How to prepare your organization for a global pandemic

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Implementing a pandemic response policy prepares companies for a second wave of COVID-19, or future pandemic.

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IMAGE: iStock/DrazenZigic

COVID-19 turned the working world upside down, forcing businesses to abandon office environments and moving entire teams to work remotely. Since the pandemic was so unprecedented, many enterprises were thrown for a loop, trying to create order in the chaos. 

SEE: Pandemic response policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Nearly 7.5 million small businesses were reportedly at risk of closing because of the pandemic, a National Main Street Center survey found. 

"If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has shown that it never hurts to be prepared. Many companies were caught completely off-guard by the need for employees to shelter-in-place for months," said Costa Tsaousis, founder and CEO of Netdata. "Unfortunately, this didn't need to be the case."

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While it's difficult to prepare for an unprecedented crisis, companies can learn from this experience. Creating a pandemic response plan can help organizations prepare for such a crisis before, during, and after it occurs. 

SEE: Pandemic response policy (TechRepublic Premium)

"Disaster preparedness should include company policies for pandemics which could include anything from seasonal flu to outbreaks of other infectious diseases," Tsaousis said. "Any company providing critical services (such as national infrastructure, defense, hazardous material handling, utilities) likely has policies in place. However, many companies outside of these sectors were caught unaware." 

Many companies during the coronavirus pandemic had to quickly determine how to navigate the health aspect of the crisis, while also equipping employees with the tools they needed to do their jobs out of office. A pandemic response plan should cover all of these things, Tsaousis said. 

"Creating pandemic policies makes a great deal of sense. We should try to proactively alleviate many of the uncertainties that organizations faced when initially grappling with the impact of COVID-19," said Thomas Hatch, CTO and co-found of SaltStack, an intelligent IT automation software provider. "A pandemic policy should also help inform decisions about work from home protocols and provide guidance on dealing with employee support resources such as IT and HR."

SEE: Pandemic response policy (TechRepublic Premium)

"It's critical that these policies are flexible, however, because the processes and protocols will vary based on the particular illness," Hatch said. "A pandemic policy should focus on reducing response time, ensuring infrastructural and operational support, and having necessary supplies on hand." 

TechRepublic Premium's pandemic response policy covers everything a business needs to consider during a pandemic, allowing flexibility for specificity depending on the disease. 

The policy suggests setting up a "pandemic response team," so that organizations have specific people to turn to before a pandemic occurs. The document also addresses how to properly move employees out of the office, what equipment to provide them with, and how to ensure all employees maintain strong internet connections when working from home.

Companies can also use the TechRepublic Premium policy to define in-office health standards, including what areas of the office to shut down, how to properly sanitize, and what precautions employees should take to protect themselves.

SEE: Pandemic response policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The policy also outlines how to properly reopen once the pandemic has passed, guiding companies to successfully return to normal operations.   

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