Every prepared business has a contingency plan for what they’ll do in case of an emergency, whether from an extreme weather event or some other unforeseen difficulty. As the United States seeks to contain and lessen the effects of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, it seems like a time to test those plans in a way they might not have been needed previously. A bad snowstorm keeps workers away from an office for a day or two—in this case, there could be weeks or months of interrupted daily life to deal with. So what should you do?
First of all, review that contingency plan! Make sure that it’s up-to-date, meaning you have current contact information for your employees, clients, vendor contacts, etc., processes in place in the event employees are not in the office for an extended period of time, and a chain of command to ensure complete and timely communication. Don’t just glance through it; this is a time to make sure that each aspect has been examined and considered. Check in with everyone in your office to make sure they know your office’s plan as well.
Secondly, make your office as safe as possible. You may have a weekly cleaning service, but this might be the time to take extra measures. Keep common areas and workspaces clean and disinfected—don’t neglect doorknobs and fridge handles and other often-touched items. Make sure the office has a good stock of paper products and soaps; increased hand washing does go through supplies more quickly than usual. Post a quick reminder near sinks of the proper hand washing technique. Hand sanitizing stations throughout an office in high traffic areas are a good way to help your employees and clients.
Thirdly, look over your work arrangements. Does it make sense for your employees to work remotely, even part of the time? Are there clients you could meet with virtually using available software like Zoom or Skype? Are you making it easy for employees to stay home if they feel ill as a precaution? Consider the risk in your area and your office and make decisions that work best and protect everyone. Also be ready to make changes as the situation alters. Flexibility can be key.
Lastly, communication is the most important thing. With market volatility scaring investors, make sure you’re taking the time to touch base with your clients. Let them express what concerns them and work through their fears. This is what you’re there for after all! Communicate with your staff and your home office, letting everyone know what the situation is in your location and what steps you may implement. Stay updated with what’s going on near you in terms of government requests and CDC recommendations as this outbreak continues. It’s easier to keep a ship afloat if you keep an eye on where there might be holes rather than bailing out once the water is getting in.
Things can change rapidly in a situation like this, but by being prepared, you can take some of the uncertainty out of your office operations. This is an opportunity for you to be a source of comfort for your clients and to make your business stronger by weathering the storm. Just remember: keep washing your hands!