The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the lives of many. With the urgent need to slow the spread of infection, local authorities and healthcare experts have urged people to limit movement and avoid unnecessary trips. Shelter-in-place is now being put into order.
As a result, COVID-19 has affected so many businesses around the world. Some companies may be operational while some are trying to stay afloat. Others may even need to stop operations.
The impact of Coronavirus on business has caused a shift in the economy and the daily lives of people. What are some of the challenges that companies are facing? What actions can they take or have they taken to cope in this time of crisis? (See Related: Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Continues to Challenge Science)
Business Challenges in the Time of COVID-19
Regardless of size and industry, there are different challenges that businesses face today. To mention a few:
- Management – The lack of a crisis management plan can delay a business from making critical decisions and actions.
- Safety – How can organizations protect their employees and their customers? What is the risk of exposure to COVID-19?
- Sudden cut in cashflow – A lot of businesses, if not all, experience an abrupt cut to their cashflow. This, in turn, leads to struggles in paying rent, employee salaries, and suppliers.
- Lack of equipment for remote work – Not all companies can provide the necessary equipment for their employees. This affects the workforce needed for business continuity.
- Business shutdown – Non-essential businesses may need to be closed depending on the state’s public health order.
How Business Can Cope
There are key action steps that businesses can do to cope with COVID-19.
Create both long-term and short-term plans. Identify what needs to be prioritized in the business. Include all aspects of the business such as HR, operations, supply chain, and marketing.
The plan must include the financial health of the business. It should also consider safety measures that need to be taken at the workplace. Create scenario plans and solutions.
Planning can make a huge difference. List down concrete action plans and set specific goals. It will also help to coordinate with local health and welfare authorities.
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There are companies that practice temperature taking at the entrances of their workplace. Everyone should be educated on proper respiratory hygiene and handwashing. If possible, provide masks and sanitizers to employees.
Workspaces should be cleaned more often than usual and disinfected. Social distancing should be strictly implemented.
Anyone who is not feeling well should stay home and immediately inform their supervisors. Additionally, freeze all non-essential business trips. The organization must take measures to create a culture wherein everyone upholds safety.
During the time of crisis, clear communication is important in any organization. First, leaders in the workplace should brief everyone in the company about COVID-19. From staff to management level, every person must be informed of the current situation and its possible impact.
Understandably, some employees may panic. Not everyone will react positively. To cope, companies must set clear communication channels and provide constant updates.
An option is to provide regular updates via email. This should include updates on Coronavirus. Make sure that all news and information being relayed are all verified.
Next, employees should be informed about company plans and actions taken concerning COVID-19.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Companies can adopt flexible working arrangements such as work from home policy. While this may not apply to all industries, it is highly recommended for jobs that can be done remotely.
With this setup, employees can avoid commuting and interacting with other people who may be possible carriers of the disease. This will certainly help minimize the transmission of disease and keep everyone safe.
For some, it may still be necessary to be physically present in the workplace. Another option can be reducing work hours or compressing work weeks. This may help reduce the time employees need to commute or go out of their homes.
Since the Coronavirus spreads easily through droplets when coughing or sneezing, it is best to maintain distance from other people. Even if a person looks healthy, he can still be a potential carrier of the virus. As much as possible, avoid gathering in groups.
For business meetings, consider online messaging or teleconferencing. Companies can use free web conferencing platforms. For more premium features, paid platforms are available on a subscription basis.
Keep Customers Updated
Communicating with your customers is just as important as having regular communication with employees. If possible, avoid face-to-face interactions with clients for everyone’s safety.
Consider alternatives to keep customers updated. There are plenty of options available such as text, phone calls, email, and website. Businesses can also engage with customers through social media. If possible, publish regular public statements online.
Continue to Pay Salaries
An option is to continue paying wages if possible, whether in full or not. Companies such as Walmart and Microsoft continued salary payments to workers. This is to help employees for at least the first two weeks of the lockdown.
Offer Loans to Employees
Businesses that are not able to continue paying wages can extend financial assistance instead. One example is offering loans to employees without interest. If possible, offer flexible repayment terms.
Offer Medical Assistance to Employees
Employers should offer medical assistance to employees especially to those with no health insurance. This is crucial to those who are put at risk due to their nature of work.
In this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, everyone plays an important role. Private sectors and industry leaders with foundations or CSRs (Corporate Social Responsibility) can help communities by providing food aid or healthcare assistance. They can also partner with non-profit organizations.
Small businesses that provide essential goods and services can also help by creatively looking for alternatives to do business. For instance, restaurants can opt for food delivery and pick-up for customers instead of dining in.
Once you have taken different steps, make sure to review performances, and assess. This is important for the organization to see what works and what needs to be improved. With careful planning and assessment, it is easy to make amendments when needed.