Preparing for Potential Operational Impacts of Coronavirus

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak originated in China, but cases are now confirmed in 16 other nations. What should businesses and organizations be doing right now to prepare for potential operational impacts?

2019 Novel Coronavirus

Novel Coronavirus is a highly communicable disease that is thought to spread through respiratory secretions. It has spread to people who have not traveled to China but who have been in contact with people who have. Although the Chinese government has put extensive travel restrictions in place and as many as 50 million people are under quarantine, many residents of Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, reportedly fled prior to the travel restrictions. As of January 30, more than 7,700 cases were confirmed, and 170 fatalities have been reported in China. The numbers, however, are likely much higher as there is a shortage of test kits available to accurately diagnose the disease. It has been reported that infected people can spread the virus for up to 14 days prior to displaying symptoms. This will limit the effectiveness of normal disease control precautions and could lead to widespread infection.

Businesses and organizations should prepare now for potential operational impacts. T&M recommends that organizations take the following preparedness measures:

  • Review human resources policies and procedures regarding communicable disease management and sick leave
  • Review business continuity plans
    • How will the organization function if employees are unable or unwilling to travel to the workplace?
  • Stand up your Crisis Management Team and meet regularly to discuss developments regarding the outbreak and how they may affect your organization
    • Monitor the Centers for Disease Control website for information updates:
    • Hold a business continuity refresher training session for Crisis Management Team members
    • Conduct a tabletop exercise to test relevant response procedures and capabilities and identify gaps
  • Test remote work capabilities and capacities
    • Do workers have the necessary equipment to work from home?
    • Is there sufficient bandwidth to accommodate an increased number of remote workers?
  • Cross-train workers to provide backup capabilities for sick workers in key roles
  • Provide regular informational updates for employees
    • Consider providing training sessions on health precautions
  • Procure sanitizing cleaning products and hand sanitizer and make them available in the workplace
    • Procure increased cleaning services for the workplace
  • Review travel policies and consider alternative ways to accomplish tasks without travel
  • Understand that employees displaying symptoms are far more likely to have one of the typical influenza strains affecting the US at this time of year than the Coronavirus. Still, sick employees should be sent home immediately and employees experiencing symptoms should be directed to stay home and seek medical advice.
Need help evaluating your organization's readiness or implementing these recommendations? T&M's experts advise and train on preparedness in the workplace. If your organization needs assistance, our team is at the ready.

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