The sudden outbreak is a reminder of how caution and disaster planning are critical to the ongoing viability of a business. While most businesses cover their property in case of catastrophic fire or weather, many fail to plan for pandemic illness and what it affects most: their people. Now is the time to consider how to minimize infections among staff, prepare for a temporarily reduced workforce, and lessen the effect of other business interruptions. Nationwide is here to help.
Prevention and planning
Experts agree that, in the absence of a vaccine, prevention is the first line of defense during a pandemic. “Businesses should prepare now to prevent the spread of flu in their operations,” says Michael Moore, MD, Nationwide’s Chief Medical Director. “If you wait until the flu is in your workforce, or even in your town, you are already too late.”
Nationwide offers these important tips to lessen the spread of the flu and its potential impact on your enterprise. While no strategy is foolproof, these proactive ideas are effective and easy to implement:
- Stay home. Anyone ill with flu symptoms should remain at home until they’re no longer contagious. As obvious as this seems, employees will often work through illness to prove their value to the company. In a scenario like this, it does more harm than good. (see “Managing your workforce,” below)
- Wash hands. Ask employees to wash their hands with soap and water at least five times a day and use hand sanitizer to supplement hand washing. Make sanitizer readily available in public areas.
- Keep clean. Use sanitizing supplies to clean shared areas and equipment, such as lunchrooms, door handles, elevator buttons, and copy machines. Encourage employees to sanitize their personal workspaces as well.
- Plan ahead. Have a detailed plan in place to shift work hours. Remember that parents’ schedules will be affected by cancelled schools or daycares. To curb flu transmission, consider replacing in-person business meetings with teleconferencing. Allow employees to work from home if available.
- Communicate clearly. Help your employees understand what’s expected of them, and how you’re responding to the situation. Set simple, but flexible, policies around alternate work sites and schedules.
- Protect customers. Make sure service staff are healthy, and consider preventative measures like high-quality masks and gloves.
Managing your workforce
At a time when employees are working hard to protect their jobs, they should be reminded that if they do become ill, they need to stay home and get well. The trend of sick employees continuing to work, known as “presenteeism,” is on the rise and costing businesses millions in lost productivity. “Well-intended employees who drag themselves to work when ill will do more harm by exposing their fellow workers to the virus,” says Moore.
Be prepared to counter these well-intended behaviors with clear, reasonable guidelines. Review attendance and paid-time-off policies to ensure they don’t pressure sick employees to report for work. And set a good example yourself by staying home when ill.
Proceed with caution, continue to function
As authorities have stressed, H1N1 flu is cause for awareness, not alarm. Business owners should take the time to review their insurance policies to understand how they are protected, and how they are not.
Widespread absenteeism and the lost productivity, for example, would not be covered by standard business policies. Many business interruption insurance policies, while versatile, will not cover business owners for flu-related losses.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to contact a