From the boardroom to the factory floor, fear and confusion remain the most common responses to the Covid-19 threat with potentially dire consequences for business sustainability.
“Fundamentally, the primary emotion that people are feeling right now is fear – and every corporate is dealing with confusion. When combined, the two lead to poor decision making,” says Dr Jedd Myers, Managing Director of OccuFit and COO of corporate health and wellness services organisation, HealthInsite, who is at the coalface when it comes to managing and mitigating risk at some of South Africa’s largest corporates.
He says that, across the board, companies do not have tangible policies, procedures and provider relationships in place to deal with this threat. This applies especially at management level with many divisional heads finding that they have little support and no clear guidelines on what to do in the event of a positive test result or an outbreak at their workplaces.
“Many executives believe that they do have a strategy but, when they encounter their first crisis, they quickly realise that they don’t have sufficient resources in place. Sadly, for many businesses, this is simply about ticking boxes. They see this as a compliance exercise. In reality, this is an exercise in business continuity and they need to make sure that they don’t discover it when it is too late,” he cautions.
Dr Myers says he is both amazed and deeply concerned to see that many companies – especially SMMEs – leave the decision making about one of the largest potential threats to their businesses to untrained or unqualified employees.
“I am highly concerned that junior staff are diverted from their usual duties and left to take temperatures at the door. When people question the reading or argue with them, they are most likely to capitulate and let that person into the building. Why should someone who has no previous experience or training now have the massive responsibility of identifying those who are potentially at risk of introducing Covid-19 into your business?”
Another example of the poor delegation of responsibility is simply despatching a potentially high risk or symptomatic employee to a laboratory or public facility for testing. Ultimately, the results will be provided. However, laboratories who are doing a sterling job during this tough period cannot be expected to provide extensive support to the business and advice to the patient, he notes. Importantly, this does not translate into corporate readiness, advisory and effective intervention.
The same goes for tracing those who have been in contact with an infected colleague. This is a cornerstone to a corporate readiness and business continuity plan. Without this critical step most corporate-based interventions, planned or unplanned will not succeed.
Dr Myers says that, thankfully, not every large corporate is on the back foot as far as managing Covid-19 risk is concerned. OccuFit services a range of clients in this regard. An example is one of their large national employer clients with over 10 000 employees providing essential services countrywide. This client is one of the larger corporates that has prioritised corporate engagement with its substantial workforce and invested in a holistic programme to ensure that it can continue operating and, ultimately, preserve jobs.
This programme goes beyond testing symptomatic or exposed individuals and also includes managing employees with co-morbidities, tracing those who may have been exposed to the virus and implementing workplace programmes to both reassure and educate employees.
The overall approach is positive and panic free. Even though just seven percent of this large workforce has tested positive for Covid-19, actions taken are dictated by a wider view of the potential risk rather than simple compliance.
“If you have just one positive case in a team of 10 in a retail store, there is a huge real knock-on effect. The same goes for technical staff who are constantly visiting the offices of other companies or the private residences of clients,” he points out.
“The service offered to this large corporate employer covers what OccuFit have labelled as The Trifecta of care that includes a hotline to support people dealing with exposure and risk and also contact and help with preparing family members for testing; testing and case management with contact tracing. We manage the process of isolation, symptomatic checks, advice on treatment, follow up testing where indicated and referrals to specialists if required together with contact tracing and management within the business.”
“Simply complying with basic regulations rather than proactively addressing the ongoing risk posed by Covid-19 will not ensure that your business survives this pandemic,” he warns.