While there is little new to report on the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, other than the fact that flu season is coming soon, the vaccine will be released shortly, the flu as it currently stands is not as deadly as it was initially projected to be, and the 2009 H1N1 is now the dominant human flu on the planet, the United States government has a slew of resources available for businesses to plan for widespread employee absence, slowdowns in the supply chain, and public fear about the spread of illness.  Highlights include the following:

  • Supply Chain Planning:  Banks may have to wait longer for cash shipments.  Manufacturers may have to wait longer to receive raw materials.  Vendors and service providers may have slower customer service as their employees may be out sick.  Businesses must plan accordingly for this as well as planning for the absenteeism of their own employees.
  • Absenteeism Threshold:  How many people can your business afford to lose to absenteeism at the same time before business operations are adversely affected?  If the number of absent employees exceeds this number, does the company have plans to adjust accordingly?  Are there policies and technologies in place so that absent employees (if they are not sick themselves but are caring for a sick family member) can work from home?
  • Sick Time Policies:  Has your HR department considered revising policies regarding sick time so that sick employees are not showing up to work and spreading the disease just because they have a limited number of sick days?  Businesses must take the health of other employees into account, as well as the probability that employees may have to care for children who are home from school as a result of a school closure or a child becoming ill.
  • Extended Hours:  Social distancing will be a technique used to prevent the spread of the flu.  Many companies will stagger their hours of operation so that employees will have less contact with other employees, decreasing the probability that a virus will be spread.
  • Screening:  Companies should consider whether employees will be asked if they have had symptoms of the flu (i.e. fever, headache, sore throat) in the last day, and whether they should be mandated to leave the workplace if they have.

More advice from the United States Government, including a useful pandemic planning checklist, are available here.

GraVoc Associates, Inc, based in Peabody, MA, are celebrating fifteen years of serving customers in many industries in the practices of information security, information systems, and professional services.  Encompassed in the information security field is business continuity and pandemic event planning, and GraVoc has many years’ experience helping businesses plan for a disaster or a pandemic event.  With the onset of the swine flu pandemic in April, the GraVoc News Blog has provided additional guidance and updates regarding how to plan so that business operations are not interrupted.  For more information about GraVoc’s business continuity services, as well as its other products and services, please visit www.gravoc.com.

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