Now, we all know that there are not vast rafts of people dropping dead, or even becoming ill at the moment. Certainly nothing like the deaths there were in Mexico.
However, the experts are also aware of this and have still signalled that this is a pandemic.
”Now is the time to panic”, you think to yourself. After all if you run a business think about how many staff you’re going to be down when the pandemic really bites and employees start dropping like flies. So rather than letting the flu get in to do something about it now.
We don’t know whether this flu will cause people to die or not. However, it’s likely to mean that a significant proportion of your staff (possibly 25% or more) are going to be off work recovering from flu.
In a previous incarnation of the flu people in their 20s and 30s were the main victims so if this H1N1 virus does that the healthier parts of the population will be affected more severely than the older and younger people.
And before you get to complacent see this swine flu article that explains how on current projections and based on the WHO reported mortality rate of about 0.4 per cent and a not unusual infection of 10 million Brits you’d expect to see 40,000 people die. And in the preparedness video, below, you can watch experts tell you what you need to be doing personally, and how your business may be affected.
Plan For A Pandemic
You want your business to survive? Plan for a pandemic.
If it turns out to be nothing you’ve “wasted” a small amount of time planning for something that didn’t happen. If it does you’re planning to help you and your business survive.
Think about ways of removing contact between employees, suppliers and customers. That does sound draconian but it massively reduces the risk of infection for everyone: employees, suppliers and your customers. Publicise it and everyone will be happy you’re doing your best to prevent then getting the flu too
Explain The Pandemic
Do a home video to explain the pandemic to all the your staff. Show them the video, use YouTube, videos like these, to make the points about protecting themselves.
Get Pandemic Protection
The Daily Mail (UK) had a useful article on face masks to help reduce the risk of infection. It turns out that the normal surgical masks you see are a complete waste of time. In fact their suggestion is that out of the masks they looked at only a respirator would be able to significantly reduce your risk of infection.
The video, above, explain some of the ways to ensure you reduce infection risk at home and in your business.
Work out how employees can work from home. How many you need to protect, which suppliers you can ask to simply deliver, or even drop ship, which customers you can deliver to without contact and what prospects you can convert without meeting, or minimising meetings, and your key employees.
Make Office Workers Homeworkers During A Pandemic
Identify staff who can work from home. Try and make almost every admin employee work from home. It needs management. It also needs setting up before its needed. Trying to set it up when a full blown pandemic is operating is going to be worse than useless as key staff will not be available.
1) Make sure they’ve broadband and access to your internal email and the admin systems they need
2) Provide a phone line for them. The best way to do this very cheaply is to use Skype and buy them a very cheap headset from one of the larger supermarkets.
3) Make sure that they all have a fully detailed contact list for each employee, supplier and customer and prospect as you don’t which employee may contract the virus.
Remember an emergency will reduce public transport and allowing your workforce to come into work may infect your other key employees and completely disrupt your business.
How A Pandemic Affects Your Sales Force
Salespeople are a business’ life force. Often sales people still need to meet others.
You must impress on these staff the importance of good hygiene and to ensure they wash hands, don’t visit public toilets, including supermarkets and restaurants and most of all only set-up and attend meetings with as few people as possible. Preferably make much more use of the phone to contact prospects and current clients.
Contracts still need signing, think about sending contracts by email and then having them signed and sent through the normal mail.
As one of the highest risk employees, because of their extended contact with other people, sales staff should be kept apart from your other staff. You need to institute a procedure now that will enable them to do their job by contacting and using other staff through the phone, Internet and email.
Shops Face More Exposure
If you’re in retail face the fact that you’re probably going to have to close so look at ways of ensuring your property is less of a target (such as signs saying “valuables removed during emergency”). Remember if you plan to shut down (as a last resort) take your valuables with you, and that includes contracts, orders and invoices, not just computer kit!
Make sure all your staff follow a hygiene routine when dealing with customers so that you’re not responsible for cross-infection and your employees are less at risk.
If you intend having one or two employees in to “caretake” the shop on a rota make sure that you have plans if the rota is disrupted by illness.
What About Banks During A Pandemic?
Banks are likely to be just as affected, possibly more with all their customer facing staff. That means there’s the possibility of branches having to close. Leaving you with little or no cash, unless you plan ahead.
So, again plan ahead and set-up extended payment terms with suppliers. Set-up cash payment with customers, or draw the money out as soon as its been deposited in your bank. That way you’ll remain liquid and able to pay bills.
Is This Pandemic Just A Storm in a Teacup?
Unfortunately we just don’t know/ In fact we wont know until much later this year. But to me it makes much more sense to plan now when you ahve everyone with brains still working and not worrying about sick or dying relatives.
Then if it happens you’re prepared your plan can swing into action. You, your employees and your business stand a much better chance of surviving, all because you planned!
Then, as I said before, if the pandemic isn’t as awful as some are saying it doesn’t matter – you were prepared, in case it was much worse.