Swine flu threat to be sneezed at

SMEs are more worried about finding new business and getting paid on time than being hit by the swine flu pandemic.

In a poll by SmallBusiness.co.uk, 73 per cent said that finding new revenue streams and being paid promptly were their biggest concerns.

Mark Olbrich, owner of sandwich shop Salade, says that swine flu is a minor worry for him. ‘The threat seems grossly overstated. People I know who have had it have only been sick for three to four days. Our biggest problem is getting people to open their wallets. Since the recession hit we’ve lost a fifth of our market share.’

Alex Ciangola, owner of London-based 4 Hairdressers, says that finding new customers is currently his top priority. ‘I’m spending all my time doing marketing to get more people in the salon. But it’s not really paying off as people just don’t want to spend money at the moment,’ he says.

Of the 260 SMEs surveyed, 11 per cent said they were more concerned about “Freddie” Flintoff’s fitness than swine flu (ten per cent) and inflation (six per cent).

In a recent a poll by SmallBusiness.co.uk on whether SMEs were seeing the ‘green shoots’ of recovery, more than half said that business was getting worse.

Swine flu continuity plan

Swine flu is expected to keep one in eight off work in September, according to the latest government figures. But before you start yelling ‘plague’ and run home to paint a red cross on your door – read our tips on how to prepare your business for the worst.

What are the symptoms?

Swine flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, aches, feeling cold and fatigue. Therefore these could be confused as symptoms of what would be known as seasonal or common flu.

Swine flu can be spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing.

Ways to prevent Swine flu

Businesses should advise employees to:

• Always carry tissues

• Use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when they sneeze

• Bin the tissues after one use

• Wash their hands with soap and hot water or a sanitizer gel often

Make plans now

Although no one is certain when the pandemic will reach its peak, businesses need to have a continuity plan in place now. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development advises the following:

• Have strategies to maximise the amount of home-working that is possible by staff

• Look into ways of increasing use of video links and teleconferencing which can help limit the amount of face-to-face contact

• For service/customer facing organisations, explore the possibility of increasing the amount of online transactions as well as self-service options for customers

• Have in place plans that will enable the organisation to operate on a skeleton staff

• Identify key roles that must be carried out and identify those individuals who have a wide range of skills who can fulfil more than one function

• Ensure that procedures are developed to ensure smooth handovers for employees who are filling in for colleagues in unfamiliar roles. It may be necessary to provide additional training and a risk assessment if individuals are moving to roles where there may be a healthy and safety risk

For news and updates on the virus, visit the following sites:

The Department of Health

The Health and Safety Executive

See also: Top tips for business continuity – Preparing for the unexpected

Related Topics

Employee health