Insights on business -- and life.
Are you ready for the worst?
by Paula Jones (November 23, 2009)
Pandemic is a scary word, no one wants to be sick, but have you
considered how a pandemic might affect your business? The recent H1
N1 "swine flu" outbreak should give business owners pause
for thought. How would a full pandemic or severe local outbreak
affect your business and what can you do to prepare your business
and educate your staff? Pandemic preparation could be equally
applicable to local disasters such as flooding, earthquakes,
tornados, terrorist attacks, or other such large-scale disasters
that North American has experienced since the turn of the century.
Pandemics create a unique set of considerations to business, as
it is more of a human resource issue than anything structural. One
source suggests that "Businesses should plan for up to 50%
staff absence for periods of two weeks at the height of a severe
pandemic wave, and lower levels of staff either absence for a few
weeks either side of the peak. Overall a pandemic wave may last
about eight weeks."
A more detailed explanation suggests, "The average illness
will affect an employee for 6-12 days. Some will require more time
to recover. The "first wave" of the pandemic may last 6
weeks to 4 months. A "second wave" may last 6-10 months
– and could be worse than the first wave."
Another sources stated that "A flu virus can be contagious
for 24 to 48 hours before any symptoms arise, and for five days
after the onset of symptoms. This means you or your staff could
spread the virus without knowing you are infected."
Business Continuity Plan
It is important to bear in mind that critical infrastructure
could be greatly affected, directly related to manpower shortages,
closures of schools and public places, and restrictions on air
travel. In addition, the restricted movement of potential customers
will affect your business for an even longer period of time.
Emergency planning for business is called a "continuity
plan." There are online and printed resources available to help
put together your continuity plan, but do not wait until an
emergency or a pandemic strikes before you begin your preparations.
There is no blanket insurance for business disruption. Obviously
it is easier to cover physical destruction of property that is
measurable, but according to one Canadian insurance broker I spoke
with, no such coverage exists for pandemics. So how can you prepare
yourself for disruption of business? Crafting is not an essential
service, and sales will definitely be affected. You may choose to
close your business for the duration or plan alternatives to
servicing your customers. You may not know how long you will be
closed or have your business disrupted, so you need to have a
contingency plan of what you may need to consider and actions you
may need to take.
1. Has your staff been trained in disease prevention and do
you have an infection control program?
2. Do you encourage flu shots?
3. Has staff traveled to an affected area recently?
4. Have you cross-trained your staff so healthy staff can
perform functions of absent colleagues?
5. Take into account staff having to stay home to care for
their sick family.
6. Employees may be forced into confinement or quarantined
because of exposure or symptoms of the disease.
7. Do you have an easily accessible staff contact list at
home, complete with home and cell phone numbers? Does key management
have copies of this list in case that you are incapacitated?
8. Are you responsible for paying sick days if full-time
staff are absent? How long would this payable?
9. Is there any local or federal government legislation
regarding protecting an employees job during an emergency? Does your
state or province protect a leave of absence in urgent
circumstances, where the government has declared an emergency? Will
(Note: Paula is Director of Operations for the Canadian Craft & Hobby
Association, which is located at 633419 Hwy 10 N, Mono Plaza, PO Box
101, Orangeville, Ontario, L9W 2Z5. Call 519-940-5969; fax
519-941-0492; email firstname.lastname@example.org.)