Keep Employees Operational During Future Covid-19 Outbreaks
By Jolene Rutherford, Last updated: 2023-01-11 (originally published on 2021-04-20)
We’re well into 2021, and COVID-19 continues to run its course and affect every aspect of our lives. Although the introduction of the vaccines gives us hope for a better future, slow vaccine roll-out is prolonging the pandemic, and the disease is still unrestrained.
As a result of this unprecedented crisis, the company leaders struggle to adapt to the changing circumstances and navigate economic and political uncertainty.
Company leaders everywhere are contemplating ways to minimize the pandemic’s impact on employees, their business, and its performance.
This article is designed as a guide on the most important and appropriate measures that will help business owners keep their employees safe and their business operational throughout COVID-19 outbreaks.
Let us begin!
Embrace people-first approach
The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of creating a more resilient and healthy workforce. And the role of leaders during critical moments like this one cannot be overstated. They are the ones who should be proactive, consistent in their message, and model behaviours.
Leaders everywhere need to be aware that people are looking to them for confidence and direction in times of uncertainty.
They need to have open conversations with their employees about their concerns and create an environment of psychological safety where your team knows they can come to you with questions at any time.
Straightforward and inspiring communication and being sensitive to employees’ needs are the way to rebuild organizational health and productivity. If possible, develop support policies for your employees, including psychological support.
Educate employees about Covid-19 symptoms and prevention
As new data about this novel virus keep emerging, educating employees about its symptoms and prevention is an ongoing task. Organizations need to keep their staff updated on current and relevant data regarding the virus and lean on information from health authorities like World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The education and training materials should be easy to understand for all employees, regardless of their education and literacy level. Opt for fact sheets and posters as they are easy to follow.
Also, encourage your employees to stay home if they are feeling sick.
CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers can serve you as a guide when training your staff on appropriate safety protocols.
Develop a cleaning protocol
First, determine what needs to be cleaned. Consider how often certain surfaces are touched, and prioritize cleaning high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and workstations because of the higher risk of virus transmission.
Next, make sure the cleaning staff is adequately trained on how to use cleaning and disinfecting products.
Take special care when a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or a sick individual was in your facility. The spaces they occupied should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Include frequent ventilation in the protocol too. Circulation of outdoor air should be increased as much as possible.
Trace contacts to slow the spread of Covid-19
Contact tracing is one of the most effective ways to manage Covid-19. By identifying and isolating only those at risk, businesses can remain open and operational. Luckily, one company came up with an innovative solution that can help companies mitigate closures and shutdowns.
Innovative and reliable COVID contact tracing card records card-to-card proximity, so when a COVID-19 case is reported, it’s easy to trace who has come in contact with them and for how long.
And as a plus, this smart technology is easy to adopt and use, and it doesn’t require any expensive IT integrations or even phone use.
Embracing this seamless wearable technical device is an effective strategy for reducing the risk of further virus transmissions.
Identify what work requires on-site attendance
For example, it’s advised to shift face-to-face meetings to teleconferences and other forms of virtual meetings to reduce the spread of the virus. Determine which roles require physical attendance and, where possible, allow for remote work.
When it comes to work that can’t be done remotely, determine the safeguards that have to be implemented, such as personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols.
It is also crucial to allow your employees to focus on the most critical tasks, so determine what work is vital and what can be deprioritized.
Prepare for disruption in business operations during Covid-19 outbreaks
For starters, you’ll need a plan in place on how to handle workforce reduction. Absenteeism is likely to increase during a raging pandemic, so businesses need to be ready to deal with these situations.
Also, personal concerns will attribute to an increased number of work refusals, and employers need to consider that as well.
Establishing a cross-functional COVID-19 response team responsible for coordinating and monitoring the activities of different business units is one way to keep your business operational.
A dedicated cross-functional team would communicate with the senior management team and keep them informed on the current situation. Their role is to help implement adequate strategies and ensure that every department is on the same page.
Update travel and meeting protocols
It is strongly advised to cancel all non-essential travel and in-person meetings. Conduct a risk assessment for all upcoming essential trips, and if they don’t pass it, cancel them. Create new guidelines and policies on allowable trips that are aligned with current travel guidance from health authorities.
Whenever possible, replace face-to-face meetings with teleconferencing or an online event.
If an in-person meeting is essential, consider scaling it down so that fewer people attend. Develop a response plan in case someone at the meeting becomes ill and develops symptoms related to COVID-19.
Follow all necessary safety measures recommended by credible sources.
Prepare succession plans for critical roles in your business
As COVID-19 continues to spread, key people like executives will likely be temporarily unavailable due to either quarantine or illness. Coming up with leadership alternatives is vital, especially in the case of illness.
In these trying times, organizations must have short-term and long-term replacement plans for people in critical positions.
First, identify key positions and focus on areas essential to running the business. Then, consider the talent you have and who could replace your top executives at a moment’s notice. When evaluating available talent, candidates who are not quite ready can be accelerated to take on a new role.
On the other hand, keep in mind that a derailing quality in a candidate will prevent them from ever getting there.
Don’t neglect your customers
Consistent and relevant communication with customers during the pandemic is a must if you want to survive these challenging times. Update your consumers on how you’re coping with the current situation and what your company is doing to keep them safe.
This is the time to focus on improving your online presence and put it to use. Be honest if the current situation is affecting your ability to serve the customers.
For example, if you experience problems with shipments, inform your customers about what they can expect.
And more importantly, actively listen to your audience and their needs and adapt to them.
Your website and social media pages are great tools to inform your customers of your safety measures, work hours, and any changes that might affect them, just make sure not to overdo it.
Leave out irrelevant information and communicate significant business changes and announcements that will directly affect your consumers only.
Manage supply chain vulnerabilities
We’ve already seen that the COVID-19 can cause extensive outbreaks, and as a result, the supply was interrupted. The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains across all industries.
Transforming traditional supply chain models is one of the actions companies can take to avoid business disruption. What else can they do to manage complex and changing conditions through this ongoing health crisis?
While no one can predict the future, it’s up to leaders to prepare for unpredictable disruptions and build a smarter and more resilient supply chain. Companies can take advantage of hi-tech solutions like artificial intelligence, automation, IoT (internet of things), and other technologies, for starters.
Make the supply network more resilient
As in many other fields, technology proves to be irreplaceable in providing efficient solutions in times of crisis. AI innovations can provide organizations with operational efficiencies. For example, new automated pallet handling systems can cut shipment processing time in half.
And with AI-powered management platforms, businesses can have greater oversight across the supply chain. Therefore, they can identify potential bottlenecks in transport or logistics.
New technologies have the power to analyze millions of permutations from various datasets and anticipate and mitigate complications in advance.
If you need more convincing, compare these two: AI-assisted shipments get delivered on time in 95% of cases, while without technology, there are 60% deliveries on time.
Final thoughts on future Covid-19 outbreaks
The ongoing health crisis is affecting the entire world, and the impact on the economic sector has been severe. The truth is that markets and circumstances change all the time, and business success depends on its ability to adapt and constantly innovate its business model.
This is the time to explore how adopting technology solutions like contact tracing cards and AI-assisted shipments can help you keep your employees safe, your customers satisfied, and your business operational.
Although Coronavirus has disrupted the world as we knew it, it also made businesses identify their vulnerabilities and develop creative solutions to stay afloat. Once the pandemic is over, lessons learned will future-proof those businesses and help them thrive.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.