How to Prepare Your Business for the Flu

by Tim Parker

2 min read

This year’s flu season is the worst in 10 years, according to the CDC. It has reached epidemic levels in the U.S., with all but two states reporting widespread infection. Aside from the obvious impact on people’s health, your small business can suffer as well. After all, how will it operate if you and/or key employees are out sick?

It may be too late to prevent illness this season, but you can use the current outbreak as a call to action. Here’s how to prepare your business for the flu.

1. Store data in the cloud. If you’re too ill to go to the office, you may want to have access to your data from home. The same goes for employees who can’t come to work but aim to stay on top of their workloads. Storing your files, including email, in the cloud allows you and your employees to function remotely and avoid going to the office, where you could put others at risk of catching the flu. If you still keep all of your important data on your computer’s hard drive, look into using a cloud-based service like Dropbox.

2. Put somebody else in charge. As a small business, you may not have multiple layers of management. If you have employees, designate a leader for when you are absent. If you work alone and handle essential tasks that can’t wait when you’re sick, talk to a friend in your industry who could pinch-hit for you. Offer to return the favor when they need it.

3. Cross-train employees. Illness is one of the reasons that important operational knowledge shouldn’t be in the heads of one or two people. Train other employees or trusted family members or friends to run your business in the event of illness. As you train them, create documents that outline your processes and procedures.

4. Make a “sick” kit. Your bout with the flu probably isn’t the type of disaster that will bring FEMA to your door, but take a tip from the federal agency and put together an emergency kit while you’re still healthy. Your kit should contain spare keys, passwords, phone numbers, and anything else needed to keep the business going if you unexpectedly cannot make it to work. Don’t make staffers have to search for this information — or worse, call you at home when you’re not feeling well.

5. Run a drill. To make sure your business is ready, run a drill. “Call in” from your office phone and tell employees you’re sick and can’t come to work. Better yet, take a test vacation: Go away and ask them to run the business without any help from you. Afterward, evaluate what happened, make adjustments, and, if necessary, repeat the process.

You may not be the type of person who gets sick often, but when you do, you’ll be glad you planned ahead to make sure your business will run smoothly in your absence. Likewise, if you have employees, have a contingency plan for operating with less than a full staff.

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