With the extensive news coverage surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), contingency planning and management is at the forefront of everyone's awareness. For your small business, this is the time to assess your sources of risk, reduce those risks, and communicate the steps you are taking to your employees and customers.
As any successful business owner knows, eliminating risk entirely is impossible. However, taking careful steps to mitigate risk and communicate clearly with employees and customers may be the keys to help your business stay strong through difficult times.
- We suggest that all businesses have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place before a crisis. If you have one, now is the time to put it to work. If you don't, it's important to assess what risks COVID-19 presents to your business and put steps in place to mitigate them. In regard to epidemics like COVID-19, factors to consider include: employee healthy and safety, supply chains, cash-flow, and customer response.
- Think through your policies. In the case of COVID-19, examples from the CDC include:
- Having flexible sick leave policies (both for the employee and for caring for sick family member) and ensuring employees are aware of these policies. This may include adjusting attendance rules and communicating when these adjustments start and end.
- Revisiting alternative options, such as remote work opportunities. Be proactive about your online policies and procedures; make sure that all employees know your processes, expectations, and confidentiality standards.
- Posting workplace posters that encourage coughing and sneezing etiquette, staying home when sick, and appropriate handwashing.
- Offering more flexibility for customers, particularly in regard to events and cancellations. An example of this is United Airlines' current policy for flights booked between March 3 and 31.
- Remaining vigilant about preventing workplace discrimination based on race or national origin. The CDC notes in Stigma and Resilience that " stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease"
- Acknowledge that everyone experiences moments of crisis differently. As a supervisor or leader, it is important to consider your own emotions and support your team. Several links to related resources are included below.
- We recently received some good tips via an email newsletter from Robert Gregg of the Boardman and Clark law firm in Madison. The message encouraged employers to check with their attorneys for legal advice regarding Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) surrounding employee absences due to COVID-19 complications and exposure.
- Understand your insurance policy and what is or is not included in Business Interruption Coverage. Consider how your business insurance will work if your business closes due to an outbreak or other emergency.
- Increase some of your regular practices, such as ensuring routine environmental cleaning, especially of frequently touched surfaces