The 2012-2013 flu season arrived earlier than usual and is hitting the Puget Sound region particularly hard. As the nation braces for increased flu activity, now is the time to prepare yourself, your business and your employees. Not only is prevention important for physical health, it may impact your bottom line if your staff are out sick. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers these tips to help you avoid illness and maintain business continuity.
Identify a workplace coordinator. This person would be the single point of contact for all issues relating to a flu outbreak and be responsible for reaching out to community health providers and implementing protocols for dealing with ill employees, in advance of any outbreak or impact on the business.
Examine policies for leave, telecommuting and employee compensation. Obviously this will vary by business, but the emphasis here is on refreshing yourself and your employees about what your company’s health-care plans cover in the event of sick leave as a result of the flu. You should also re-evaluate leave policies to ensure a flexible, nonpunitive plan that allows for impacted individuals to stay at home. Employees may also need to stay at home to care for sick children or telecommuting in the event of school closures. Be prepared for this by implementing appropriate telecommuting infrastructures in advance.
Post signs or host a flu vaccination clinic for employees. The Centers for Disease Control provides free posters and stock content for your employee newsletter that will remind staff about flu vaccinations and other safety precautions. The CDC also recommends holding a flu vaccination clinic for your employees, among other strategies, for ensuring your employees have access to the seasonal flu vaccine. The CDC Flu Toolkit for Businesses provides all of these great resources.
Identify essential employees, essential business functions and other critical inputs. Make plans to maintain communication and ensure clear work direction with critical personnel and vendors (and even customers) in the event that the supply chain is broken or other unpredictable disruptions occur.
Share your flu and other pandemic plans with employees and clearly communicate expectations. Consider posting a bilingual version of your preparedness plan, leave information, health tips and other flu awareness resources across all your work locations and online if you operate an Intranet.
Prepare business continuity plans. Absenteeism or other workplace changes need to be addressed early on so you can maintain business operations. Get tips on common sense measures your business can take from SBA.gov/Prepare.
Establish an emergency communication plan. Hopefully your business already has some form of emergency communication plan. If not, document your key business contacts (with back-ups), the chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.