Environmental services (EVS) and hospital culinary teams are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. In the wake of the pandemic, these departments are being challenged more than ever before. Many are trying to ramp up cleaning and disinfecting processes while being short-staffed and under pressure.
A contingency plan can help overcome these challenges by providing clear action steps. If you don’t have a contingency plan in place, it’s not too late to develop one. The following steps are ways you can prepare your team to handle any emerging situation.
Plan for Potential Challenges
The first step to building a contingency plan is to write down all the potential challenges your team could be faced with due to a current or future emergency situation. This could include, but is not limited to:
• Labor shortages
• Lack of supplies
• Employees contracting the virus or other illness
• Culinary retail services being shut down
• Quarantine restrictions enacted for the facility
• Schools and daycares closing
• Public transportation and utilities restrictions and closures
Include your team members in the contingency plan creation process. They may be aware of some potential risks and challenges that you overlook. The more input from individuals from all levels of your department, the more effective the plan will be.
Ensure You Have Updated Information and Adequate Resources
The next step is to know what resources you have available to you. These resources will help you create a plan that addresses each potential adverse effect on your team. Make sure you have at least the following:
• Contact information for all your team members
• At least two emergency contacts for each team member
• Contact information for vendors/suppliers
• Adequate inventory levels of necessary supplies (consider stocking extra essential supplies)
• An established communication channel between you and the hospital
It’s also important to be aware of the hospital’s contingency plan. There may be specific responsibilities your team has within their plan that you will need to incorporate into yours.
Train Your Team Members
The best way to ensure your team can overcome any challenge is to train them “three levels deep.” This means that for every necessary task and procedure, there are at least three team members who can accomplish it.
Having team members who can perform several different tasks, even ones that aren’t pertinent to their daily work duties, makes your team adaptable and better equipped to handle being short-staffed. Follow these steps to train your team members according to the “three levels deep” method:
• Identify job positions that are critical to the operation.
• Identify team members with cross-training potential.
• Complete training with identified team members who are critical to operations.
• Ensure that job descriptions and workflows are current in case team members who usually occupy positions need to be temporarily replaced.
Identify Another Leader
Your contingency plan should also identify another individual who can step in to lead the team in the event that the leader gets sick or is otherwise unable to come to work. When identifying who this person could be, look for someone who:
• Is well organized.
• Has a working knowledge of all roles and procedures.
• Has a good relationship with other team members and hospital staff.
• Performs well under pressure.
After identifying this person, communicate it clearly in your contingency plan so that the team and hospital staff are aware of who is in charge in the leader’s absence.
Make and Execute Your Contingency Plan
Once you’ve completed the previous four steps, you’re now ready to make and execute your contingency plan. Consider breaking down your plan into a series of action steps for each scenario. Make it clear who is responsible for carrying out each action.
Write out your plan using either Microsoft Word or another text editor that will allow you to easily format and print your document. Print copies of the contingency plan and distribute to your team and post in common areas. If your team has a web app or online employee portal, you can also post your contingency plan there for easy access.
Though we’re already in the midst of a pandemic, it’s not too late to create a contingency plan. The current situation is constantly evolving, and EVS and hospital culinary teams need to be prepared for anything. Providing clear action steps for potential scenarios instills confidence in your team so that they can overcome any challenges that arise.
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