The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every single sector across the world, and the repercussions of this on global economy will be significant and long-lasting. During this unprecedented time, governments are scrambling to find ways to support and rescue businesses whilst also trying to flatten the curve of the virus’ deadly spread.
The process of professional safeguarding refers to the framework put in place by an organisation to protect the business from harm or damage and prevents employees from exploitation. It’s a way of ensuring your business can continue in the aftermath of a crisis of this magnitude, regardless of size or sector.
But what are the key areas that business owners should be paying attention to during this time?
Your staff force is the heart of your company - they are what makes the well-oiled machine of your daily work turn and what will help your comeback post-COVID. Needless to say, their protection during this time is paramount.
For employees now unable to work due to illness, a company’s sick leave policy must be reviewed to make sure they are properly compensated. Providing paid leave without hesitation means your employees will feel trusted by their employers, enough to confidently speak up if they suspect they have symptoms, without the worry of negative repercussions or job safety fears.
Government enforced guidelines to work from home wherever possible means that you now have a workforce who may have never worked remotely ever before, and they will require all the support you can give. Whether that’s providing physical equipment, offering flexible hours, establishing increased cyber security measures, or training them on best practices - it all means that your employees will feel better taken care of.
Maintaining regular communication, keeping them informed and establishing a strong support system will ensure you boost morale and enable a healthy, motivated team to work hard in an otherwise dark and worrying external environment.
As the government declared a national lockdown to try to combat the spread of the virus, it meant thousands of businesses were forced to close their doors for an unknown period of time. Financially, that’s a devastating blow with the loss of earnings costing the economy billions, but there are some support channels available to explore and consider.
Inevitably, many business owners have had to lay-off staff in an effort to reduce their overheads and cut costs. While this is a heart-breaking decision to make, others have been able to furlough portions of their team instead and allow the government to cover that proportion of this cost on their behalf. It’s given employers an opportunity to retain staff for a little longer while ensuring they’re still partly compensated, some financial relief for both parties involved.
Most businesses are unlikely to be covered by their insurance for an event like this, as most policies are dependent on other risk areas and tend not to include pandemics. However, every policy is unique and business owners should check their own terms and conditions to make sure.
The government is working hard to issue cash grants to businesses in the hospitality sector, make loans more accessible to all businesses and even give support to the self-employed. With deferred tax and VAT payments the government are also trying to help a businesses cashflow. There will still be many businesses that cannot benefit from this support and the hope is that the government will also assist those companies in due course. Given the depth of this economic shock and the lack of time these businesses have to react, the government will have to act quickly.
Instead of planning for the long-term, it’s important right now to focus on your business’ survival over the new few months and how to get through that period with a business actually existing at the end of it.
Many business owners have been forced to think fast and act quickly, building new action plans to tackle the crisis head-on. This approach works better with small businesses, who won’t have the large background presence of other colleagues, suppliers and advisors to whom they are accountable and require significant involvement. A small business owner can make a decision and turn it around much faster - vital at this time.
This is the time to attempt to pivot your business operations - to try new things and find alternative revenue streams. Think about how consumers’ lifestyles have changes during this time and how their needs have also shifted and find a way to fit into that paradigm. By thinking about moving into an online operation or allowing your product/service to be accessed virtually, for example, you can tap into current trends and achieve profitability.
The saying “it takes a village” has never held more truth as it does now. In order for business owners to build that all-important resilience, they need to draw on the expertise of others around them. If they lack knowledge in a certain area (maybe because pre-pandemic they never required it), then now is the time to get the guidance and advice you need to move forward and succeed.
Mentorship during this time can be extremely valuable and provide you with ideas and suggestions that stem from experience, as well as simply providing you with a sounding board. There are also an abundance of online learning and development platforms that can get you up to speed and boost your knowledge and skill set.
Raising awareness and promoting a community support system can be really helpful as you try to lay the foundations for a seamless bounce back to business after lockdown. Getting people to care about local businesses, small businesses and their loyalty to your company is important, and relatively easy to achieve through social media.
At the end of the day, we are all in this together. No one knows how the next weeks and months will play out and how the situation will develop, both in this country and across the globe.
Building your resilience now is really important for your business, and exploring things you can do now to modify, adapt and ultimately survive. It may feel like it’s an impossible task, but there has to be light at the other end. With the right tools in place, a healthy support system and a strong positive attitude, we will get through this.