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 Business Reponse to H1N1 
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Post Business Reponse to H1N1
Business preparedness is key for H1N1
By L.M. SIXEL Copyright 2009 HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Oct. 20, 2009, 6:50PM

As more people get sick with the H1N1 flu, it's time to make plans to keep the essential business running, according to several experts who spoke at a pandemic influenza conference Tuesday.

The disease, which is more commonly known as the swine flu, is expected to infect as much as 40 percent of the workforce, they said.

The program was sponsored by the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services, Greater Houston Partnership and Devon Energy.

One of the first things a company needs to do is figure out what work is critical and what can be put off, said Michael Evangelides, principal of Deloitte Consulting's Chicago office. When a lot of employees are home sick, it's important to just focus on the essentials to keep the business going.

Companies also need to streamline their decision-making process, said Evangelides. Similarly, they should decide who fills in for others in case of sickness. One way is to tap employees who used to do a particular job.

Most all employers have heeded the advice of the experts and explicitly told employees to stay home if they get sick, said Evangelides.

But some companies have policies that make that difficult because they're not paid for the first sick day, he said. And the only way to get paid for the following days is to bring in a doctor's note.

That's not a policy that's conducive to staying home sick, especially with so many folks living paycheck to paycheck, said Evangelides. He is recommending to his clients that they suspend those rules during the flu season. While some have, he said, others haven't, which is an incentive for employees to go to work sick.

Calling in sick automated
To better handle the expected flood of calls from employees, CenterPoint Energy has designed an automated voice response system that feeds into a database, said Ira L. Winsten, director of compensation and benefits. Employees can chose from four options ranging from current illness to recent exposure.

Based on that information, supervisors can manage the spread of disease by generating a work order to wipe down the infected employee's work area, said Winsten. They can also use the data to spot infection trends. :heart

It hasn't been turned on yet, he said, but it's ready once a pandemic is declared. Surely, they mean declared locally, right?

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6677159.html

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Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:37 am
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