The Coronavirus and Pandemic Planning

As President Trump has now declared the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak a national emergency, the House of Representatives has since passed a coronavirus aid package that could include free testing, paid emergency leave and other resources intended to help stem the crisis and stabilize financial markets.

Furthermore, public and private institutions across the U.S. have either closed or enforced work from home procedures, as countries across Europe and the Middle East close borders and ban flights in effort to contain the virus.

As we know, the CDC has provided their recommendations to prepare, prevent and protect ourselves and our loved ones. But how should employers continue to manage their business, including their people and customers during this turbulent time?

Best Practices for Businesses

While the outbreak continues to unfold, businesses are now finding themselves either executing or developing their pandemic, crisis communications and business continuity plans. Many businesses have already had to initiate their work-from-home procedures and cross-train personnel to ensure critical business processes remain effective. Unfortunately, this is a true test to determine how prepared businesses are to safeguard people and sustain operations amid the outbreak, social distancing, travel restrictions and increased illness.

These plans should have a dedicated task force with cross-functional leadership buy-in and clear objectives, to ensure pandemic-specific elements and strategies can be effectively implemented.

All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers should identify and communicate their objectives, which include the following: 

  • Reducing transmission among staff, 
  • Protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, 
  • Maintaining business operations, and 
  • Minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains.

Ongoing communication between the employee and employer is critical to ensure awareness, expectations and risk exposure are continuously evaluated. This will help define trigger points and drive the decisions to ensure appropriate business decisions are made, while providing a level of assurance to your employees.

Recommendations for Business Continuity amid the Crisis

Consider the following recommendations in planning for the safety of employees and the continued heath of your business as the pandemic continues to unfold.

  • Require sick employees to stay home; isolate sick employees

  • Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene to all employees

  • Perform routine environmental cleaning

  • Implement international, domestic, regional and local travel restrictions

  • Understand the outbreak severity within your region and communities

  • Understand the impact of the disease to high-risk employees

  • Prepare and monitor for increased numbers of employee absences due to: 

    • Illness in employees and their family members 

    • Closures of early childhood programs and K-12 schools

  • Implement plans to continue essential business functions, with anticipation of high absenteeism in critical role

    • Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions

  • Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or product
  • Collaborate with customers and clients on ways to continue to meet expectations, while mitigating the risk of exposure to each other
  • Coordinate with state and local health officials so timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses
  • Establish policies and procedures, such as travel restrictions, flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees
  • Ensure policies and procedures are easily accessible to employees on how to conduct remote meetings, remotely connect to systems and where to check for updated information
  • Identify essential business functions and critical elements within your supply chains required to maintain business operations
  • Ensure business technologies can support the ability to efficiently and effectively work remotely, through stress testing you remote capabilities and communication tools
  • Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan
  • Establish a process for visitors to help understand the threat and risk they could impose on your organization
    • Where have they traveled over the past two weeks?
    • Have they been in contact with anyone that has traveled over the past two weeks?
    • Understand their contact with anyone that has traveled to restricted or know infectious areas over the last two weeks.

Throughout this process and as the pandemic spreads, employers must effectively communicate their plans with employees, explaining what human resources policies, workplace flexibilities, and pay, benefits and leave will be available to them. 

If you have questions on pandemic planning for your organization, we would welcome a discussion on this increasing concern.


You’ve heard our thoughts… We’d like to hear yours

The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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