by Matt Barkett

March 11, 2020

What you should be considering when preparing for a potential shutdown before it occurs.

By now many of us have received an overwhelming amount of information on how to deal with the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Airlines, local government and schools have all posted updates regarding their operation policies, closures and potential exposures, along with good old-fashioned tips from Mom: wash your hands!

Now that the virus is spreading universally, it seems that all of us will be at risk for exposure at some point, even if we’re not traveling or going to school. So, what are some things employers can do now that address what will happen if an employee actually contracts COVID-19 and the threat of a shutdown goes from a hypothetical scenario to reality?

Here’s a partial list:

  • Test your ability to have your entire workforce telecommute. When it’s no longer a drill, you’ll need to know if your IT systems and remote connectivity can stand up to the volume of remote connections. Have virtual meetings with the entire staff via videoconference, WebEx or conference call and see how it goes. Given this fluid situation, there is no telling if and when you might have to shut down, so schedule this test now.
  • Develop an operational plan to cease production entirely for two weeks. Think about how you could accomplish this logistically if you work in an organization that makes products. How would you continue to deliver products to customers? What alternatives do you have to run production from other areas of your supply chain? How do you stay in touch with furloughed employees who can’t work from home?
  • Stop flying for two weeks. While the risk of actually contracting COVID-19 from flying is statistically low, the greater risk is that you will get stranded and possibly cut off from not only business resources, but also from family. Now that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has waived minimum slot use requirements at selected airports, more flight cancelations are coming, leaving even fewer options to get home.
  • Develop online resources to keep the now-remote workforce connected. Now is the time to implement the channels needed for employees to stay in communication with leadership, and each other. Collect and verify all cell phone numbers and create group text chains. Advance schedule daily all-employee Skype meetings at a set time each day. And think about your customers – how do you normally stay in touch with them and can you continue to do so remotely?

Of course, this will pass. Probably sooner than later. Right now, we are reaching a point where the rampant spread of the virus is stoking a fire that local and federal governments, schools and businesses cannot ignore.

Like the annual Thanksgiving visit from the relatives you dread seeing, it’s coming to your town soon. But unlike with the relatives, there are some things you can do to prepare for it and make it less painful.

Want to talk more about crisis preparedness, email me.