A continuity plan refers to a plan of action meant to maintain business functions during a major event or disruption. During a disruptive event like the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a continuity plan will help ensure precautions are in place for workplace safety and employee health.
A continuity plan helps employees understand the expectations and limitations of their new working environment. Can the work get done with proper social distancing? What if someone refuses to wear a mask? Where can employees voice their concerns about workplace safety? Continuity plans can address these issues and more.
A typical plan may include communication protocols, contact lists, critical asset inventories, assets, debt management, business partners, transportation, and anything else which would be important for employees in a crisis.
Here’s what you need to know about maintaining safe working condition standards as you re-enter the workforce.
Far-Reaching Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 left many companies scrambling as a global public health pandemic impacted financial, economic, family, and social life, proving the ability to make sound business decisions quickly can prove critical to business success.
In a pandemic, there is no business as usual. The continuity plan must be accessible and flexible because the global pandemic’s impact on employees, staff, board members, customers, and leadership can be far-reaching and unpredictable.
Understanding the devastating financial impact of COVID-19 will likely be an ongoing process. Consider investing in a crisis management team or identifying a third-party service to assist with response efforts, coordinating with respective authorities, and implementing proper communication strategies.
Create Your Continuity Plan
If you’re not sure what to consider in your plan, start here.
Always Put People First
During the continuing COVID-19 crisis, ensuring the safety of employees is critical. The health and well-being of your employees is essential. COVID-19 has sickened some employees and forced others into quarantine. Address their immediate needs first, and then begin to think about the possibilities of working with a remote workforce.
It is critical to establish a strategy where employees can continue to function while keeping themselves and others safe. You’ll want to verify you have the capacity, tools, and technology in place to support a remote workforce.
In terms of its people, the greatest adjustment will be whether a company should initiate or expand flexible work arrangements that allow people to work remotely and safely.
A continuity plan is only as effective as the people who put it into action. Trusted managers and senior leadership who engender respect should be at the helm and be part of the company’s decision-making process.
Re-entering the workforce after COVID-19, employees want clear, straightforward rules they can follow. It’s best to leave as little to interpretation as possible. It’s also best to use verifiable news sources.
People are looking for guidance from their employers, managers, and executives. Addressing concerns transparently and openly will go a long way toward engaging them and reassuring employees they will make it to the other side of the crisis.
Diverse perspectives can help create a strong, clear plan, with a consistent message. Finally, employees should know where to turn for help and who to file a complaint with if safety working conditions standards are not met.
Consider Face Mask Requirements
The CDC recommends and has recently clarified that all workers should wear face masks per CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance and any state or local requirements. For example, in some places, respirators or n95 masks may be required for safety.
Some employees may not be able to wear a face mask if, for example, they have trouble breathing. The continuity plan measures should include educational components to ensure no backlash erupts against those not wearing face masks.
The CDC has recently acknowledged face masks can protect wearers from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Also, face masks can prevent employees, including those who don’t know they have the virus, from spreading the disease to others.
Adjust Workspaces for Re-Entering Employees
As a result of the pandemic, many companies had to change onsite work activities into remote or telecommuting positions. Employees needed work laptops, network access, and other equipment necessary to do their jobs. Maintaining physical office space that isn’t being used is difficult, especially while paying for unplanned expenditures.
The devastating financial impact doesn’t end there. Upon reopening, companies must change their office space setups to accommodate social distancing requirements, as well as increased cleaning. Each of these can have financially significant impacts on large and small companies alike.
Where remote or flexible work arrangements are impossible, workers on-site or in direct contact with customers must keep themselves and others safe.
Next Steps Post-COVID
Your workplace must change to accommodate the new normal. But a continuity plan can help achieve that goal and instill trust in your team while making the whole office safer for everyone.