Is Your Company Prepared for Swine Flu?

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-04-28 Print this article Print

Human resources and IT, listen up. Swine flu is about to become part of your disaster recovery planning.

Had to jump on the swine flu train, eh? Well, Gartner did, and it has a point. Being prepared is always a good idea. Gartner is on the swine flu bandwagon, saying this is a time for action, like, immediately. Gartner isn't using panic rhetoric, but it is saying companies should do something this week. That's right, get on this thing now.

Gartner says companies could expect major interruptions and loss of productivity if the issue is not dealt with in a prudent fashion. In fact, Gartner predicts that swine flu could cause "absenteeism rates of 40 percent or higher." From the Gartner release:

"Enterprises in all regions and across all industries should complete their review of their BCM/DR pandemic response plans and fill in any missing elements by the end of this week," said Roberta Witty, research vice president at Gartner. "Starting today IT managers should meet with senior executives, line-of-business managers and other high-level decision-makers to answer any questions [and make them] aware of the seriousness of this pandemic preparation, to ... ensure a broad, ongoing commitment to this effort. IT managers should plan, test, and add capacity to ensure the sustainability of what is likely to be a predominantly work-at-home environment."

Gartner seems to be giving a nod to remote work and making this part of a disaster recovery plan. It's also a wakeup call to IT pros that they should be ready to deploy the technologies that allow remote work and DR to happen in an organized fashion.

But if you have swine flu, how much is really going to get done? Have you ever had a bad flu? A bad one can knock you down and out. I would expect productivity to be greatly hampered in the case of a larger swine flu outbreak.

Given the lockdown advice from everyone from the CDC to the EU, it makes a lot of sense for companies to get a plan in place, inform employees of a clear course of action and be prepared for business to be affected. Gartner's advice is as follows:

  • Identify existing and projected critical skills shortages
  • Initiate necessary cross-training, testing or certification of personnel
  • Ensure that cross-trained personnel have the appropriate system/applications access rights
  • Determine which business operations are sustainable, and at what level, and the likely downtime for normal business operations during periods with absenteeism rates of 40 percent or higher
  • Immediately initiate rigorous, ongoing and well-documented testing to isolate and remediate identified problem areas
  • Prepare for travel restrictions to be significant in the event of an epidemic and near-universal in the event of a pandemic
  • Implement a communications program that ensures that all personnel are aware of the enterprise's pandemic response plans, as well as measures they can take to limit the spread of the disease-including practices as simple yet effective as regular hand-washing

I feel pretty confident that countries are working well together and taking the spread of swine flu and swine flu treatment as a very serious issue. I don't think this is going to get out of control, but managing risk is something you and your company cannot ignore.

How many companies are going to ignore the planning and preparation aspects of swine flu given the recession? Seems like an awfully challenging economic time for tech companies to incur the time and cost associated with taking people off revenue-driving projects in IT and getting them to have swine flu plan in place. But do they really have a choice?

Until this becomes a major productivity dent in the bottom line, I expect that much of this swine flu business will become e-mails from your HR department and maybe your CEO. IT may not be that involved just yet, but remember, don't be surprised if department heads start calling around looking for a modification to the DR plan to give the CIO quickly.

Is your company being proactive about swine flu? Does it offer flu shots seasonally? Has it announced a swine flu preparedness plan and policy?

Wash your hands. A lot. |

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