The way businesses operated before the lockdown has changed and is unlikely to be the same ever again. The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on every single industry serves as a hard lesson to employees, employers, and governments alike. Mitigating the effects of the lockdown will take a different amount of time and will depend on the size of the business and its respective industry. Most importantly, getting their business back on its feet will take additional effort, ability to adapt, and a fair share of creativity from the business owners. Unlocking your business after a lockdown presents a set of challenges no one has experienced before, as what is affecting us in the business world today is not simply a financial crisis.
Paths are yet to be paved and the specific strategy that business owners are about to approach will greatly determine their comeback, and if there will be any. Stepping out after the lockdown spells adjustment for all businesses. Hence, it requires re-assessment of finances, short-term and long-term operations, markets, as well as customers' purchasing habits, all in consideration of safety and social distancing requirements. Also, it means abandoning business as usual for the most part and adapting to the new circumstances. What should business owners focus on? Issues that should be tackled first include:
• reassessment of financial, technical and logistical resources
• readying workplaces for the return of employees
• preparing employees for the return to work
• validation of supply chains
• timely communication with customers and clients
Even though the governments will have a big say in the matter, business owners are those who run their businesses. Businesses should ensure compliance with those guidelines and at the same time adapt them. No two businesses are alike. Thus, a new set of rules for each business should guarantee the safety of the workers and the ability to carry out necessary tasks.
It falls to every business owner to estimate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its business and outline the path to recovery. The length of the path can be short-, mid- or long-term, depending on the industry and the size of held-back demand for specific goods and services.
The lockdown has most heavily hit non-essential businesses across various industry sectors. Their comeback to full operations is likely to be drastically prolonged. Adaptation of every business to the new circumstances would need to involve an assessment of their customers' spending habits.
As most businesses rely on daily cash flow, adjustments in operations would need to include new products and services, ways to promote them, and ways to reach (new) customers. A few months into the pandemic, any reserves diminished or gone, makes cutting non-essential costs a priority. If this shared trauma has reminded us of anything it is that employers and employees greatly depend on each other. Reassessment of the recovery path shouldn't proceed solely at the expense of the latter.
Every business, regardless of its respective industry, should conduct measures ensuring the safety of its employees and customers. Some employers should even consider the long-term or full transition to remote work for most of their employees. That shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Business owners should carefully consider all aspects of remote work as it can lead to great savings (both time and money) their employees are bound to appreciate.
On the other hand, those businesses that depend on the physical presence of their employees in the workplace should follow these five important steps:
1. Conducting a risk assessment of unlocking your business after a lockdown in compliance with OSHA Guidelines on Returning to Work and sharing the results with all interested parties.
2. Cleaning and disinfection of shared places and equipment. Providing the means for frequent handwashing and sanitizing, carrying out social distancing measures, and encouraging respiratory etiquette.
3. Providing transportation for employees to minimize the risk of exposure. Assessing the symptoms before employees enter the facility. Ensuring that employees comply with health and safety measures at all times.
4. Adapting the workplace to provide the safest work conditions, including the adjustment of working hours. This may require adding extra shifts or transparent room dividers that can be easily disinfected.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty in unlocking your business after a lockdown is ensuring the protection of employees and customers at all times. The necessity to provide space between workstations presents a host of challenges, especially if the space is limited. If the needs of post-COVID-19 reopening demand it, hire experts to transport all the office equipment (or most of it) to storage or relocate to a bigger, open-space facility. That way, you can either save on office rent if most of your employees work from home, or better protect employees coming to work.
Also, businesses can achieve social distancing in space of limited size through shifts that don't overlap. Moreover, new purchasing habits may demand adjustment in the segment of shifts and work hours anyway. Peak shopping hours have already changed with the modifications that the lockdown has imposed on customers' daily lives.
As businesses emerge from lockdown, one of the first concerns becomes the stability of supply chains. Business owners should evaluate numerous points, some of which are not yet clear enough. Namely, the availability of materials, impact on prices and the speed of their recovery, delivery times, and shortages of employees.
The smartest course of action may be in cooperation. Small businesses especially should team up and weather the post-lockdown storms together. This can be achieved through collaborative business models where businesses can distribute and better utilize their resources, facilities, or even workforce.
Ideally, local governments will support the business sector through various incentives, but that may or may not happen. Furthermore, these incentives may be insufficient or come too late to prove beneficial to many small businesses. Planning and re-evaluating business models ahead of any government stimulus may prove vital for survival. If the support does come in time, business owners will have that small luxury to re-evaluate the usefulness of their operation from a more stable foundation.
Collaboration can extend even to marketing activities. Cross-promotion is not unheard of and can help reopening businesses reach new customers. This mutual support through promotional activities will help all businesses involved achieve higher exposure. The higher, the better. Especially when the majority of the customers rely on social media to find (and order) necessary goods and services.
In the end, there is one more thing to do. Think about how to improve the morale of your employees in the post-lockdown business environment. After all, employees are the backbone of every business. Clear and timely communication based on understanding leads to mutually beneficial agreements and increased productivity. It will also prove key in the retention of quality workers.
Even after the lockdown, a business owner should remain flexible, especially when it comes to employee retention and sick leave procedures. Successfully unlocking your business after a lockdown doesn't mean that the threat is gone. It means that we have learned to live and work with respect to each other's safety and wellbeing.
Photo used: https://pixabay.com/photos/corona-covid-19-disinfection-5153949/
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