There is a lot of panic and uncertainty in the current pandemic and economic environment. We have been working with our small businesses owners over the past week to get their policies and strategies up to date to help through this time.
I will get straight to the point. Things are changing quickly, and you want to get as much planned as you can. This is a step by step guide to help business plan for what they can now and prep for the weeks to come.
First: go through your policies and make a pandemic policy for your business. This policy should include:
- The guiding principles which should always revolve around respect for people, especially in now. The health and safety of your employees, customers and yourself is paramount.
- Your Pandemic Action Plan which will include phases and what you will do in each of those phases. For example, a Phase 1 of our Pandemic Plan is the restriction of public gatherings. This action by the government triggers Phase 1 of our plan which includes End Grain Industries employees limiting onsite work to small meetings, no town halls, no big meetings etc. and moving meetings to virtual gathering. Phase 2 of our Pandemic Plan is the closure of schools. This action by the government triggers all End Grain Industries employees to cease work from client sites and only work from home. The final phase is the quarantine of residents. Should this happen we continue working from home and use technology to help support meetings and communication. The final phase will be operational shut down. Make sure you have a plan for this.
- List your mission-critical functions and how you will support them (payroll, IT, communication etc.). For payroll specifically state for how long employees will be paid if the government orders small businesses to shut down and give links and information on applying for EI or other financial support to help with the financial burden.
- List employer expectations around attendance, hygiene etiquette, social distancing, and how to get in touch with emergency contacts.
Second: put into place a work from home policy. In the spirit of respect for people find out who on your staff has an underlying condition and who is immuno-compromised. These are the first people who you should be looking at to work from home or adjusted work environment. Next on this list will be your older employees (in the case of COVID-19, this may change depending on the type of pandemic going forward).
Third: you will need to plan an IT support strategy in most cases to support those working from home. Make sure they have adequate anti-virus set up to help protect your business data. As well, you will need a data policy for those working with sensitive customer information on home devices.
Fourth: Assign a point person for the pandemic response to monitor the situation and when the critical phases are implemented. They should also have a emergency response plan for communicating the critical information.
- Review your cleaning schedule and adjust as needed to the current recommendation from your local health unit.
- Draft up your communication for each phase of your pandemic plan to ensure it is ready to go when that phase begins.
- Communicate to the customers what the changes are that you are making and how these changes will affect them.
- Share resources with other small businesses. This is not a time to horde. This is a time to share and help each other. If you have put together a plan that you think is good. Share it with like small businesses to help them through this process as well. Some will be good at this types of planning. Others will need help. – Help them.
- Ask your employees what they are struggling with, and use the group to provide support. Once schools close but small businesses remains open, many with children will struggle with child care. As a group, help accommodate what you can. Are there babysitters you know that can help, can those employees make alternate schedules to be able to share childcare with a spouse or another family? We are going to have to get creative and help each other out, encourage your employees to assist each other.
On the personal side:
- Help each other out. Check on your elderly neighbors and see if they need anything. They are scared. With social distancing in effect they may even be scared to go to the grocery store. Offer to pick something up for them or teach them how to click and collect their groceries. Loblaws group of companies just announced that they are ramping up their staffing of click and collect and waiving the pick up fee’s. These are the types of business decision and gestures we need in this time.
- Don’t get your news from Social Media unless it is from an official source like the Health unit, Minister for Health or the Prime Minister. There is so much misinformation out there that is causing panic. I highly recommend physically watching the news for updates. Many of the news channels and broadcasting the provincial and federal health Ministers’ daily updates. These are where you want to get your information from. Go on your local health unit’s website for up to date information on what is happening in your area. Posting thing like “Does anyone find alarming or why aren’t they mass testing us?” is not helpful.
- Remember- Our goal as a society is working together to flatten the curve. We need to give our health care workers all the support we can by listening to our Local Health Unit and Provincial directions, washing our hands, staying home if you are sick. Questioning on Social Media why your mild flu symptoms were not tested for COVID-19 in the ER when you went to jam up the system is not helpful. You have your direction. If you think you have it. Self isolate. If your symptoms are severe call first. Don’t go walking into a packed ER. And if they are mild. DON’T go to the ER. Treat your symptoms and self isolate. I can not stress that enough. MOST people will not get a severe form of this. Don’t clog up the system. Leave the hospital for the true emergencies. The people who are the sickest.
We’ve got this but small businesses need to work together and work the plan. Stay informed but not by any source. Pick your sources carefully to ensure correct and up to date information and most importantly- look out for one another.