It’s 2022 – and I’m sure, like myself, you’re probably at least a little sick of hearing/talking about Covid, which is fair enough. We’re into year 3 of what we all hoped would be a short-lived pandemic. Covid fatigue is alive and well.
However, as much as we may all be tired of Covid…it’s certainly not tired of us – or causing further disruptions to our lives.
With the current rise in Omicron cases we’re seeing across the country – and the implementation of nationwide red-light settings, it’s clear that the impacts of Covid will continue to be felt this year. While the government has said there won’t be large-scale lockdowns like we’ve faced previously, the red-light settings and highly transmissible variant pose the potential to cause further headaches for under-prepared businesses.
While the impacts will differ between businesses and industries, I thought I’d share some of the key areas of disruption expected for businesses – and how you can plan to limit the impacts of them. With modelling suggesting cases may not begin to drop off until the end of May, getting prepared now to ensure business continuity for the next few months is critical.
Although the symptoms of Omicron are milder than variants past, its much higher rate of transmission has the potential to impact your ability to keep your business staffed.
Employee absenteeism is likely to be the biggest Omicron-related business disruption. Employees will have to isolate if they either have Covid or are a close contact of someone who does. While the definition of a ‘close contact’ has changed throughout the pandemic – as has the difference between that and a ‘casual contact’ – the latest definition is here.
Taking a proactive approach now and creating employee bubbles (i.e., having set groups of employees who only work/interact with others in their employee bubble) will mean that if an employee was to test positive, their workplace close contacts would be limited to those in their employee bubble. This means that other employee bubbles would be able to continue working – and keep your business open and operating.
Identifying your mission-critical tasks and roles (i.e., those that are 100% needed to keep the place running) should factor into how you create your employee bubbles – as you wouldn’t want to put all the employees in those roles/who carry out those tasks in one bubble!
If you have business tools and/or vehicles that are taken home at night by employees, it may also be worth planning for how you would recover and clean these assets in the event that they are stuck with an isolating employee.
From an employee perspective, there’s an understandable level of anxiety around how they would be impacted if a colleague or themselves were to test positive. Involving your team in your planning in this area and clearly communicating the final plan is critical.
Equally important is familiarising yourself with the Leave Support Scheme that has been put in place to help support isolating employees or those who have to take time off while they await test results – and deciding if you will top this amount up at all (and if so, by how much) – so that you can answer any questions that come your way! For employment contracts, how you notify close contacts may need to be reviewed and communicated.
Are there certain items that are more at risk of falling victim to supply chain disruptions than others? Can you stock up on them now to mitigate this risk, or is it worth looking into alternative options if you cannot get them into the country? Are there alternative modes of transportation you should be considering – both in terms of getting items to you and getting them to your customers?
Some businesses may experience a downturn in customer visits – particularly if there is a high concentration of case numbers in the area where they operate. Communicating your plan to ensure customer safety may help customers feel more comfortable visiting your business.
If your business offers products for purchase/is able to operate via e-commerce (and you don’t already have an e-commerce presence), it may be worth setting this capability up in order to allow customers who do not wish to visit your business in person to have access to what they need/want.
If your business involves employees visiting customer sites, it may also be worth considering setting up a system where those customers can quickly inform you of any potential cases in their business your employees may have been exposed to – rather than waiting for contact tracers to get in touch!
If there are any other areas of your business you’re worried about at the moment, give me a call I’d be happy to lend an ear and see if I can provide any support or advice to help you navigate whatever challenges you are facing.