Business continuity planning for the Flu Pandemic

The darker nights are upon us. Winter coats are dusted out of the wardrobe and the winter duvet is waiting to be snuggled under … but this can only mean one thing. Flu season is in full charge. December through to February are said to be the peak months for the flu virus, and in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s never been a more important time for your business to be prepared with a robust Business Continuity Plan. 

If anyone had told you this time last year that a flu-like virus would have stopped the world in the way that Coronavirus has, you would never have believed them.  Yet here we are today, 11 months into a global pandemic that has had a considerable disruption on our businesses and daily lives.  We’ve got four important HR considerations that need to be included in your Business Continuity Plan to help keep your operations running and your employees safe during the flu season. 

  1. Safety of your people first

It is your responsibility as an employer to safeguard the health and wellbeing of your people. This means creating a safe environment from which to work from, taking all possible steps to minimise the spread of any type of flu virus. 

Engage in regular workplace assessments. A Covid-19 risk assessment will help you prevent transmission risk between employees and clients, including which staff should return to the physical workplace or work from home. You may also need reconfigure the workplace to keep a 2 metre distance between desks and include partitioning to minimise the spread of a virus. 

Keep a log of any incidents in a health and safety logbook, including who is self-isolating and who they have come into contact with during their time in the office. All inspections, training activities, incident investigations and first aid treatments should be logged in as well.

“Home is where the office is” 

We used to say Home sweet Home, but now it seems to be where the office is. Whether it’s long or short term, you need to equip your people will sufficient IT equipment and communications to work easily from home. This includes distributing laptops, if needed, and enabling Virtual Private Networks to coordinate remote access across secure devices. 

Cybercrimes have been on the rise since Covid-19, and working from home is becoming a gateway to new forms of data theft.  Work with your IT provider to ensure you have a robust infrastructure and adequate cyber security to protect your business regardless of where your staff are working from. 

Provide training for staff to help them recognise fraudulent emails, spam and phishing attempts that may pose a risk to your business. 

Refine your Leave and HR Policies

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that businesses need to make changes to their sick leave and work-at-home policies consistent with new government guidelines.

As you review your HR policies, you should determine what changes are necessary and then make sure you communicate them to all employees, along with information about who will be in charge of implementing and supervising these policies.

Operating with decreased staff resources

Focus on how you plan to operate with decreased staff resources. Given that some staff could be self-isolating, working from home or are on sick leave, you may have to implement

flexible hours or staggered shifts/days to increase the distance between employees in order to get the same amount of work done, but with fewer resources. Working at home should be encouraged, and you have to determine which employees are eligible to do that and whether you have the infrastructure and collaborative tools to support this.

Succession planning is an important part of your Business Continuity Plan. If managers get ill and cannot work, you need to have back-up personnel to take over their duties. This may require additional training and should be considered for all critical positions. 

We’ve created a pack of five guidance documents, designed to help you maintain business operations and thrive during these uncertain times. It’s got everything you need from policy templates, essential checklists, and all the HR forms you’ll need to prepare for every eventuality. Download here >>

Communicating effectively with employees amid Coronavirus

As Covid-19 continues to disrupt our daily lives and our businesses, you need to ensure you are communicating effectively with employees during times of turbulence and change. Unless you act quickly, there is a risk that team members can quickly feel isolated in projects, lose sight of the vision you’ve built in your organisation, feel anxious and uncertain and, ultimately, become less productive to your business.

Boosting morale

Fear of redundancies, downsizing and rationalisation will undoubtedly cause stress and uncertainty amongst your workforce. It’s natural for your people to feel a heightened sense of anxiety and loss of control during these turbulent times which cannot be underestimated. This is likely to be played out in how your staff perform and the general vibe in the office. 

Regular communication with staff is crucial; giving them a chance to voice their concerns and help your people to stay resilient and productive. 

These conversations not only help to build trust and foster open communication, they can also uncover roadblocks (before they become an issue) so that managers can support and prioritise projects and meet deadlines. 

Ramp up engagement 

The Coronavirus crisis and having a remote workforce has forced organisations to rethink how they communicate (albeit virtually) and engage with their employees.  Remote workers require deeper levels of engagement so they don’t feel isolated and so they continue to deliver the same output and performance even if they are working remotely.  

With little distinction between home and work life at the moment, managers and business owners are understanding more about their employees’ life (children, home circumstances etc) than ever before.  This is a real positive outcome and can help to build trust and empathy. 

Managers should ramp up engagement so that it is clear: 

  • What is expected of your people in terms of KPIs, output and project deadlines
  • Understand how the latest government guidelines effect how you intend to continue operations, and under what measures
  • Who they are reporting to and how often catch ups are taking place (albeit virtually)
  • How you are supporting your staff to maintain their health and wellbeing during these stressful times

Monitoring employee performance

Working from home, or partly remotely, brings about a myriad of challenges, including how you are going to monitor performance. Employers need to rethink their approach to how work is done remotely, how work has changed and what new skills are needed to cope with these changing demands. 

A lot of knowledge sharing comes from daily interaction and being in the physical workplace, so in its absence, employers need to look at creating online forums or zoom knowledge sharing sessions that maintain that same level of interaction. 

During this prolonged time working from home, isolation can cause employees to feel less connection to the company, so it is important to introduce regular team and one-to-one catch ups where employees can report on what they’re working on and share challenges. Look out for employees who you haven’t heard from recently.  The absence of communication can often be a sign they’re struggling and may need additional support. 

Decide how you are going to measure performance and productivity remotely, which may be different from the norm. The best remote teams have a clear monitoring process and the right tools (i.e. time tracking) to enable managers to monitor output and recognise good work. 

It’s vital for your employees to stay connected during this second lockdown (and beyond). The challenges for employers are vast and will change the way we all operate in the future. To help you navigate successfully and ensure you keep a clear focus on your people, download our HR guidance documents. We’ve got everything covered from flexible working, contingency planning and how to communicate effectively with employees amid these turbulent times. 

Download here >>