The Trust for America's Health has published a list of 10 specific recommendations for business continuity planning with respect to a possible avian flu pandemic. In particular, note the reference to sustaining core business activities "over several weeks" and to ensure that the work of key employees can continue in the event of a 25-30% absentee rate. Also, arrange back-ups to supply chain elements and essential government services, consider work-from-home options, and take steps to promote a healthy work environment (e.g., hand sanitizers).
With appreciation to the Trust for America's Health, here's the full list.
Here is what you can do now to maintain business continuity. Keep in mind that many strategies take time to implement.
- Check that existing contingency plans are applicable to a pandemic.
- In particular, check to see that core business activities can be sustained over several weeks.
- Plan accordingly for interruptions of essential governmental services like sanitation, water, power, and disruptions to the food supply.
- Identify your company’s essential functions and the individuals who perform them. The absence of these individuals could seriously impair business continuity. Build in the training redundancy necessary to ensure that their work can be done in the event of an absentee rate of 25-30 percent.
- Maintain a healthy work environment by ensuring adequate air circulation and posting tips on how to stop the spread of germs at work. Promote hand and respiratory hygiene. Ensure wide and easy availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products.
- Determine which outside activities are critical to maintaining operations and develop alternatives in case they cannot function normally. For example, what transportation systems are needed to provide essential materials? Does the business operate on "just in time" inventory or is there typically some reserve?
- Establish or expand policies and tools that enable employees to work from home with appropriate security and network access to applications.
- Expand online and self-service options for customers and business partners.
- Tell the workforce about the threat of pandemic flu and the steps the company is taking to prepare for it. In emergencies, employees demonstrate an increased tendency to listen to their employer, so clear and frequent communication is essential.
- Update sick leave and family and medical leave policies and communicate with employees about the importance of staying away from the workplace if they become ill. Concern about lost wages is the largest deterrent to self-quarantine.
The above suggestions are contained in a four-page brochure entitled "It's Not Flu As Usual: What Businesses Need to Know About Pandemic Flu Planning," (415k .pdf) available as a free downloadable Adobe Acrobat file.