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8 Emergency Preparedness Steps for Businesses
1. Have an Emergency Response Plan
2. Plan for a Remote Workforce
3. Communicate Cohesively
4. Cross-Train Employees
5. Go Paperless
6. Understand Compensation Regulations
7. Have Contact Information Readily Available
8. Protect Your Data
WHAT IS A BUSINESS PREPAREDNESS PROGRAM AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
A business preparedness program helps organizations plan for natural disasters and pandemics like COVID-19. It reduces the impact of catastrophic events on employees and company operations.
Sometimes, unforeseen events occur that affect our lives significantly. In 2016, Ebola cost the World Bank $2.8 billion dollars from lost trade, tourism, and other factors. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused $198 billion in damages. In 2020, it’s estimated that COVID-19, or Coronavirus, could potentially cost the global economy $2.7 trillion dollars.
Nothing can truly prepare a person, a business, or a country for a pandemic. However, businesses can create emergency preparedness programs, so they are better equipped to handle potential crises and reduce their financial burdens.
“DISASTER-PROOF” YOUR BUSINESS
1. HAVE AN EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN
You can’t control when a pandemic like COVID-19 will happen, but you can control how you will react in the aftermath. A disaster plan offers several resources for your business, employees, and customers. Your emergency management plan should equip your organization to handle various types of crises like Coronavirus. Here are some factors to consider when planning:
Offer free resources
Provide a business continuity plan and informational resources for employees. Offering information on how the company plans to address situations like school closures and sickness helps employees and their families better prepare.
Practice how you will perform
Give team members a recovery plan, emergency case study, and provide training. That way employees will be more alert and knowledgeable in the event of an emergency. Tabletop exercises can provide a non-intrusive walkthrough of your preparedness program.
Conduct regular tests of the business continuity plan in place to be sure it’s effective. Use the results to identify weaknesses and make improvements to the strategy.
2. PLAN FOR A REMOTE WORKFORCE
It’s important to conduct an annual business impact analysis and make this practice a component of your disaster recovery plan. Employers may determine a remote workforce plan is necessary to minimize disruption to business functions.
Either utilize a team of remote workers or create a plan that allows employees to begin working remotely. If local workers are displaced due to COVID-19, remote employee procedures may be followed to ensure staff work efficiently.
Have a procedure for which employees must be in the office, by position, along with a backup. Be prepared to adjust work areas to conform with social distancing guidelines. Remember to account for VPN licenses, video conferencing like Zoom, and equipment that may be needed (e.g., headsets for remote workers utilizing computer audio or VOIP).
3. communicate cohesively
Efficient and effective communication is the cornerstone to keeping business operations on track, especially in a crisis. Make sure that you have a communication plan that offers text and alert solutions, as well as internal platforms like Slack. This way team members are always up to date and important information isn’t missed. Here are some effective communication strategies to implement:
- Define roles and responsibilities for each team member
- Use an online document management system
- Utilize a company newsfeed so everyone is on the same page
- Send out emergency text messages and emails
- Share information in one source easily accessible for both on-site and remote workers
Communicate with customers about your business continuity planning, so they know what to expect and how they may be impacted. Consistent communication during the Coronavirus pandemic will set expectations and address any potential concerns your clients may have.
4. CROSS-TRAIN EMPLOYEES
When one employee manages a workload no one else can perform, your company isn’t set up for success. Including cross-training in your onboarding plan can alleviate risk and reduce the financial impact when an employee is absent. It’s so important for organizations to have flexible job descriptions, bridging the gap between job roles and responsibilities.
You can easily create a cross-training plan with the right technology and payroll provider. Having HR software with role-based configuration settings helps alleviate organizational burdens. With proper solutions, you can even assign multiple people a role that gives them access to only specific information in the system. If your payroll administrator becomes sick, another employee or your provider can process payroll so employees are still paid on time.
5. GO PAPERLESS
One of the most important things you can do for your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic is continue providing on-time and accurate pay. Payroll management is a crucial part of your crisis management plan. During uncertain times like these, the security of a paycheck can reassure your employees and improve their mental health.
If you’re paying employees with paper checks, talk to your payroll provider about direct deposit and pay cards. Using a 100% paperless payroll process guarantees your employees are paid on time, regardless of the circumstances.
Communicate with your payroll provider to understand the process for setting up direct deposit and pay cards. Keep your employees up to date as you receive information so you can address any questions that may arise.
6. UNDERSTAND COMPENSATION REGULATIONS
There are significant legal issues and policies to take into consideration when issuing paychecks during an emergency. Do your employees receive direct deposit or paper checks and are they exempt or nonexempt?
If volunteers or employees are injured on the job, are you prepared to turn in their OSHA paperwork? Keep FLSA regulations in mind for hours payable to employees during public health emergencies.
Some employees may be eligible for COVID-19 compensation regulations like federal workers. The Department of Labor (DOL) has provided more information on FLSA and FMLA regulations during COVID-19 and other public health emergencies.
Trying to keep up with compliance details in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic can be challenging. Online document management and reporting can be a huge help in ensuring your business doesn’t incur any penalties or fees. Furthermore, partnering with a payroll provider that provides tax compliance support and services will ease the burden so you can focus more on your employees.
7. Have Contact Information Readily Available
With the spread of the Coronavirus, it has become a necessity for businesses to find the new normal in their everyday operations. Therefore, it’s important you have access to your employee’s contact information at all times.
Housing employee contact information in a unified, cloud-based system helps alleviate added stress during public health crises. Information may be accessed anytime, on any device, for more efficient communication.
8. Protect Your Data
While this is an issue more directly related to a natural disaster, it is still important to consider. With cloud technology at the forefront of information processing, your technical team and payroll software provider need to have a conversation.
Have your IT manager ask what type of security features your data centers use. Data centers that use backup generators and redundant power will ensure minimal disruption in the event of a natural disaster.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers interim guidance for businesses and employers to help them plan, prepare, and respond to Coronavirus Disease.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Proper preventive measures can be your organization’s saving grace during public health emergencies like COVID-19. Making sure your employees are paid timely can help them afford the resources they will need to get through this difficult time. Taking care of your employees should always be a top priority for your company during an emergency.
Take the Coronavirus pandemic as a lesson in how to develop a sound emergency preparedness plan. With an effective business continuity plan in place, you will be better prepared for the next disaster that occurs.
Keep lines of communication open and employees informed on the disaster preparedness procedures by conducting drills. Meet with your crisis management teams regularly and stay up to date on public health dilemmas. Keeping your business intact during an emergency will be easier when your plan is ready at all times.
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