Advice by Andrew Caldwell, HR Advisory Team Lead, at HR consulting firm Peninsula Canada
What is a business contingency plan?
A business contingency plan is an action plan prepared in anticipation of an event that may disrupt normal business operations. The purpose of this plan to ensure the business stays open despite challenges. It also allows for employers to plan ahead in case of an emergency and provide alternatives to reduce greater impact of the disruptive event.
What are some things to keep in mind when creating a contingency plan for operating amid Omicron?
Though the finer details of a contingency plan would vary according to your business and industry, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when preparing a backup operational plan for your business.
Shortlist key services
Identify your core services and critical employees/roles. Ask yourself which services would you be able to continue with limited staff? Could you switch to taking online orders only? Or offer curbside pickup? Would reducing your work hours or workdays make it easier?
Train substitutes for key roles
Cross train employees so that if your staff handling key services get sick, you have employees ready and trained to step in and take charge. Make sure the deputies have all necessary information, data, and training to be able to execute the critical roles.
Have a communication plan in place
Designate a point person for addressing all internal queries from staff. Update your sick leave policies and share them with your staff. Assign a staff member with the responsibility to communicate any modification in your services or hours of operation to your customers and vendors. This also includes updating your social media pages and website with the new operating hours/services.
Utilize government financial assistance programs
The Federal and provincial governments have rolled out grants to assist with costs such as rent, utilities and maintenance, staff wages, etc. If your business operations have been impacted by local lockdowns or operating capacity restrictions implemented due to Omicron spread, you can apply for the new support programs.
Review your COVID-19 health and safety measures often
While the purpose of a contingency plan is to function with a limited staff, you should make all possible efforts to avoid such a scenario in the first place. Review your COVID-19 health and safety measures frequently and identify areas for improvement. Ensure all employees follow guidelines such as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing and sanitizing protocols or using Plexiglass barriers to protect workers who cannot work remotely due to the nature of their work. It is essential to follow all provincial public health orders and keep track of any updates.
With a proper contingency plan in place, businesses should be able to successfully cope with employee absences and continue operations.