The best strategy for dealing with a crisis is to be proactive.
As a global pandemic, COVID-19 has led to a near-total lockdown of most of the world, including the UK and the closure of international borders. This approach has been integral to slowing the spread of the virus, but has inevitably disrupted business activity.
A big risk for SMEs is falling into the trap of thinking you’ll just pick up where you left off once you’re back in the office, once it’s all over. The fact is, not even governments are clear when exactly this will be. Uncertainty reigns over the duration of social distancing measures.
Sure, there’s a lot out of your control, but there are some actions SMEs can take in the meantime to lessen the long-term impact of coronavirus.
1. Investigate work from home technology
You don’t want to be playing catch up when the crisis eases. Luckily, technology makes continuing numerous business activities possible. Investing in remote work technology will enable you to keep many employees on the payroll and still yield results on your core activities.
Ask yourself some key questions. Do you allow company equipment be taken home? Are your files securely accessible externally? Are cloud solutions (software) part of your IT system? If the answer’s no, you can put measures in place to change that.
Many digital tools such as Slack, Flock, Office 356 and Adobe Creative Cloud enable online work, collaboration, communication, and information-sharing.
An investment in the right technology for working from home can be a strategic initiative and investment, rather than simply a stop-gap cost. You’ll discover long-term benefits for your business, even after the economy rebounds. Many studies show working from home can increase productivity, reduce costs, provide better work-life balance, and increase staff retention. The ability to work from home also assists employees with children, and can enable you to take on more staff than your current office space allows.
Assisting staff to work remotely means you can still keep your business functioning, even if society grinds temporarily, to a halt.
2. Downsize office space
Facing up to cold, hard reality, a dramatic drop in revenue may result in some cost-cutting. Rent may be the place to start. Once, having a large, luxurious office sent the message that your company was a winner, but times have changed dramatically in the past month and necessity is the mother of invention.
In combination with the promotion of remote work, downsizing office space could be the best (and biggest) cut to make. During the 2008 recession, companies abandoned big high-profile premises for cheaper offices. Until the economy begins to recover, it’s smart to think lean, efficient and compact.
3. Get the most out of your telecommunications system
Changing your communications configuration may be necessary to enable work to continue in a business as usual manner and maintain stability. A telecommunications upgrade may seem daunting, but it needn't be.
Powered by a sophisticated VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) platform, the Dial 9 Business Phone delivers flexible options for this difficult time. The best thing about a cloud phone system, is that it doesn’t involve a lot of on-site infrastructure. You just need an internet connection.
The Dial 9 iPhone and Android app lets your staff use all the features of your phone system from anywhere using Wi-Fi or 4G. You can also use advanced call routing tools to help route calls efficiently.
The Dial 9 Business Phone lets staff take your phone system on the go, and you can get up and running quickly.
4. Seek out your government support entitlements
Governments all around the world are developing support measures for businesses, to minimise economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The British government has also announced a package for public services, individuals and businesses.
While the package details may be updated as time goes by, Coronavirus (COVID-19) support available to businesses falls into three broad areas.
- Loans, tax relief and cash grants
- Employers can apply for staff to get up to 80% of their pay if they can’t work
- The self-employed will receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least 3 months
A special helpline has also been created to help businesses and the self-employed find out more information. You can contact the government’s Business Support Helpline and receive free advice, tailored to your situation. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565.
5. Keep communication lines open with workforce and customers
Clear communication is one of the best tools you can use to ensure business continuity.
Staff will be feeling stress and uncertainty, so it’s important not to leave them in the dark, guessing about their future. Keep in contact with regular email updates. Answer key questions about pay and the future of their jobs and the business. Involve staff in plans and make sure someone is available to answer queries in a timely fashion.
Also, it’s critical to communicate with your customers — keep them informed about the measures you’ve put in place to deal with COVID-19 and how this affects them.
If your customers don’t know what’s going on, confusion and damage to your reputation can result. Ensure a smooth transition through the uncertainty and make sure your customers stick with you for when it's business as usual.
Most of all, in the words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy — don’t panic! Believe it or not, many big brands have sprung from difficult times.