Some people will say you can never really plan for the unexpected, which is precisely why it’s called the unexpected. For instance, most businesses could never have prepared for the pandemic in advance. They had no inkling it was coming, and coming soon.
However, what most businesses can do is have a work-from-home plan. This plan will be essential in case anything should happen that requires their staff to be absent from business premises. Furthermore, it’s best to take into account both scenarios – having both remote and office-based workers – and plan for a hybrid work environment.
And while the truly unexpected may still arise, at least you’ll know you’ve done your absolute best to prepare. Let’s take a look at some more specific workplace preparedness tips that are useful for both remote and office-based staff.
Establish a notification system
You should first establish an in-case-of-emergency communication system that will only be activated in certain situations. This should not be the same system as the one used for business-related emergencies, like when you need to handle an urgent task.
A PA system for the office/ onsite would be a good idea, as would a notification system via text message for those working remotely. Make sure you also consider any disabilities your employees may have. Consider what would be the best way to reach everyone in a very short time. For instance, making phone calls won’t be the best solution as it will involve a lot of repetition. It would prove inefficient even if there’s only a handful of you working from home whom you need to notify about something.
Establish a chain of command
The system will only work as well as the people behind it, so make sure you have very clearly defined roles within the company.
Decide who the person sending out the PA notice will be and who is next in the chain of command. Define every critical role carefully, and then select the right people for the job and their replacements.
Match tasks to employees based on their skills and strengths. For example, someone who is likely to have an anxiety attack in the midst of an emergency is not the best person to handle an important task. But you should certainly assign someone to ensure they are okay.
Make sure you carefully designate these roles based on who is physically at the office and who might be working from home.
Establish clear protocols
You will also need to have clear protocols in place, detailing who does what in which scenario.
Write out different emergency protocols, step by step, for every foreseeable emergency, ranging from an office fire and an earthquake, to a shooting, heart attack, power outage, and so on. Define what a potential remote emergency might be and who you might assign to notify your remote staff in the event of an emergency.
Ensure you have all the necessary equipment and tools to handle each of these semi-foreseeable events and that their location is clearly mentioned in the protocols. Finally, send a personalised copy to each employee, detailing what their specific roles are. Talk to everyone to ensure they are happy with their tasks and confident that they will execute them well.
Your employees also need to have adequate skills and knowledge to be able to handle the unexpected. That’s why you should provide different kinds of safety training to all of your employees.
It is also equally important to refresh their knowledge every once in a while, especially if there are new protocols. This may mean that you conduct drills and refreshers on a regular basis, ensuring everyone is up-to-date with what needs to be done in any situation. Revising these practices helps ensure they won’t have to think, but just act, if something were to indeed happen.
Display the necessary information
You also need to clearly define:
- exact location of the emergency exits
- exact location of the fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and other emergency-response equipment
- what to do incase employees can’t access the emergency-response equipment for any reason
Make sure to display important phone numbers, as many people would experience a mind blank during such moments of panic. Just being able to glance at a piece of paper can be of huge help. Refresh this information as necessary. Lastly, ensure the emergency lights are working and that the medication in the first-aid kit is in date.
Protect your assets
The health and safety of your employees is not the only thing you need to protect in an emergency. Your business assets are also very important, and you need a protocol in place for their preservation, too.
For starters, always make sure you have a backup server off the premises. This server will store all of your most vital information the business cannot do without. You can back up literally all of your data if you have the space, but essential data should be backed up regularly and whenever there’s a change made to it.
Cloud storage is also a useful investment. It can come in handy in a pinch, especially if you need to access data from a distance.
As for your physical assets, determine what you need to do to protect them in different scenarios. However, make sure the lives and health of your staff always come first – and that they’re aware of that.
Define post-emergency protocols
You also want to clearly define what happens after the emergency is over. When would your employees be able to make a safe return? What steps will you need to take to ensure the premises are safe?
Write these protocols down again, but make them more flexible. You might need the fire department or the police to execute safety assessments, so there might be no room to define clear timeframes.
Establish another chain of command for the post-emergency debrief, too. That way, everyone will have a task at hand and two people won’t be handling the same issue. Be ready to switch to full remote work if necessary.
Preparing for the unexpected can seem like a lot of wasted time, especially as you could be spending that time handling other important tasks. However, if an emergency were ever to arise, everyone would be thankful for the instructions. Preparedness could literally save lives.
Take some time to go through this list. Repeat the process as often as necessary, and rest assured you’ve done what you can to expect the unexpected.
Author: Sarah Kaminski – freelance writer and social media marketer