How to stop your people from freaking out about Ebola

Dan Gorenstein Oct 17, 2014
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How to stop your people from freaking out about Ebola

Dan Gorenstein Oct 17, 2014
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The President has tapped White House veteran Ron Klain to be the nation’s Ebola Czar.

The appointment comes as fears of the virus spread with a poll this week showing nearly half Americans are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” they will contract Ebola.

So how do companies deal with this? How do they keep workers safe and operations running smoothly? The first thing some businesses did this week was call Arun Sharma.

“A lot of the questions we are getting is how do we control the fear and anxiety in the workplace,” he says.

Sharma works for Control Risks, an international firm that helps Fortune 500 companies around the globe manage risk. Especially for those clients with operations in Ebola hot spots, Sharma says the essential word is “communicate.”

“If you have an operation that’s based in Africa and you want to give employees an opportunity to ask question, have a town hall meeting, bring a medical advisor in that can answer those medical related questions,” she says.

Certainly multinational corporations must start learning about Ebola and its risks, but at a time when flight attendants reportedly locked a passenger in a plane lavatory after she threw up; it’s clear employers here in the U.S. have their work cut out for them too. That could mean executives dusting off a report already many have on their shelves.

Years ago, the CDC designed pandemic preparation guidelines. Dr. Robert Quigley, with the medical assistance company International SOS, says there’d be a lot less fear if companies routinely practiced using this tool they already have.

“And companies are definitely not doing that. And as a result they are all kind of caught now in a panic mode, and there’s some scrambling going on,” he says.

One way to cut down on the corporate chaos, Quigley says, is for companies to focus on their business and develop what he calls a continuity plan.

“They need to have trigger points that indicate when they need to pull people out of harm’s way, whether or not travel really needs to take place, and whether that’s going to negatively impact their bottom line,” he says.

Sorting that bit out should help sober up the room says Quigley. The doctor says remember the more afraid you and your staff are, the more likely operations will be interrupted.

The antidote: education and preparation.

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