High anxiety but little action

Organizations aren't ready for a flu pandemic despite fears that one is inevitable
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 07/04/2006

Canadian organizations are very concerned about a pandemic outbreak but they're not prepared for one, according to the findings of a Conference Board of Canada survey.

“A majority of the organizations surveyed are worried about the threat of a pandemic, but very few are ready to cope with one right now,” said Prem Benimadhu, vice-president, organizational performance. “Only a handful of respondents have carefully considered how a pandemic might affect their day-to-day operations.”

Almost 80 per cent of the 75 organizations responding to the survey are concerned about the impact of a pandemic on their organization, but only four per cent have completed a preparedness plan. More than 40 per cent of the survey respondents have not considered how they will communicate with employees during a pandemic outbreak.

Organizations anticipate that, on average, just over one-third of their workforce could be absent during a pandemic outbreak. However, most respondents have not yet worked out key details, such as dealing with quarantined employees, compensating individuals covering for absent colleagues and responding to employee refusals to work in a potentially unsafe environment.

The Conference Board briefing includes five measures to help organizations take action, including:

• Audit the preparedness of your organization and those in your supply chain.

Develop multiple scenarios for absenteeism rates that account for best, and worst, case scenarios.

• Look at absenteeism from every angle: These include pay and benefits, insurance costs, and reporting of absenteeism by managers.

• Invest in prevention: Educate employees about the spread of viruses (87 per cent of respondents are doing so). Encourage sick employees to stay home. Institute office guidelines to stave off widespread infection within your workplace.

• Communicate with employees: Employees will look to their employers for guidance during an outbreak.

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