In the unfortunate event of a pandemic, it's critical to adjust your current business continuity plan and update regular procedures. Planning ahead can help reduce employee confusion and frustration in a time of stress, and can set up your facility for a safe, gradual return to normal.
Planning for New Risks
In a business continuity plan, your facility identifies and plans for the risks that can impact your employees and production. According to Facility Executive, the plan needs to be tailored to how your organization operates, so that it matches the unique risks and complexities of your business.
This is also true during a pandemic, except that the challenges facing your business are unique in their global impact and longevity. You will need to profile the unique impacts of a pandemic on your business, employees and supply chain to incorporate the right risks into your plan.
New risks exposed by a pandemic can include:
Increased Downtime: According to a PWC survey, 53 percent of business leaders anticipate at least a 10 percent drop in revenues, while 52 percent expect to rotate or alternate staff to reduce exposure.
Business continuity plans for a pandemic must adapt to periods when production may slow or stop due to illness and reduced staff. The right steps depend on your facility, as your unique budget forecasts are adjusted to account for fewer products reaching the market and sick time policies are updated to account for widespread infection.
Spread Within a Facility: The presence of a virus like COVID-19 within a facility can not only lead to downtime and staff shortages but can also require your facility to take certain sections or teams offline to reduce spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viruses like COVID-19 can spread between individuals working in close proximity without the right personal protective equipment (PPE).
Your updated plan may require changes to where employees work, how many employees can be in the facility at one time and even what parts of the facility can safely stay open.
Increased Demand for Critical PPE: Critical PPE for certain facilities, including masks used in painting, food production and sanding, are likely in high demand during a pandemic. For this reason, you will likely have to plan for additional equipment for employees who may not typically use it, in addition to ensuring that employees whose jobs normally require PPE continue to have access to it.
According to the CDC, shifting strategy to conserve stocks of PPE and reduce employee contact can help address this risk. If PPE supplies are low, facilities can consider reusing masks and other PPE after appropriate sanitation measures.
Expanding Response and Recovery
An effective reaction to a pandemic combines the right response and recovery procedures with updated responsibilities and training.
Pandemic Response: The response phase of the business continuity plan deals with the actions that need to be taken immediately after an incident. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the response phase of a pandemic requires focusing on employees and the changes needed to help keep them safe, so that normal operations can continue.
According to the CDC, steps can be taken to reduce the risk to employees during a pandemic:
- Implement health checks to monitor for signs of infection.
- Isolate sick employees at home for as long as it is recommended to avoid spreading the illness.
- Implement regular deep cleaning and sanitizing of communal surfaces.
- Consider temporary barriers that separate workers at all times.
- Put leaders in charge of different aspects of the response and ensure they are up to date on the latest requirements and in contact with local government.
These changes can be substantial, requiring new construction and/or new procedures. Response plans should be created to address the changes necessary for your unique facility, but, in general, plans should include ways to monitor for signs of sickness, manage sick employees and provide a clean, safe workspace.
Long-Term Recovery: During a pandemic like COVID-19, many of the procedures put in place to respond to the pandemic may continue into the recovery phase, and strong leadership and planning can help you navigate the changes.
Longer-term recovery efforts may include:
- Creating policies to safely inform employees of an infection within the facility.
- Training employees on new ways to safely work together, travel and clean their work areas.
- Shifting work hours or schedules to reduce overlap and total headcount at any one time.
- Avoiding large crowds or meetings unless employees can be kept at least 6 feet apart.
A pandemic adds new responsibilities for employers that are designed to help keep employees and visitors safe and reduce infections. According to the CDC, employers should be prepared for changes during a pandemic, including new procedures to manage sanitation, conduct health checks and properly distance workers. Assigning direct responsibilities helps ensure that the job is managed with accountability for the outcome, and avoids confusion over who manages each task.
Deciding when to return to normal during a pandemic, including when to reduce protective procedures or bring back staff, depends on your specific location's stay-at-home orders and your type of business. Specific changes required to return to normal operations may be available from your city or state governments throughout a pandemic.