Why Businesses Should Plan for H1N1 - Modern Distribution Management

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Why Businesses Should Plan for H1N1

Because employees want to know it's OK to stay home when they are sick.

I am working toward my MBA at the University of Colorado here in Boulder, and frequently I receive communication from the university’s leadership on the latest H1N1 outbreaks on campus. The school has asked instructors to communicate flu policies to their students, encouraging students to stay home if they feel sick.

As a student, it makes me feel better knowing that at least the university is paving the way for others to stay home without fear of reprisal in the classroom. Many sick students may still go to class, but at least my risk of exposure is lessened. Whether you believe "it won’t happen to you" or your business, employees will feel better, just as I do, if you communicate that you do have a plan and that it is OK for them to stay home when they are sick.
This article at Healthcare Finance News looks at public health experts’ opinion on the potential impact of H1N1. One expert quoted says: "The novel H1N1 influenza is rapidly morphing into its second wave assault. Within eight to 10 weeks, every organization will confront how to cope with sick employees and stay in business. We’re beyond theory and onto execution. The pandemic is here. And we need every business to recognize the impact they can have. It’s not too late, but time is of the essence." The article was posted in mid-September.
The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security has released a guide for small businesses to deal with a potential outbreak of the so-called swine flu, or H1N1, as we move into the annual flu season. Homeland Security suggests creating an H1N1 "plan." Looking at the recommendations made in the report (found here), I view creating policies for leave, telecommuting and employee compensation as among the most important. As the report’s overview says: "Leave policies should be flexible, non-punitive and well-communicated."
If there is disruption to business due to widespread absenteeism, you’ll need a business continuity plan to maintain operations. Identifying key employees and business functions is the first step.
All businesses know they face disruption when any illness – H1N1, the traditional flu, a cold, whatever – spreads around the office. At the minimum, companies should keep communication lines open with employees so they aren’t afraid of reprisal if they stay home and away from co-workers.

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