Staffing Tips for Flu Season 2020-2021
Like many employers this year, you may have just recently returned to a more “normal” level of business operation – and that’s great! You should feel good about the effort you and your team have put in to get to where you are today. The flexibility, openness to change and resiliency that have kept many businesses afloat through the challenges of 2020 have helped to make our companies stronger. That being said, understanding that we’re not out of the woods yet will help prepare us for the challenges yet to come.
As we head into cold and flu season your COVID-19 safety protocols and increased focus on staff health and well-being will continue to serve you well. Stopping the spread of viruses will be as important over the next few months as it has been all year.
It IS possible to maintain your business operations while promoting sustained growth during this time.
You can help your business avoid being negatively impacted by staffing shortages by planning now. Beyond promoting everyday preventative actions for staying healthy, we’d like to share four key considerations for managing your staffing levels during this season:
Look to your staffing needs from October – March of last year to help prepare for this year.
Because cold and flu season is somewhat predictable in its effects, we can take lessons learned from past years and apply them for increased success this year.
You should plan to have last year’s staffing shortages accounted for, at least. Keep in mind, of course, that the potential is real for this season to be considerably worse, in terms of staff call outs and absences.
Have a plan in place should employees call out more frequently or take extended sick leaves.
Increased call-outs due to illness should not come as a surprise during this time of year. However, with the continued spread of COVID-19 it is more difficult to predict how employee illness will impact your staffing needs. Individuals who are ill for any reason may need to quarantine for an extended period of time before they are able to be tested and receive results. Exposures to Coronavirus may increase – also resulting in necessary quarantines – as cases continue to rise across the country.
Your plan should answer, at a minimum, the following two questions: how many employees can be out before operations are negatively impacted? And how will you ensure that operations can continue if that number is reached, or exceeded?
The CDC offers a really thorough Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist →
Consider your employee relations and communication strategy.
Managing seasonal staffing shortages is never easy. Add in the uncertainty of an ongoing pandemic and new challenges are sure to arise for you and your team. Having a proactive plan for keeping employees informed will go a long way in ensuring a workforce that remains both productive and calm.
Topics that you should address with your team (and remind them of on a regular basis) include:
- New and updated company policies and procedures, including steps the company is taking to mitigate the risk of virus spread.
- Personal hygiene best practices for staying healthy while on the job and at home.
- What to expect in terms of cold, flu, and COVID-19 symptoms, and protocols that should be followed should an employee start to feel sick.
- The HR contact to speak with to share any health- or safety-related concerns.
Have a support plan in place with your staffing partner.
One of the core functions of a staffing agency is to provide staffing support in the form of temporary employees from pre-qualified pools to short-term assignments. Work with an agency now to identify together potential temp employees who would be a great fit for your operational needs. When the time comes to bring on staffing support your time-to-placement is significantly reduced, as your recruiting efforts will have already been taken care of. Further, your HR burden is reduced, as temp employees remain on the payroll of the staffing agency.
Having a plan in place, communicating consistently with your staff, and having temporary employees identified before you need help will prove to be the best ways to manage your staffing needs and maintain business operations through cold and flu season.