Key Lesson Learned from the Flu Pandemic

Paul Mah

When it was clear that the current flu pandemic was going to be a worldwide phenomenal in April, IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle asked whether companies are ready with their business continuity plans, suggesting some possible responses. Blogger Ralph DeFrangesco urged that a comprehensive plan specifically for pandemics is necessary.

 

Well, the worst of the current flu pandemic appears to be past us for now. Of course, the pessimists would argue that various governments around the world have merely given up on making complete tallies. Whatever the case, it is useful to reflect on the various strategies that worked, as well as the mistakes.

 

So, three months on, what have we learned that you should implement in your small or medium-sized business?

 

The importance of open communication

 

Personally, I believe that transparent and honest communication is absolutely vital in a pandemic. I spend a few days a week teaching at a local college and the speed at which rumors propagate via IM, forums, and word-of-mouth was mind-boggling.


 

It is not hard to imagine the exaggeration, inaccuracies or outright lies that creep in with each iteration of an unsubstantiated report. A small organization should have no problems with nipping the problem in the bud, a mid-sized SMB will probably have its hand full as employees stop their work in order to independently verify or seek reassurances for what they are hearing.

 

One possible way to open communications is to establish a temporary site for all pandemic-related updates or feedback. A link can be embedded to this site from the main page in the company intranet, or it can simply be set as the default page that gets loaded on all computers when they are fired up in the morning. To quickly and painlessly create such a site, you might want to consider the free, PHP-based WordPress blog engine for internal communications.

 

Of course, one downside to maintaining open communication on pandemic matters is the inevitable anxiety that is bound to arise. Think about it: employees now know about every new case of infection that crops up. A certain hit on morale will probably result as the number of infected staffers increases, or employees hear of yet more colleagues being asked to temporarily stay at home as a precautionary measure.

 

Even so, I strongly feel that it is better to be kept in the loop than to be ignorant of the situation -- and wasted productivity resulting from rumors.

 

In my next blog, I will share a few more of my observations about the flu pandemic. In the meantime, what is your take on the use of open communications to combat a pandemic? Feel free to leave your comments below.



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