Can anything good come from an Ebola Scare?

The title kind of gives away our thoughts on Ebola.  It is a serious disease and one that has a very high mortality rate, but is anyone willing to actually listen to the professionals who spend their lives studying this disease? It appears not.  Your inbox is being hammered by emails with the untruths being spread by the CDC, how the government is not telling you everything, etc.  While we don’t deny that in fact the CDC and the government may not being telling you everything, it really doesn’t matter in this particular case.

A few facts:

Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids.  Please check the CDC website  It really does have good information on how it spreads and how to prevent the spread.

Speaking of prevention, those same hand washing procedures and surface sanitizing procedures we told you about for flu – work here as well. (Again – google the sites, go to the reputable ones and look at all the information that is actually out there.  For instance, here is what the CDC has to say: )

If you want sources that are not related to the CDC and are a true independent voice, you can look at the University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP   This site has the researcher’s view point and they may agree or disagree with CDC and others.

So, can we get anything positive out of the scare tactics?  It depends on what your reaction is to the news.

Do you take it as a wake-up call and a call-to-action? Or do you become distressed and too worried to go out of your home?

Do you look at your business and all the key people within it and try to educate and protect them? Or do you say all will be lost – there is nothing I can do about it?

A wake up call:

Business – for profit or not-for-profit - depends on human resources.  We are the lifeblood of the business and protecting these valuable resources is a function of all management personnel.  We need to know who our key personnel are in the organization and what we would do if any of them were lost to us.  It’s not morbid, and we are not trying to get rid of anyone.  You hired them because of these skills, or perhaps you are the one with the skills and you’ve hired everyone else to support those skills.  It is about understanding your business; the flow and the components that each person adds to that process.  About now you are waiting for the punch line – so here it is.  This is true business continuity.  If you’ve looked at our website and read any of our articles on keeping your business a going concern, this is one of our 4 key pillars (People, Process, Facilities, and Interdependencies).

What if you have a few people that have irreplaceable skills?  The first question we have for you is, can they ever take a vacation?  This is not a trivial question, but in fact a very serious one.  We all need time away.  It enables us to recharge, refocus and enjoy what we do even more.  If you can’t ever get away because everything stops if you do, then a real action item is present.  We need to train our team to be able to accomplish the routine tasks without that person always being there.  This makes for a much more productive workplace, and one that is much more fun to be at.  Not only do all the team members benefit by getting additional skills, but even the expert who is doing the teaching gets something from delivering the training.  He gets to look at those skills and thought processes differently and may gain some keen insights doing it.  

If this resonates with you – then please take the action item and start the process of reducing the key man dependencies.  If it doesn’t resonate with you and you don’t see the value in it, let it sit until you have a loss of one of those key personnel; then you will have the motivation to get it resolved or you will be looking for a new company to work for…  We joke and use sarcasm to try and enforce the seriousness of this problem and bring more attention to the fact that nothing is resolved overnight and it will take a lot of effort and management attention to making change happen.

The industry you work in does not matter.  Governmental workers to startup company executives all face the same problem because we have streamlined and downsized and reduced staffing to such a degree that we have too many tasks and not enough time.  We have not seen any company that has sufficient redundancy in its workforce to survive these events with minimal long term effect.  

The Action Plan:

Make sure you have a plan for what to do in the event of a flu outbreak.  That is much more likely to happen and the techniques of flu prevention are really very good for most common infectious diseases, including Ebola.  The same plan can be used for anything that will cause wide-spread absenteeism.

A written plan

The understanding of which personnel must be present for work to continue

A plan to survive 21 days of that person being out

Prevention and safety plans to include hand washing and sanitizing, as well as control for airborne and droplets  (that will kill most viruses)

Build a plan to cross train and involve more of your team in all phases of the operation.  The long term benefit to all is huge and you just might get a real vacation now and then.

Practice and train.  These plans are almost useless if you do not train your team on how to use them, and if you don’t practice (at least in a table top discussion mode) to find issues and concerns that would make it hard to implement in an actual event.  Baseball players take batting practice every day – it’s not like they don’t know how to hit a ball.  They want to be prepared and ready for all kinds of pitches and speeds.  That’s the way practicing and exercising your continuity plan works.

When in doubt or if you are frustrated, stop and give us a call.  We can help simplify the process and guide you through it.  It’s worth a few dollars to avoid the frustration and let us help you build the plan you need to keep you a going concern.

Fred Klapetzky, Dawn Moyer, and Keith Gregorio contributed to this article.