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It’s fair to say that none of us saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming. In the business community, the spring of 2020 was marked by government-mandated statewide shutdowns, entire workforces hurriedly transitioning to remote work, rapidly changing federal guidelines, and long periods of uncertainty about what the future would look like.Although the losses and disruptions to daily life were severe, the country seems to have weathered its first pandemic—but there is a remarkable absence of the “return to normal” messaging we might have expected to hear. The truth is, while many of us are returning to the office, we’re not really going back to what was normal. The COVID-19 pandemic redefined our entire outlook and perspective on what life looks like going forward—we’re going back to a post-pandemic world. Fortunately, we’re going armed with the lessons we’ve gained from 2020.
As we’ve all learned very well over the past year, a pandemic event can occur suddenly and disrupt an organization’s essential business functions and operations. In order to help maintain the production of goods and services, business leaders need to incorporate pandemic planning into their organizations’ overall business continuity plan to mitigate the impacts of a pandemic on operations and employee health and safety. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the importance of having a pandemic plan in place. We’ll also give you tips for creating and implementing an effective pandemic plan for your organization.
The Importance of Having a Pandemic Plan
A pandemic plan is intended to support an organization’s broader business continuity or crisis management plan. This plan exists to ensure the health and safety of staff by implementing protocols to limit the spread of the virus and limit potential exposure for employees while delivering essential services to customers.
A pandemic is declared by WHO when:
- A new subtype of virus arises. This means humans have little or no immunity to it—everyone is at risk.
- The virus spreads easily from person to person, such as through sneezing or coughing.
- The virus begins to cause serious illness worldwide. A pandemic can occur in waves, and all parts of the world may not be affected at the same time.
A pandemic event can last from weeks to numerous months and could potentially impact up to 40% of the workforce. Having a pandemic plan in place will help your organization weather the potential business continuity disruptions that can come with a pandemic.
Determining Potential Business Impacts of a Pandemic
As we’ve all seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, public health crises can have a major impact on business operations. When creating an effective pandemic plan, you’ll need to consider how your organization will:
- Maintain essential operations and services if 40% or more of all workers are out sick or choose to stay home to avoid exposure
- Maintain essential operations and services when necessary resources are not available
- Update standard operating procedures in response to the pandemic event
- Ensure essential functions over a six-to-eight-week pandemic wave
- Ensure continuity despite significant delays in, and restrictions on, moving personnel and materials
- Ensure continuity when worker absenteeism and movement restrictions delay or stop their supply and delivery chains
- Ensure all essential business partners in the supply chain are equally well prepared for a pandemic
Designating a Pandemic Planning Team
As with most planning processes, planning for a pandemic works best when all applicable stakeholders are involved. Clear roles and responsibilities should be defined for each planning team member. Planning team member examples:
- Incident Manager: Depending on the circumstances of a pandemic event, it may be necessary to activate your Emergency Response Organization. Including your Emergency Manager in the planning process will ensure this activation occurs seamlessly with the rest of your planned actions.
- Business Unit Leader: Most pandemic events will impact your organization’s business unit in one way or another. The Business Unit Leader must be involved to ensure they are aware of the impacts of an event and the contingencies put in place to address them.
- Support Services: Additional support services will play a critical role and provide guidance as required to support the pandemic, including Human Resources, Procurement/Supply Chain, Facilities, Health & Safety, Security, IT, Legal, and Risk Management/Insurance.
Protecting your business against unexpected situations can be difficult. Hopefully, we won’t have to implement pandemic plans in the future. Nevertheless, it’s important to plan ahead when you can.
As Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing within SWBC’s Insurance Services division, Mike Karageorge oversees marketing efforts focusing on sales and growth. Before joining SWBC, Mike spent over 20 years as a sales and marketing executive within the wireless communications industry, including 12 years at Sprint. Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA.