Flu preparedness
Old Man Winter is on his way … and flu season is right on his heels.As a small business owner, you’ve probably got a worry or two about the impact cold weather will have on your business. And rightfully so, unfortunately! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 62 million Americans contract the flu virus each year. That’s a lot of people. It could affect you, it could affect some of your customers, and it could really affect your business’ ability to operate smoothly under stress.

The importance of an action plan
You’ve probably devoted some time and energy to the idea of flu preparedness, but have you put your plan into practice?

Take your flu season contingency planning to a whole new level by putting it into action. Inform your coworkers and employees about what they can expect when the temperature drops and the flu bug arrives. To really grab their attention, you might want to share with them this figure: 40 percent. In a time of peak illness, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) predicts that 40 percent of the workforce could be affected. Then, put them in your shoes: What would they do if almost half of the workforce was completely gone and sick for two to three days?

Use this wide-eyed opportunity to announce that you intend to eradicate peak flu season in an effort to plan ahead. If you’ve got a business composed of multiple departments and more than one location, you’ll have your work cut out for you, but, to assuage your time and energy, we’ve thought up a few things to help you actualize your flu preparedness plan in no time.

Your people are your first priority.
One of the most pressing problems that come with a flu pandemic is absenteeism. In an effort to proactively defend your staff against sickness—and you from the ills of an office at only 50 percent capacity—host a health care professional at your place of business to vaccinate your team against the latest strains of the virus. First, notify your team with a news blast via e-mail or Intranet. Remind them that flu season is fast-approaching and that they would do well to get vaccinated … especially since you’re sponsoring it!

  • You could host an in-office vaccination clinic on a Friday afternoon and then send them away with hand sanitizer to keep them vigilant and then really make it worth their while by letting them take off early to enjoy the rest of their weekend.
  • Alternatively, hang large posters to showcase the location and contact information of area clinics and pharmacies offering the flu shot. If employees can show proof of purchase, reward them with a scarf, hat and mittens set and you’ll soon start a trend with everybody bundling up in your colors.

Hatch the plan.
Set up an internal committee to include members from different locations, departments and shifts. Provide your current flu contingency plan for them to work with and improve upon. Consider incentivizing participation with a warm blanket-lined company jacket. After all, their job of creating a scenario in which 100 percent of jobs are reallocated to only 60 percent of the workforce is no easy task.

Once the committee has a workable draft plan ready, clue everyone in on it. You can alert your team of an upcoming meeting at their respective department, location or shift.

  • Have a wintery incentive, such as a thermos tumbler, ready for them upon arrival.
  • If you anticipate a lengthy discussion, throw in some hot water and tea or coffee to keep everyone attentive until the end.

Utilize that face time to play out a work scenario of peak flu season in full gear. The biggest task will likely be even reallocation of roles and responsibilities as well as follow-through on basic job training for everyone’s respective emergency roles. Coordinate training sessions between department managers and shift supervisors. Perhaps there is a way to collaboratively consolidate training sessions between everyone.

  • Encourage management to problem solve as a team.
  • Distribute specialty notebooks to help them keep it all together.

Benefit from it.
Investing for flu preparedness will consume some time and energy, but your return on investment (ROI) will come once flu season hits: You’ll notice harried customers and clients, but you’ll be able to serve them well despite your own (hopefully reduced!) staff shortages. Your employees will not only be able to share responsibility and seamlessly fill in for their team members, but in so doing, they’ll help keep your business breathing easy.

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