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As a mission-driven certified B Corporation, Fors Marsh Group (FMG) works with clients across the country and the world to solve social, commercial, and health-related challenges. Our research, evaluation, and health communication experts are accustomed to tackling complex challenges, but we are grappling these days with the same question many companies are: What does it look like to tackle complex challenges in the context of a potential pandemic disease outbreak? When you have staff across the country traveling to provide technical assistance, to complete research studies, and to deliver trainings on behalf of your clients, what steps do businesses need to take to protect and support their employees? Do project timelines need to flex to incorporate quarantine guidance? And what considerations must be made if the company needs to move to 100% telework? Answering these questions can be daunting; however, if companies start openly sharing lessons learned, we can all ensure a safer workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. FMG’s tackling these questions in the following ways:

Protecting our most valuable asset: our employees:

FMG employees are located in 20 states across the country, with some working remotely, others on client sites, and more than 200 staff at our headquarters in Arlington, VA. Keeping our team healthy means sharing guidance from the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ensuring that we are providing staff with both protective measures and updated policies. We have posted CDC hand-washing graphics at all sinks, placed more hand sanitizer stations throughout the offices, and stocked up on supplies for keeping shared spaces like conference rooms, the kitchen, and our beloved snack bar sanitized.

Additionally, we have developed  a coronavirus resource page on our intranet site, creating a one-stop shop for COVID-19 information, ranging from teleworking guidance, an updated travel policy reflecting current travel advisories, and emergency planning resources from partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the CDC.

Working with clients to plan for the unknown:

Every day, FMG works with clients across the private and public sectors, providing a range of services, including research, evaluation, training, marketing and outreach, and data analytics. Our staff are working with clients to identify key workstreams that could be affected by a coronavirus outbreak and are looking to mitigate that risk. For some clients, this may mean converting physical conferences to online platforms, using video-conference technology instead of face-to-face meetings, and revising timelines to reflect disruptions in the supply chain. For others, employee absenteeism due to the closing of early childhood and K–12 schools may mean it is time to strengthen cross-training and draw on FMG’s Human Capital expertise to ensure the continuation of key functions.

Ensuring our business continuity:

The COVID-19 outbreak provides an opportunity for FMG to refine and strengthen its own continuity of operations planning (COOP), an ongoing task to build redundancy for our core business functions. Although redundancy often sounds like a bad word in business, ensuring that we have multiple ways to accomplish key functions, such as communicating with our team, accessing files, ensuring delivery of products to clients, and staying compliant with timekeeping and payroll, is critical to FMG’s bottom line. FMG’s cross-functional team of Office Operations, Human Resources, IT, Finance, Internal Communications, and Emergency Preparedness and Resilience technical experts are all working together to ensure that FMG can keep its doors open and continue to produce results and create inventive solutions for our clients.

We are hopeful that the threat of transmission of COVID-19 can be contained. But we are taking steps here to ensure the health of our staff, our projects, and our company, and we encourage our partners to do the same.

If you are interested in learning additional details about how we are tackling pandemic preparedness, touch base with our team of preparedness and resilience experts.

About the author

Erin Lauer

Erin Lauer serve as FMG's lead for emergency preparedness programming, managing our team of emergency management professionals. Erin has a wide range of expertise across program management, training, partnership, communications, knowledge management and outreach. She’s worked with local, state and federal governments to develop and implement preparedness programming, and has extensive experience working with non-profits, early childhood centers, community-based organizations and private sector partners to strengthen individual, institutional and community preparedness.

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