Lisa Boyer | 3 minute read | February 22, 2020
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that causes illness. This illness ranges from common cold to very severe diseases such as novel coronavirus (nCoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARs-CoV), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERs-CoV). Coronaviruses are zoonotic, that is, they can be transmitted between people and animals. Common signs of infection are fever, respiratory symptoms, cough, breathing difficulties and shortness of breath.
With the recent global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), which is keenly felt in China, especially in Hubei province where the most death cases have occurred and now Europe. The virus outbreak has indeed impacted economies, especially in Asia, Europe, America and Australia, with China and Italy locking down cities and extending Lunar New Year holiday for schools and factories so as to limit the spread of the virus. This action is sure to have great impact on small business owners who import goods from China. For small businesses that make their sales on Amazon, prolonged factory closure threaten supply which can also reduce them ranking products on the website when they fall out of stock.
The question now is, what are small business pandemic plans to deal with the coronavirus problem? Well, the options may perhaps appear limited to just keeping an eye on communication and development plans to customers, employees and suppliers however these are fundamental strategies that are vital to the survival of a small business. Presently, these are the fundamentals that we can conclude as small business coronavirus plans, while world health officials and other professionals in the field scramble to tackle the problem.
Effective communication is the key objective that should be adopted in small business strategic plans to combat this mysterious virus. This will largely involve the human resource department pulling together information about coronavirus so as to create a ready-to-refer instructional guide for the employees. This instructional guide will not only educate them about the virus, but also enlist ways to avoid infection.
Implementing a flexible working arrangement plan especially in countries that share border with China and places that have multiple reported cases of coronavirus will also be an effective strategy for small business to ensure their continuous operation where possible. Allowing employees to work from their homes will be a good way to prevent human to human contamination. This will not only impact contamination in the office, but also possible contamination through the zones that infected persons may traverse while going to their workplace.
Perhaps reconsidering leave policies may be another great strategy for persons who are reported to be sick and using technology to avoid human contact will not in any way be a bad idea. Meetings may be schedule on Skype and other social media platform.
Some other strategies that can be adopted by small business to limit the spread of this virus may include provision of free sanitizers and masks, increasing the cleaning schedule of the office, enforcing the use of the masks by all the employees, taking of temperatures of employees and publishing the information can also help to keep the mind of other employees at rest from suspecting possible infection of their colleagues and provision of launch for all the employees so as to minimize exposure to crowded areas like the food centers can also be an effective strategy.
The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving day by day and businesses needs to be prepared for a range of outcomes. While each business faces its own challenges, some key considerations can help build your business’s resilience and protect your community. So, in summary:
You have a duty to do what you can, within reason, to protect staff from COVID-19.
• Roll out Health Department hygiene guidelines and communicate them with staff.
• Identify staff at higher risk of exposure – from face-to-face meetings or interactions with the public or clients – and do what you reasonably can to reduce it.
• Identify staff who are at higher risk of serious complications from the virus, or have a family member or someone they have close contact with who is.
• Look at cancelling or postponing non-essential staff travel.
Get on top of travel
Most countries has banned direct travel from some countries, ordering returning citizens to self-quarantine for a fortnight before returning to work.
• Look at updating your leave policy. You may be able to reject leave to travel banned countries.
• If staff then go to a travel-banned country, it may be possible to stand them down without pay until they can safely return to work.
• Some countries have travel warnings in place – start thinking about your response to returning staff.
Build your plan
Each business faces unique challenges responding to COVID-19 but having a plan can be the difference between survival or failure.
GBC’s Strategic Pandemic Plan can help you:
• Know your legislative responsibilities to staff and stakeholders.
• Use a risk rating matrix to identify your business-specific risks.
• Identify ways to sustain business critical functions, services and cash flow.
• Look at alternative work-from home arrangements in case of a local outbreak.
Trial working from home
It’s important to have a ‘work from home’ or offsite plan in place and tested before it’s needed.
• Ensure your employee’s workspace complies with occupational health and safety standards and check your insurance.
• You may need to provide staff with equipment and services – like internet, software virus protections, laptops and phones.
• Know what expenses your employees may be able to claim and stipulate working hours and entitlements beforehand.
• Make sure you can contact your employees easily.
Business has a role to play in the community’s resilience to COVID-19 – not just by helping keep staff safe at work, but by showing leadership through difficult times.
• Identify who is responsible for handling your business’s response to COVID-19 and who will communicate your response to staff and stakeholders.
• Build a crisis communications plan using GBC’s Small Business Pandemic Plan.
• Keep staff and other stakeholders – like clients or subcontractors – up to date with your COVID-19 response.
At GBC, we know the importance of planning for the uncertain and unknown, that’s why we created a small business strategic pandemic plan for business survival during a pandemic event.