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Lock Down Doesn't Have To Mean Close Down

Lessons for business from the aged-care sector.

We all know by now that older Australians are most at risk when it comes to coronavirus.

Diseases such as COVID-19 are merciless in their attacks upon people with weaker immune systems. Consequently, the threat to life sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an extraordinary escalation of protection protocols at aged care facilities across the country.

However, if there’s one sector that might be best placed to deal with this uncertainty, it is aged care. The nation’s providers are well aware of the danger posed by introduced diseases, which can wreak lethal havoc amongst their elderly residents.

It occurred to me recently that having to regularly adapt to external threats is part of the DNA of our aged care sector. What’s more, aged care’s ability to cope, change and meet a challenge head on could provide important lessons for the wider business community.

So here are my top 7 lessons for business from aged care:

  1. PERSONAL HYGIENE

Wash your hands and wash them well. From using the toilet to grabbing food out of the communal fridge, get your team into the habit of washing their hands. This most basic of personal hygiene practices is not a gesture. In fact, it could be the difference between whether the coronavirus enters your workplace or not. 

2. WORKPLACE HYGIENE
When they arrive at work get your staff to wipe down their personal work surfaces such as their desk, phones, keyboards and mice. This is particularly important if they are hot desking. Think about how many hands might come into contact with your reception desk in any one day. Wiping down communal surfaces such as your front desk, waiting rooms and door handles is another important daily habit. You may even consider taking books, brochures and toys out of your reception as well. 

3. WHERE AND HOW YOUR STAFF WORK
It might put a dint in their frequent flyer points balance, but your staff members’ travel should be scaled back and limited to all but essential trips. There is ample technology allowing your team to  conduct interstate business online and you’ll make some great savings on travel by moving to virtual meetings. In addition, those regular staff and board meetings should definitely take a back seat for the time being. If they still need to happen, use the technology and take them online. Speaking of online, assess who amongst your team can work from home. Have they got the equipment they need or an appropriate work space? If it’s not practical to work from home, perhaps hours can be staggered to limit the amount of interaction amongst your team members.

4. YOUR CLIENTS NEED PROTECTING TOO
Most business are built on close personal attention but this is one time in history where you could be doing your client and yourself a favour by not meeting them face to face. How about avoiding all cash and only doing electronic transactions. Also if you do have customers coming into your premises put signage up advising them not to attend if they have any symptoms or if they’ve recently returned from overseas. 

5. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A HARMLESS OBJECT
Think about what objects travel through your organisation. It could be tools, books, IT equipment or just about anything? Physical objects can be touched by multiple staff and have the potential to become silent but highly effective carriers of diseases. Can the number of people touching objects at your workplace be reduced? Do measures need to be implemented to reduce infection control risk across multiple sites?

6. POLICIES & PROCEDURES
Clearly written and well-understood policies and procedures could save your team value time in the event of a localised outbreak. Now is the time to review current infection control policies and procedures. If you don’t have any, now is the time to put them in place.

7. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE 
Often in these situations everyone is fully immersed in keeping the “wheels on” and addressing critical issues. Unfortunately, when the need to communicate is at its highest, it often comes last on the list of business priorities. A proactive approach to communicating regularly with clients, staff and others can help you to avoid confusing messages and overcome unfounded rumours.

These lessons from aged care are designed to assist you with business continuity. Every day spent avoiding disease in your workplace is another day you can keep the doors open.

Moreover, business continuity in the current environment will require many of us to adapt and operate in increasingly innovative ways. For instance, it was great to see our supermarkets adapting to circumstances on the ground by dedicating an hour each day to their elderly and disabled customers. The dedicated hour will allow those who are vulnerable to shop avoiding the chaos and hopefully reduce their risk of exposure.

Finally, it’s worth pausing to say thanks to our amazing aged care community. In these extraordinary times I’m incredibly grateful for the ceaseless dedication of the management, staff and volunteers who are doing all they can to keep older Australians safe.

If you’d like to discuss how better systems, processes and policies can help reduce the risk of infection in your workplace, be sure to reach out to me today.

Julia McCarthy
Director
Consultative Care Options 

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