Is your workplace ready for an epidemic?

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The 1918 influenza pandemic affected one in five people worldwide – and more than one in four (28%) in America. How would your workplace cope if you suddenly had a quarter of employees on sick leave, with more absent to care for children and family members?

In recent years we’ve seen SARS, bird flu and swine flu make news for their highly contagious nature. It seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before something proves to be truly devastating for the country, and our companies. Preparing now can help limit the impact on employee’s health, and on the economic health of your organization.

Considering your options now, before a crisis hits, is vital to dealing with it quickly and effectively when it does happen.

Main issues:

Employees will be absent for many reasons, from being sick themselves to caring for family members, and some may be afraid to work for fear of getting infected.

Contagious workplace
Employees working while sick, or working before symptoms present, could spread the illness to others.

Alternate work options
If working from home isn’t an option for your organization, consider cross-training a range of people to complete critical tasks.

Employees refusing to complete regular duties
If workers fear infection they may refuse to travel, attend large meetings or perform basic customer service tasks that would put them in contact with people who could be sick.

Employees refusing to seek care
Many people avoid seeking healthcare for financial reasons, or because they feel a doctor’s office is a high risk area for infection.

Assistance for those who are ill or acting as carers
In quarantine situations staff may need help getting basics such as food and water.

Difficulty focusing on work
The emotional fallout of a crisis like this adds to work stress and employees may need support such as time off or counseling.

You best defense for managing these factors is a pandemic plan, which should include:

  • A communicable disease policy, emphasizing that employees with flu symptoms should not come to work.
  • Educational information on reducing the spread of flu, with a focus on good hygiene practices.
  • A plan for how critical duties will be performed in the event that a significant portion of your workforce cannot complete their core responsibilities.
  • Other ways your workplace will reduce the spread of disease, such as restricting travel, allowing remote work options and making arrangements to reduce personal contact.
  • In a large workplace changes to ventilation or purifying systems can make a big difference to the rate of infection and could be incorporated into planned upgrades.

Have your say

Does your workplace have an emergency plan in case of an epidemic?


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