By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening
For the time being every business has to continue to deal with the reality of Covid-19. This will require processes and systems to enable SME owners and managers to run their businesses safely while avoiding becoming overburdened.
One way to make this happen is to develop a Covid Safety Toolkit. This is a package of tools that will help you keep track of the changes and the ever-increasing regulation and actions you need to stay on top of. For example, Thomson Screening has developed a toolkit to help SME owners/managers work through what’s needed and how to action it. It provides a checklist, training and sample documentation. Although creating a toolkit may sound overwhelming, the good news is; none of these activities is new. Businesses do them all the time. What’s different now, is that each action needs a specific Covid-relevant version.
It is as simple as LEGO: rather than creating individual processes and lots of standalone documents, you bring together, all in one place, every item you will need to respond to Covid. For example, the text you use on your customer displays can also be used on your website, in work manuals or compliance documents. Covid affects all parts of a business and requirements change rapidly. Imagine if you had to check and update them all, one at a time. The chances of missing one or keeping out of date information is quite high and the task is daunting. That’s where a toolkit can help, and why it’s important to have one (whether you create it yourself, or buy it in, for your SME and ensure everything you need is in one place.
Toolkit content areas
Risk management including individual and group risk assessments
Reviewing and updating your plan
It sounds extremely dry so let’s make it more user friendly:
Governance: You need to decide who is in charge: Who has oversight of all your Covid related activities; where does the buck stop? Several months into Covid, this has probably been done ages ago, so you might as well put it into your Covid Policy and make sure everyone knows it.
Risk management: This is all the changes, adaptations and new ways of working you put in place in response to Covid, and hopefully you shouldn’t need to do them over again. If these are risk assessment based and clearly documented (a simple excel sheet will do, the key is clarity, not length), you can quickly check what needs updating if there is a local or national change in guidelines. Most of your arrangements can probably stay as they are, but do you know which ones need to change and how? If your original assessment is at hand, in an easy-to-access document, you can revise it very quickly.
You may need to assess an individual person’s risks as well. For example, somebody who has recently had Covid will need different kinds of support than someone who has never had it, or someone who lives with an elderly relative. Our general understanding of risks relating to specific groups: young people, healthcare workers, etc. is much better than earlier in the year and is constantly improving. You might want to fine-tune your risk groups at regular intervals. Again, this is where having a central document will save you time.
Action plans: This needs little explanation; it goes hand in hand with your risk assessment changes. If there’s been no change then no action is needed. If there has been a specific change in risk, then you’ll need to change the mitigation that helps reduce that risk.
If you do this by modules or sections for each area of your SME, each building or physical space, you will be able make the changes much faster and you can also check that you haven’t missed anything.
This is where Covid specific planning pays a lot of dividends. It is worth dedicating some time to this as it’s the area that is likely to change most often. Here are the key points to consider:
Understand your audience
Listen to them actively
Be clear about what you want to say (and say it simply)
Use the appropriate channel(s)
Make sure your communication is timely.
You also need to use trusted sources of information. There is so much conflicting, confusing or out of date information circulating, it’s always best to go straight to the horse’s mouth and check the government websites first.
• Finding your local Health Protection Team: https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team
• Moderate and high-risk factors: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-COVID-19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/
Use templates as much as possible as this will save time and keep the communications consistent. Ensure anyone involved in any form of comms (from PR to social media, from web editor, to marketing flyers, from poster designs to advertising) knows what your Covid-19 messaging is and when and how to include it.
Reviewing and updating
There is no magic here, you simply need to check, and check again, at regular intervals what the current regulations are, and what you and your workforce are required to do. You’ll also need to have evidence that you are carrying out your duties as an employer.
Some handy tips to help you
There are a couple of tricks and tips to use. They may well be familiar, and in Covid-19 related activities they are essential:
● In electronic communications (websites, newsletters, chats, etc.) use links directly to the relevant government websites. (see list above)
● Used shared file systems (e.g. Google Drive, One Drive or Dropbox) for templates and drafts
● Have a log of where these templates are kept and where they are used, to make sure you don’t miss one of them
● Getting everything in one place when you start will pay dividends many times over when you suddenly need to change something, so take a little time to organise this.
It’s easy to get Covid-weariness and when that happens, we sometimes take our eye off the ball - it’s just human. But it’s another reason why a Toolkit is essential. No doubt you already have a lot to contend with to keep your staff and customers safe, and your SME running, so don’t give yourself extra work. Having a toolkit that means you don’t have to repeat work, or ‘reinvent the wheel’ or worry that everything is up to date. It’s one less layer of stress on your shoulders.
Once you have your Toolkit and are familiar with it, you’ll be ready to act as soon as there are new Government announcements, or local public health initiatives. which affect your SME. Not only will you able to immediately undertake necessary updates you will also have a record of what has been actioned.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager software platform that enables testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. Functions include automated reporting at local and national level for bodies including Public Health, Community Health and Employers with data reporting into other systems, as required.