In light of the evolving progression of the COVID-19 virus, today's podcast discusses what firms should be considering when it comes to their Business Continuity Plan.
Are you ready to provide the critical services to your clients if you must close your business during a quarantine? What if 20% of your employees can telecommute, but are sick? There are no boiler plate approaches to business continuity planning that will work like one designed for your business. So, spend some time soon reviewing your plan. Ask yourself if it will work or not and amend it, as necessary. And if you want to be truly ready, practice it.
Hi everybody. I'm Libby Hall, Communications Analyst for Oyster Consulting and your host for today's podcast. W With me are Lee Gunn, Oyster's HR Director and Stacie Doyle, our Business Operations Analyst. In light of the recent COVID 19 events, we'll be talking today about infectious disease response plans and CDC recommendations. Of course, be aware this podcast is based on information available today and we know things can, and most likely will, change in the coming weeks. Lee , I think the first thing we should talk about is who is being infected in the US by COVID 19.Lee Gunn:
Thanks Libby. The CDC website is indicating that cases of COVID 19 in the United States are coming from imported cases in travelers, cases among close context of a known case, or community acquired cases where the source of the infection is unknown. The entire clinical picture of COVID 19 is not fully known as of today. However, reported illnesses have ranged from very mild with something completely asymptomatic to severe , with illnesses resulting in death. It looks like older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at the highest risk of developing complications from COVID 19.Libby Hall:
So with that in mind, and knowing that employers have employees of various ages and at various health risks, what should firms take into consideration when they're creating a response plan?Lee Gunn:
For an event like this, some key considerations employers will want to take is looking at disease severity in their area, which means the number of people who were sick and the hospitalizations and death rates in the community where the business is located. They'll want to prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness or their family members being ill. Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism in the workplace. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations. For example, identifying alternative suppliers, prioritizing certain customers or clients, and temporarily suspending some of your operations if needed. Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide those other locations with the authority to take appropriate actions as outlined in their business continuity plans. Employers will want to share their plan with employees and explain how the policies, workplace and leave policies are available to them.Libby Hall:
So Stacie, what is Oyster doing at this time? It might provide people some ideas for how they can be managing their firms.Stacie Doyle:
Sure. So right now we've had a couple of cases in our community, so we have enacted our BCP. As of today, we have restricted unnecessary employee travel. Fortunately our consultants are experienced at working remotely, so we don't really anticipate any business interruption with that transition. All of our clients wi ll c ontinue to have the ability to be securely serviced by our employees. Also, internally we've been looking at our administrative processes and procedures. We have made sure that our critical administrative processes have multiple backups in case anything happens to the primary person responsible for that process. Internally, we use Oyster Solutions to both log our policy and then the procedures around those policies. What's great about Oyster Solutions is that it's role-based. So as it is needed, we can open those policies and procedures up to anyone that needs access to them.Libby Hall:
Thanks Stacie. That sounds great. And if anyone would like to learn more about Oyster Solutions, please visit our website, www.oysterllc.com. Le e, what does the CDC say employers should do to minimize the risk of infection within the office?Lee Gunn:
The CDC recommends for employers to help protect their office to routinely clean off frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, including workstation counter tops and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended by the CDC at this time. Employers will also want to provide disposable whites so that commonly-used surfaces can be easily wiped down. Doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls at desk are the highest traffic areas generally in a workplace.Stacie Doyle:
So here specifically at Oyster Consulting at our office in Richmond, we are practicing social distancing. We are reducing the number of employees that are physically in the office at any one time. We are of course encouraging hand-washing and sanitizing routinely throughout the day. Anyone that comes into the office to work, we are asking them to sanitize their station both when they arrive and when they leave. We have limited the number of outside vendors that we are allowing into our space and w e really encouraging our employees to take care of themselves, stay at home if they don't feel well or if anyone in their family is, is unwell either.:
Thanks Stacie. So Stacie, you mentioned social distancing. Lee, can you talk to us a little bit about that?Lee Gunn:
Absolutely. Social distancing is the practice of reducing close contact between people to slow the spread of an infectious disease. This means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance. The CDC recommends six feet or two meters from others when possible to implement social doesn't seem measures for employers. You will want to increase physical space between workers at the work site. You can consider staggering work schedules, decreasing social contacts in the workplace, which includes limiting in person meetings, meeting for lunches in a break room, using virtual meetings to meet with clients or other employees when applicable. You'll want to limit large work-related gatherings including staff meetings or any after work functions and limit non-essential work, travel.Libby Hall:
What should employers consider if they have employees who must travel for work or even for personal reasons?Lee Gunn:
Employers or the employee traveling will always want to check the CDC website about health notices for the latest guidance and recommendation for each country that they want to travel to. Employers should advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel or notify their supervisor and stay at home if they're sick. Employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment should notify their supervisor and or promptly call a health care provider for advice if needed. If outside the United States, sick employees should follow their company's policy for obtaining medical care or contact a health provider overseas medical assistance company to help them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in the country they are in.Libby Hall:
And finally, what should an employee do if they've been exposed, or if they've tested positive or they have a family member at home that has been exposed or tested positive?Lee Gunn:
Employees who feel well but have a sick family member at home with COVID 19 should notify their employer and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID 19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with disability act or ADA when creating a risk assessment. Please keep in mind that the risks to the general public from these outbreaks depends on the specific characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of the resulting illness, and any medical or other measures available to control the impact of this virus. For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID 19 is thought to be very low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States. Travelers returning from effected international locations where community spread is occurring also or an elevated risk of exposure.Stacie Doyle:
So Lee, I just wanted to let folks know that when it comes to business continuity planning, that is certainly a service that Oyster provides to its clients. And, internally working on our business continuity plan has allowed us to really evaluate our processes and procedures around those, verifying that those are correct and can be carried out in various emergency situations. And also it has provided our employees a real sense of security that they understand as any emergency unfolds, what Oyster's plan and steps are. And I have to say probably the most controversial thing that we've done at this point is removing the communal snacks from our kitchen area.Libby Hall:
Yeah, there was a little bit of an uproar.Stacie Doyle:
Yes, there's animal crackers. It's a favorite.Libby Hall:
Well, thank you both for taking your time today to help folks understand what they should be doing, give a little bit of guidance and let people know what oyster is doing. Of course, Oyster Consulting is focused on the safety of our clients and our employees. We remain committed to fully supporting our clients during this event. If you have any questions or concerns, if you would like help creating your response plan, please call us at (804) 965-5400 or you can complete our contact form on our website, www.oysterllc.com. Have a great day.