A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: How to prepare your family and your business for the novel Coronavirus; stay ready

Unless you have been living under a rock these last few days, then you probably have been hearing and reading the news about the recent Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that it expects the novel coronavirus that has sparked outbreaks around the world to begin spreading at a community level in the United States, as a top official said that disruptions to daily life could be severe.

Some debate that this virus isn’t any worse than the flu, while others will tell you it worse and that this can grow into a full-fledged pandemic.   

Being a risk management and safety professional who is preparing to potentially experience my first ever pandemic, I say that it’s better to plan and prepare for the worse and to hope for the best.   

Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready is half the victory, and remember that it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.

Winning can be defined as the science of being prepared and Noah was the ultimate doomsday prepper. Yes, he had a little divine intervention, nevertheless, I live by the motto that if you are failing to prepare for this virus, then you are preparing to get sick. 

Being the prepper that I am, back in January I ordered some N-95 mask and 2000 surgical masks even though I knew that they weren’t effective. Since then I have gone out and bought boxes of neoprene gloves, several bottles of hand sanitizers and sanitizer wipes, bacterial soap and enough cheap $2 safety goggles that I found in the Walmart hardware section, to outfit my entire family.   

Then this past week I went out and stocked up on enough food supply, water, wine, gasoline, medicine, dogfood, and of course coffee because I don’t think I could survive being bunkered down for two weeks of self-quarantine without my Java.   

Being our in-house safety consultant, I started to prepare for the eventual onslaught of requests for information on the Coronavirus and started to develop and stock up on posters, educational flyers, business continuity plan templates, and checklists to better prepare our clients.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

If a full-fledged pandemic was to occur, not every business is going to be equipped to address and implement the necessary controls to protect their employees; and will be forced to shut down production and operations.   

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the world, organizations are closing offices, mandating remote working and reviewing corporate travel policies.  In Japan to keep employees out of large crowds, Sony urged its employees to telework and avoid commuting during rush hour. They also suspending their usual 10-day monthly cap for working from home. 

But there are several things that businesses can still do. First, you must prepare now, if you haven’t already assembled your management staff to begin planning for a possible pandemic, do it as soon after reading this article. 

Alter Work Schedules and Start Times – For those who must show up at work and physically be on-site, offer a flexible work schedule, staggering start times, or shortening mandatory hours This limits the hours and number of people congregating all at any one time. 

Stagger Commute Times  – Several other companies in Japan are proposing that employees bypass rush-hour commutes by changing their start times and implementing staggered commutes, think that this will minimize the risk of contracting the coronavirus.   

Issue Supplies –  Look to issue personal protection supplies such as surgical masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes for those that must arrive at work to perform their job duties. Surgical masks will prevent those that are carrying the virus but are not yet symptomatic, from spreading the virus.

Revise Employee Handbook –  If needed revise your PTO policy so their staff will feel empowered to do the right thing and stay home if they are any of their family members are sick with the Coronavirus. Businesses should also forecast and allow for employee absences during a pandemic due to factors such as personal illness, family member illness, community containment measures, and quarantines, school and/or business closures, and public transportation closures.

Implement A Work Disruption Policy –  Many businesses are rewriting their employee handbook to include a Work Disruption policy to address this possible outcome to fit their situation. 

Limit Face-To-Face Encounters
–  Whenever possible businesses need to cancel face to face meetings, and instead plan conference calls and video conferencing as an alternative. Businesses should implement guidelines to modify the frequency and type of face-to-face contact (e.g. hand-shaking, seating in meetings, office layout, shared workstations) among employees and between employees and customers. Some organizations have even sought to prohibit employee personal travel to cluster areas.

Plan For Office Hygiene
– Businesses should also establish policies for preventing coronavirus spread at the worksite (e.g. promoting respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette, disinfectant measures and prompt exclusion of people with coronavirus symptoms). Businesses should stock up with disinfecting supplies and establish a policy and procedures to periodically disinfect the work area focusing on public areas and points of contact such as door hands, knobs, faucets, water fountains, printers, phones, fax machines, equipment, machinery, …etc.

Telecommuting or telework is the most effective way to address a work disruption event such as a pandemic. The first step for many businesses is to change your mindset as it relates to telecommuting because many still believe in the old concept that if the boss is paying you money, he wants to see you working in front of him.

This isn’t the first time in America we had a work disruption event and many businesses implemented a business continuity plan by implementing telecommuting. During the 9/11 attacks many businesses including the Wall Street Journal’s implemented telework as part of its business continuity plan and it was successful in keeping its operations running despite the terrorist attack.

The fact is telework has become an important tool in business continuity because the dispersed workforce decreases downtime and minimizes the impact of a business interruption during a crisis, which leads to less lost revenue, less disruption of operations and improved responsiveness to customers. 

It is a business tool for business continuity planning at all levels – from snowstorms that close offices in a region for a day or two, to a pandemic that may affect operations for weeks or even months. 
It increases the agility of any business by allowing for more flexibility to recover more quickly than businesses without telework from unexpected business interruptions, thereby giving the organization a competitive advantage.

The ability to quickly recover from a work disruption incident, work crisis or disaster has been linked to resilience as you deal with a disaster or crisis as it is happening. Resilience is more than mere survival; it involves identifying potential risks and taking proactive steps before it’s too late to ensure that an organization thrives in the face of adversity. 

According to an article on Onsolve.com here are a few things to consider before implementing a business teleworking plan, and how your mass notification system can support the effort.

Determine Who Can Work From Home – Not everyone will be able to work from home. Regardless of circumstance, many offices and production facilities still require onsite employees to stay operational. Evaluate each position to determine which employees can practically work remotely.

Establish Clear Teleworking Policies –  Your organization should develop well-defined teleworking policies that should be and well-communicated in writing to employees. Your policy should clearly define what is a “work disruption event” so that your employees understand when teleworking is acceptable. Policies should be detailed and include the various circumstances where either full-pay, time plus, or PTO are applicable. Be sensitive to the inequity that some employees may feel when a portion of the company is released from duty during a disruption while others are expected to continue working. Also, be sure to adjust to union requirements or international worker regulations that may affect your teleworking policy.

Determine What Technologies and tools Are Needed  – You must assess technology needs and document available resources in your plan. Decisions must be made on what equipment will be provided by the company and when it is appropriate for employees to utilize their own personal devices (e.g., personal home computer versus company-provided laptop). Proper security protocols must be addressed to protect the information being accessed away from your physical site, including provisions for a VPN and antivirus software. Make sure your employees know how to securely access their documents and email away from the office.

Use Mass Notification Before A Work Disruption Event  – Mass notification services are valuable tools when planning for teleworking situations. During the planning phase, before a work disruption event, two-way notifications can help gather feedback from employees about their capabilities for working remotely. Using a self-registration portal is a great way to capture what home resources are available, in addition to providing a way for employees to update their personal contact information (e.g., home landline numbers, spouse cell phone numbers, etc.). Establishing an inbound message board, tied to the notification service, will allow employees to call in and hear the latest company updates prior to and during a work disruption event.

Use Mass Notification To Communicate with Home Based Employees – During an event, notification services can be used to confirm an employee’s teleworking ability (does your employee have power, internet connectivity, etc.), relay important updates, convey alternate work location instructions, or easily convene conference calls. 

Test Your Business Continuity –  Testing a business continuity plan is a key to successfully managing a real response/recovery. Given this, include work-from-home scenarios in one or more of your annual exercises to uncover gaps in your plan and provide a foundation for improvements to your teleworking approach.

Be Safe My Friends

Related Posts

Leave a Comment