What businesses can do to ready themselves.
As Canadian businesses are seemingly fully open and society is adapting to the new normal of masks, sanitizing stations and physical distancing there is a looming thought that we will have a second wave. And although we are hoping that it doesn't happen being prepared will help manufacturing businesses weather the storm should it occur.
Some big lessons from the first wave
- Basic measures can help reduce the spread of germs
Whether it's coronavirus or the common cold, regular handwashing, cleaning high contact areas, masks and physical distancing limits community spread.
- Supplies can be difficult to source
It's difficult to predict and understand what materials and supplies will be available. Between pandemic buying, logistics and relying on international suppliers the supply chain will be challenged during a pandemic.
- Consistent and frequent messaging are paramount
We only need to look south of the border to see what happens when governments and community leaders are maligned. Furthermore, businesses that were able to get the word out to their customers and teams during the evolving situation managed to do better than those that didn't.
- Businesses have the ability to adapt
When the state of emergency was declared in Canada the weeks that followed saw many businesses in the manufacturing sector retool to provide much-needed PPE. Existing digital technologies were leveraged to allow Canadian businesses to continue to operate.
- Workers are essential
Front line and essential workers were praised for their abilities to keep necessary goods moving and take care of Canadians. However, we also discovered that businesses need employees to be at work in order to maintain operations. Those who are compromised, have daycare challenges or are struggling with mental health during a pandemic need to be supported.
What can businesses do to prepare?
Whether it's COVID-19, the flu or another yet to be discovered virus, we can look at this past experience and put some plans in place to mitigate the spread, keep people safe and maintain business operations.
- Maintain rigourous cleaning schedules
By now, every business has adopted a cleaning schedule and individuals are washing hands, using sanitizer and masks. Vigilence will be critical to help prevent a second wave but also to keep people safe into the future. To a business, this represents increased operational expenses but could also lead to lower HR costs by protecting workers physical and mental health.
- Understand your supply chain
From toilet paper to raw materials, if any critical component of your supplies puts your business operations at risk, you should have a few alternatives in place.
- Communicate often, communicate clearly
Ideally, appoint one source within the company who will be responsible for internal and external communications. Keep staff, customers and suppliers informed as you make decisions regarding operations. Use all communication channels available to you including email, website, social media, outbound voice mail greeting and interior and exterior signage to let people know what you are doing.
- It's not 'business as usual'
Everything from sales to production will need to change; multiple times as situations unfold. Keep your eyes and ears open to have a good understanding of what you need to do and when it's time to shift your approach. Being agile is critical during times of crisis.
- Protect and support your team
Employer/Employee relationships are symbiotic and it's important to understand their needs during a pandemic so that you can support them while they continue to work. This could mean splitting shifts or flex time to accomodate their personal challenges or installing protective barriers so they can work without the worry of getting ill.
Nobody wants to see Canada hit with a second wave of COVID-19. In retrospect, we all saw it coming as we watch it sweep across China in late 2019 before hitting a critical point in Canada in March 2020. It seemed to catch most Canadians off guard however. Preparing for a second wave will not only help us prevent an actual second wave but will also help in the event of future times of crisis.