With MERS, SARS, HIV/ AIDS and Covid-19 occurring in the last 50 years alone, and more pandemics predicted in the future, international businesses must be prepared for further health scares.
Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection said: “With the world’s leading scientists predicting further pandemics, international businesses need to expect the unexpected and be prepared for future health scares – protecting the health and wellbeing of their staff. Where the most recent pandemics have affected other continents greater, Covid-19 has shown the impact it can have on health and business on a global scale. For many businesses, having now witnessed a pandemic first-hand, there is a greater understanding of the need to be even better prepared for the future.”
Have a disaster recovery plan
In the event of a future health scare, businesses should consider having a disaster recovery plan in place – which could include evacuation and repatriation, for example. However, with many countries closing their borders during Covid-19, evacuation wasn’t always possible. Some businesses reacted flexibly, by organising apartments for staff in place of hotels – making their lockdown experience more bearable. So whilst having a disaster recovery plan is crucial to managing future scenarios quickly and effectively, being flexible also remains an important element.
Prepare for future travel
With international travel gradually increasing again, businesses need to have an understanding of the vaccinations that are available to employees now and be aware when new ones become available. For example, a licensed vaccination for Ebola isn’t available yet – but an “investigational vaccine” has been used to protect persons at highest risk from the virus. Pregnant women are likely to be at increased risk of severe illness and death when infected with Ebola for example, so it’s vital that businesses conduct thorough research into an area before sending staff to work abroad. This is particularly important for potentially vulnerable employees, so they can make an educated decision as to where to travel.
Follow reputable sources for advice
When emotions are running high during a pandemic, and unverified content floods online channels, it is important businesses separate the wheat from the chaff – providing factually correct information to employees. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a reputable source of advice for information regarding international health, giving businesses peace of mind they are providing the most up-to-date guidance. Understanding which sources to trust globally is vital in communicating with an international workforce effectively, protecting the health of employees.
Create clear communications
Let employees know what support is available to them in a concise and timely manner. Many businesses reminded staff of the employee benefits available to them to help manage their mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown – such as global employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and virtual GP services. With non-urgent physical appointments unavailable during lockdown, accessing health services online can be an asset to concerned employees. Businesses, especially during a pandemic, would be wise to remind employees of such benefits available to them.
Sarah Dennis concludes:
“With businesses witnessing first-hand the devastating effects a pandemic can have, many understand the need to be even better prepared for the future. Having plans in place to support staff globally if another pandemic strikes – such as good quality communications and an understanding of trustworthy information resources regarding health and wellbeing – can make a significant difference to staff and business prosperity.
“International specialists can help businesses to navigate plans and execution, providing advice on the most appropriate support for a variety of issues in different countries – ensuring that staff and their dependants are adequately protected, in a pandemic or otherwise. By having a health and wellbeing strategy in place, businesses are helping to safeguard their organisation and employees from future health scares.”