for the business’ products is also a must. Teams should come up with plans for numerous scenarios such as quarantines, closures of borders, banning of mass gatherings, and the like that could affect product lines and cash flow.

Clear lines of communication between the company and all its stakeholders should also be in place. This includes having consistent, reliable, and updated information on the pandemic that the company can use to make decisions with and relay to all its stakeholders.

Perhaps most importantly, any pandemic preparedness plan for businesses should also establish their recovery plan.

It is important to run simulations to test these plans, and to continuously review and revise them as necessary.

  1. Plan for the Pandemic’s Impact on Stakeholders

Another crucial part of any pandemic preparedness plan for businesses is the assessment of how the emergency will affect all of the business’ stakeholders.

The business should anticipate employee absences during a pandemic, as well as the different reasons for them. The company should have policies on absences prepared for various reasons like limited transportation, personal or family illnesses, or government-initiated containment measures.

Assess the level of access employees have to healthcare services should another pandemic come. Encourage employees to maintain healthy lifestyles and keep their vaccines updated while also improving healthcare services as needed.

Keep in mind stakeholders who might have special needs when you assess these factors. Furthermore, make sure not to ignore the importance of the availability of both social services and mental health facilities especially for your employees. 

  1. Establish Pandemic-Specific Company Policies to be Implemented

To ensure a smooth flow of operations despite a pandemic, having a set of policies specific to this event should be included in any pandemic preparedness plan for businesses.

One policy companies should consider is employee compensation and leave balances during a pandemic. Not only should this policy be beneficial to the company and employee, it should also be compliant with the local labor laws.

Rules on flexible working hours and locations, as well as the availability of these facilities, should also be planned for. Company regulations should be put in place to limit the spread of the pandemic within the worksite.

These include the restriction of travel to highly-affected areas, the possible evacuation of employees near those areas, and the policies for employees coming in from those areas. A separate policy should also be established for people who were exposed to, are suspected to be, or have tested positive for the disease.

  1. Allocate Resources to Protect Stakeholders

Make sure to have enough resources as well to protect your clients and your employees from the pandemic. Infection-control supplies such as hand sanitizers, tissues, and disposal bins should be accessible to everyone at all times.

If possible, revisit the company’s information technology structure so employees can work from home. Make sure to provide medical emergency support for employees should the need arise.

Keep in mind that disinfecting tools should be ready for use at all times.

  1. Communicate to and Educate your Employees

A free flow of accurate, timely, and reliable information about the pandemic, its current status, and how best to fight it is the key to beating the disease or at least managing it. Communication and education, therefore, should be a key chapter in any pandemic preparedness plan for businesses.

Inform employees of policies and measures the company is establishing to battle the pandemic. Establish a clear line of communication for employees to voice their concerns and queries regarding these policies.

Have communication lines ready for reporting possible pandemic-related illnesses as well as for taking care of them.

Establish your sources for clear, accurate, and quick information on the pandemic as well as measures that one can do to counter it. Make sure to disseminate all these to your employees as well.

Educate them about the fundamentals of the pandemic such as the modes of transmission, the importance of proper hygiene, prevention, and other things to do or avoid doing to help curb its spread.

Anticipate the cultivation of fear among employees especially as misinformation and rumors begin to circulate. Again, battle this with transparency paired with reliable and timely information.

  1. Coordinate with External Organizations and Help Your Community

In the spirit of corporate social responsibility, the final part of any pandemic preparedness plan for businesses should be how those businesses can help the community fight the pandemic.

Once the company has put its business continuity plans into motion, established its policies, and ensured the welfare of both the business and all its stakeholders, it should begin looking outside to see how it can help the community. Companies should coordinate with the local government and health agencies to contribute in any way they can.

The business might have assets that it could contribute to the fight against the pandemic. Furthermore, the sharing of practices implemented by the company might come in as a useful tool for others’ containment of the disease.

Overall, aim to improve and contribute to the response efforts of the community by offering to help in whatever way you or your business can.

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This Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist is a useful tool that most countries and businesses use as a guide in preparing for any kind of business disruption.

The devastating effects of COVID-19 should serve as a lesson about the importance of a pandemic preparedness plan for businesses. The items above give a quick overview of the things you should consider when planning for it.

Do you have other questions about making a pandemic preparedness plan for businesses? Ask them in the comments section below!

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