Most organizations recognize the importance of maintaining continuity of operations to avoid a loss in revenue and delays in production. Therefore, it is important for every company to have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to prepare for any event that would leave the business unable to continue operating for any amount of time. Commonly considered events in a BCP include natural disasters or security breaches, but planning for illnesses such as influenza, which can be severe and affect the workplace, often goes overlooked.
Epidemics are more than just foreign viruses that gain media attention. The yearly influenza season from October to May is much more likely to affect businesses than Ebola or Zika. Each year, the flu costs employers $10.4 million in direct costs, including hospitalization, outpatient, and medication costs. And the indirect cost from the 111 million annual flu-related sick days adds up to $7 billion (Center for Disease Control).
Creation of a BCP involves determining risks to the business, taking measures to minimize risks, testing the plan through exercises, and continuing to review and update the plan. Specific to epidemic risk management, businesses may want to ask themselves how many employees, at a minimum, it will take to keep their company operating, and what they will do if employee absenteeism grows beyond that threshold.
According to the CDC, the best practice for minimizing risk of the flu is prevention. The most effective ways businesses can help prevent the spread of the flu among their employees are:
- Encouraging all employees to get a flu shot.
- Sending employees home if sick and instructing them not to return to work until 24 hours after recovering from a fever.
- Allowing employees to telework if possible, and reviewing company policy on sick leave.
- Promoting good employee hygiene and providing tissues, hand sanitizer, and hand soap
- Monitoring flu outbreaks in your area through resources like the CDC’s weekly FluView tracker https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/
For information on creating or testing your Business Continuity Plan, go to https://www.asg-inc.org/private-sector/resiliency/ or call 757-223-7233.