The COVID-19 (coronavirus) is gathering speed daily and the effects will be felt by businesses globally, and yes that potentially includes your small business too. While small business generally don’t have the resources for disaster planning that the bigger companies have, there are some good practical actions that can be started today.
- Have a contingency / business continuity plan in place
If you don’t have a contingency / continuity plan in place already, now is the time to get one in place. It doesn’t have to be specific to the current virus situation, but it does need to be based on a risk assessment of the risks your business potentially faces from internal and external sources.
Consider emergency situations such as a catastrophic fire or flood, loss of power and technology, loss of key personnel (temporary or permanent), inability to access your supply chain and significant downturns in your market share due to external factors such as COVID-19.
- Cross train your staff
Cross-training and skilling your staff in the different functions of your business is a great idea. Having more than one person that can perform key tasks and activities means that another employee can step in seamlessly if needed, without the stress and time delay with trying to learn the new job in a hurry. This will help if you have higher than normal illness levels through your staff but may also have a positive effect on staff morale.
- Ensure your hygiene standards are impeccable – personal and surface cleaning
Increase your normal cleaning schedule by regularly cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces more often throughout the day. Use good quality cleaning products and use paper towel instead of reusable cloths.
Ensure staff have access to hand washing facilities and are using them regularly. Hand sanitizer is a great supplement to good hand washing practices (not to be used in place of hand washing unless you don’t have access to running water and soap).
- Be flexible and agile wherever possible
If you are able to offer flexible working arrangements for staff (particularly if they have health concerns, are looking after sick relatives or are vulnerable to illness), then do so. Work from home, flexible hours, use of technology for communication and information sharing are all good options if these are suitable for the type and nature of your business.
Keep in mind that if a staff member is returning from an area on the high risk list (including China, South Korea, Italy and Iran), or have had close contact with someone with a known or suspected case of COVID-19, they need to self-isolate for 14 days after their return. This means not coming to work for this period, whether they are ill or not.
If you can’t offer flexible work options, make sure you are aware of your obligations under your particular award for payment, leave and communication.
- Keep communicating with your staff and customers
Consult with your staff when developing your contingency / continuity plan and the controls that can be implemented. Their input could prove invaluable. Having them involved in the planning and decision making will drive ownership of the control measures as well.
Regular communication to your staff reduces the growth of the rumour mill and unfounded assumptions that can so easily get out of hand. Ensure the information that you provide is sourced from reputable sources such as the Australian Department of Health (www.health.gov.au ) . Display posters in the workplace about hand washing and cough/sneeze hygiene.
Ensure you keep up to date with Fair Work, WHS and other employee relation legal requirements. Good sources of information are www.fairwork.gov.au, your state WHS regulator (such as www.worksafe.qld.gov.au ) and industry bodies such as www.cciq.com.au
For help with contingency and continuity planning, contact Michelle today on 0401 014 619 or [email protected]