The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is committed to connecting local employers to important information about the impacts of COVID-19. The Partnership has cancelled, postponed, or is creating a digital substitute for all our events and programs from now through May 15, but our business continuity plan is in place and we will be here for you.
As of today, there are three known cases of COVID-19 in Erie County. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz declared a state of emergency in Erie County and shared important information with the public HERE.
We know that many employers are deep into COVID-19 planning. Below please find a helpful checklist as you develop and implement your plans. Furthermore, we are willing to serve as a repository of good practices, so if you are ahead of the game and are willing to share with other local businesses, please let us know.
Businesses should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from coronavirus while ensuring continuity of operations. Please visit the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for more on best practices and recommended strategies. We have also put together COVID-19: Planning Resources for Buffalo Niagara Businesses for your convenience.
In assembling best practices from across the country, here are the six buckets of how to deal with COVID-19. I hope you find it helpful.
- Implement Recommended Strategies for Employee Health and Safety
Any sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace, respiratory etiquette and hand washing should be encouraged, and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces should be performed regularly.
- Establish a Cross-Functional Team to Manage Preparation and Response
When faced with an event that has the potential to significantly impact your business and its people, forming a team to manage your assessment, preparation, communication, and response is an important best practice. The earlier this team is in place, the better organized your response will be to limit impact on the business and your people.
- Risk Assessment and Possible Scenarios
Use your team to conduct a risk assessment and implement measures that balance the health and safety of employees with business continuity. Have your team brainstorm solutions to possible scenarios and considerations. Here’s a list of discussion questions to get started. Additionally, if you have procedures and policies in place that you would be willing to share with other Buffalo Niagara businesses, please share them with me.
- When/If schools are closed will you provide childcare? Are all your employees equipped to do their job remotely?
- What is your business continuity plan, and have you tested it? Can your business continue to operate efficiently if all your employees had to work remotely?
- What are guidelines for assessing the threat level to your business? What steps will you take as the threat increases? This team will prepare and have response plans in place should the threat level increase.
- How does this impact your supply chain? While your community may not be impacted, have you mapped your supply chain to determine sourcing of ingredients, parts or equipment to assess potential risk and how that will impact productivity of the business?
- Do you need to implement travel restrictions and who is monitoring the changing state of play there?
- What FAQs do your employees need to be equipped to answer? For example, if you make a product in China, are your employees able to confidently answer when a customer asks if it has been exposed and if they are in danger of getting sick upon receipt of the product?
- What is your response when employees ask if your major corporate meeting is still on for May? What if they ask about limiting domestic travel?
- Assign Team Members to Implement Strategy
Determine the strategies that best support your business and assign team members to implement them. Possible actions include:
- Establish an ongoing process to communicate health and safety measures to all employees, through email and other digital media, staff meetings, hanging posters, water-cooler conversations, etc.
- Communicate and continue to communicate with customers, vendors, business partners, etc. Know what measures you are taking to address coronavirus.
- Assess the risk of business travel and follow recommendations for safe business travel.
- Assess your essential functions and determine what is needed to maintain critical operations.
- Explore flexible and/or remote work if needed.
- Revisit or Create Planning and Response Documents
Use the current coronavirus situation as an opportunity to develop or revisit existing plans and procedures, including your:
- Business Continuity Plan
- Emergency Response Plan
- Outbreak Response / Pandemic Plan
- Event Cancellation Policy
- Sick Leave, Business Travel, and Remote Work Policies and Procedures
- Stay Engaged, Up-To-Date, and Flexible
- Continue to monitor news provided by official channels, including the CDC, WHO, Erie County, Niagara County and New York and health departments.
- Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Maintain regular communication with employees and business partners as the situation changes and develops.
- Continue to use your cross-functional team to adjust to the changing needs of your business to maintain successful operations.
Finally, given the fluidity of this situation, please feel free to reach out to us with questions and even more importantly, if you have best practices you can share, please do.
Thanks as always for your support of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
President & CEO