According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption and economic loss. The first step a business can take to prepare for a pandemic is to create or update a business continuity plan. It must address a range of issues that includes planning for disasters and be integrated into business processes.
When planning specifically for a pandemic, your business needs are unique, so you'll need to conduct a risk-management assessment on your own operations to ensure continued operation.
When preparing for a pandemic, an organization should:
- Minimize business disruptions by identifying critical processes and functions that must continue for the business to remain viable
- Review how it works with employees, customers, consumers, contractors, the media, etc.
- Determine if it has the infrastructure it needs to run operations with up to 40 percent of the staff out ill or caring for sick family members
- Consider building up inventories in case foreign or domestic suppliers and transport services are interrupted
- Evaluate critical suppliers and customers and develop a contingency plan for how you'll operate if they aren't available
- Allow employees to telecommute if their jobs allow it in order to keep people apart and limit the spread of the disease
- Develop strategies for communicating with employees, customers, consumers and the media
- Consider expanding its online business opportunities
- Promote awareness of the problems associated with the pandemic
- Review sick leave and disability leave policies as well as any government-mandated leave policies
- Encourage healthy employees to come to work and ill employees to stay home
- Make backup plans if people need to be pulled out of countries where the epidemic strikes
- Consider travel restrictions for employees to affected areas where the virus is active
- Stock up on masks and sanitizes
- Consider staggering work hours to limit the size of gatherings
Regardless of the size of your company, business continuity planning is a must. A business continuity plan's success lies in the ability to accurately review its capabilities and identify potential hazards.