Worker illness slows productivity in any firm, but small firms hit hard during the flu season can see more than half of their staff out sick and business grinding to a halt.
With the sniffles, sneezes and worse approaching, business owners need to start taking charge of how to prepare for a potential pandemic.
"Looking at today’s headlines about the severity of the wildfires in California, it’s important for small, medium and large businesses to look at H1N1 preparation as a complement to preparation for ... any type of threat or hazard," says Matthew Eggers, manager of the National Security & Emergency Preparedness Department at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Businesses should take an all-hazards approach to planning ad preparedness because 25% of businesses that close following a major disaster do not reopen.”
Experts are advising businesses to focus on keeping employees healthy and maintaining business continuity, says Eggers.
“With H1NI, absenteeism may likely be the central issue that businesses really wrestle with during the flu season,” he says. The chamber has partnered with the Trust for America’s Health to develop a flu preparation guide for businesses that is available now on the chamber’s Web site.
A lot of expert tips are common sense, such as reviewing a preparedness plan, keeping away from a workplace if you have a fever and working on reducing the transmission of illness by using a cough etiquette and washing hands. Eggers recommends that business owners review the government Web site full of flu news, updates and other information.
Businesses also should think about repercussions from school closings. "It’s really important that a business owner communicate with the workforce in the event that a school closes and think about updating sick leave and family and medical leave policies," he says, adding that "telecommuting is another tool in the toolbox."