With the cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated from Wuhan rapidly increasing in Singapore, HR Managers in SMEs have a big role to play to take necessary precautions at their workplaces.
At JustLogin, we have taken steps in response to the current situation. We would like to share our precautions and business continuity plans to our stakeholders, as well as to provide reference to fellow HR practitioners in our Singapore SMEs on how we can better protect our employees and business.
Keep yourself updated
First and foremost, it is important to be updated with the latest information on the 2019-nCoV from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Visit the MOH website to get updates on the latest confirmed cases, the affected areas, as well as the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) colour code. The DORSCON is a colour-coded risk assessment framework from MOH that can help you determine the severity and risk of spread of the disease. For SMEs in Singapore, you can structure your business continuity plans and responses in phases according to the DORSCON code.
DORSCON infographic by MOH
Visit the MOM website to get the latest updates on measures, including travel advisories for employees, recommended workplace practices and policies for quarantine and leave of absence (LOA).
Here are the important links:
Creating a safe work environment
While it is likely to be business as usual at DORSCON Yellow, you should be taking these precautions:
Travel declaration form
MOM has announced travel advisories for visitors to mainland China. For employees who are on leave, have them fill up a travel advisory form to declare their travel plans. You can download a template from MOM here. You can also use online tools like Google Form, Survey Monkey or TypeForm to create online travel declaration forms.
It is encouraged to take temperatures of employees who have travelled to monitor fever symptoms. Employees who are on LOA should also take their temperature twice a day, and report to HR. You can download a temperature tracking form from MOM here.
For many businesses, you may have an inflow of visitors to your office during this period. It is a good practice to do visitor registration so you can identify each person who has visited your office, and collect their contact details. This will be useful for contact tracing if required. At JustLogin, we use Envoy for our visitors to do self-service iPad check in at our reception. It is also good practice to enforce travel declaration forms and temperature screenings for these visitors.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
To protect employees, it is important to try to keep a supply of PPE like masks, hand wash, anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitizers available in the office. If employees exhibit flu-like symptoms at work, they should be issued a mask and advised to see a doctor.
Relaxed leave policies
HR should encourage employees who exhibit even mild flu symptoms to stay at home. If they do not need to see the doctor, businesses can consider waiving the MC requirement and allow them to apply hospitalization leave. Businesses should also try to provide flexible work arrangements.
All employees should be fully aware of policies set in place by the organization. HR should share circulars that clearly stipulate action plans for business continuity and help educate employees on proper hygiene practices to minimize the risk at the workplace.
Importance of a Business Continuity Plan
Every business should come up with a business continuity plan and be aware of the activation time required for such plans. When DORSCON Orange is announced, the government is likely to start employing certain control measures. It is at this stage whereby most SMEs should start activating their business continuity plans.
Taking our own organization as an example, if the situation deteriorates to DORSCON Red, JustLogin would fully move our employees to a remote working model. All our software, technology and tools are cloud-based, so we can operate with minimal disruption out of the office. We also frequently practice flexible work arrangements like working from home. We have started preparing spare laptops for employees who are currently desktop users in the office. In the event of an activation, we would need less than 4 hours activation time for the whole team to move into our remote working model.
As a technology company, we are well-equipped for remote working. However, we understand that depending on the industry in which your business operates, it may be hard to minimize business disruptions or implement flexible working arrangements. More complex business operations could also see their business continuity plans requiring a longer activation time. Thus, it is important to start planning immediately, to prepare for a potential worsening of the situation.
Considerations for a Business Continuity Plan
Here are some guidelines on what you should cover in your Business Continuity Plan:
Continuity of leadership in the absence of key decision makers
In many SMEs, key decision making is usually concentrated in a few persons in the senior management team, or even with a single Managing Director. It is important to start planning who will be the second in command after the key decision maker. Having a clear organization chart will help businesses easily identify such persons.
Critical business functions and essential employees
Within critical business functions, you can consider splitting your employees into two teams to have different work schedules, or to physically segregate them to reduce the risk of infection for the whole function. For example, half of the team can telecommute, while the other half can work in the office. When splitting the team, you can consider prioritizing high risk employees (e.g. pregnant women, elderly or employees with pre-existing conditions) to have the telecommuting arrangements.
If you have a lean team, another possibility is to have a buddy system, whereby employees are cross-trained to cover their allocated ‘buddy’ if required. Employees holding critical knowledge or information should also document them down to share with other colleagues when required.
Key suppliers or service providers
If you have key suppliers or service providers that you rely heavily on, it is important to also find out what their business continuity plans are. You should be involved in their planning process to ensure they will be able to continue supporting you throughout with minimal disruptions. If possible, you should also diversify your risks by having alternative suppliers.
A key stakeholder of your business continuity plan is your customers. When coming up with the plan, customer needs should be placed in high consideration. Alternative delivery methods to customers should be prepared in case of disruption and clear and continuous communication is vital to retain trust with your customers in times of uncertainty.
To effectively implement flexible working arrangements, the right technological tools and infrastructure should be in place. The good news is, subscribing to these services are usually quick and affordable. A good place to start would be to invest in good virtual communication tools – internally, we use Microsoft Teams, which was already included in our Office 365 subscription. You can refer to some of the cloud-based software we use – while we have replaced some of these tools since, it may be a good reference to guide you through setting up your own cloud systems.
Coordination and execution
While a large part of the business continuity plan should be devised by the business managers, a coordinator should be identified to align operations and ensure clear communication throughout the execution. HR could potentially be a good fit as the coordinator to ensure that employees are keenly aware of all policies, and to ensure compliance.
New initiatives by JustLogin
For JustLogin users, we will be including a notification on the leave application pages on the web and mobile app to remind employees to declare travel plans in the leave application remarks during this period.
We would also like to encourage our customers to leverage on ‘Announcements’ on our new mobile application as a way to quickly disseminate updates to all employees regarding the 2019-nCoV situation and activation of business continuity plans.
Employees should download our latest mobile app to receive the announcement alerts while administrators can send out these announcements through JustLogin Express.
In view of the uncertain conditions, it is strongly recommended that safeguards to both employee well-being and business continuity are in place. I hope that some of my inputs above would be helpful to the greater HR community.
About Jeremy Lee
For happy HR, bosses and employees, you want a platform that can help your team remain productive and focused, while providing excellent employee experiences that impresses and retains talent. JustLogin is the HR employee experience platform that delivers both through a comprehensive suite of HR applications.