Empty Board-Conference Room During Coronavirus Crisis File Photo

Measures to protect your business amid Coronavirus outbreak

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

With leading stock markets plunging and Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases surging across tons of economies worldwide, owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or businesses are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the disruption to their operations.

In economies where there is a partial or total lockdown, it is not too late for businesses to set up remote workforces, communicate with staff and prepare for a worsening outbreak as things currently are.

Besides stock markets’ plunge, oil prices also are in free fall, while supply chains are being disrupted.

In the middle of it all, small and medium-sized businesses are dealing with frightened employees, skittish customers and an uncertain future.

The situation is so dire in many countries that governmental authorities and NGOs, including in Nigeria, have considered payroll cuts, organised stimulus welfare packages for the vulnerable members of the society, besides small business support and help for hourly workers who might become sick in the course of the crisis.

According to CNN, since the Coronavirus started infecting people in China, for instance, Eric Plam, President of Skyroam, a San Francisco-based company that creates and sells Wi-Fi-enabled hotspots to businesses, has been busy figuring out how to keep his staff safe and his business operating.

Despite cases continuing to rise and markets sending people and companies in a panic, it’s not too late for businesses to set up remote workforces, communicate with staff and prepare for a worsening outbreak.

Here are a few measures you can take now.
1. Communicate with staff. One of the most important things you can do is communicate with your employees. Many are likely concerned about their health and how they can continue working as more things get shut down in the economy.

As some company executives have done, create communication channel where he provides updates on the virus itself — he’s posted a number of CDC videos on COVID-19 and how to monitor oneself for the disease — along with recommended handwashing and social-distancing procedures, travel updates (most are cancelled), and ideas on how to work effectively from home.

Employees can also post their own messages in that channel, which he says is significant.
“It’s powerful,” an executive says about the two-way communication.

“We want to hear from our people as well. We also have the ability to ask people to take a quiz so they can tell us if they need more information on something” during the period.

2. Invest in work-from-home technology. While most people likely have a phone, a computer and Internet connection, some may not have enough bandwidth to do the kind of work they do at the office at home.

Certain Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts in Nigeria have argued that this scenario applies to the country currently struggling with limited broadband deployment.

Some companies may also not be set up with the right collaboration tools, such as internal communications programmes or secure Wi-Fi networks to allow for remote work.

3. Create a disaster-preparedness policy. A lot of companies have not planned for a crisis on this scale, but as many are finding out now, they need one. A good plan will cover a number of things, including procedures around remote work.

It should spell out how people should work from home and what tools they’ll need to get the job done; how to handle travel; what to do about meetings and more.

It’s also important to include things such as insurance coverage for business closures or trip cancellations, how to get financing when no one is investing, what lines of credit are in place, supply chain alternatives and more, says Andrew Sherman.

While service businesses may be able to continue operating in some way, other companies, such as restaurants or local movie theaters, will have to think hard about how to manage staff and cash flows if people stop going out.

“What is plan B?” a company executive says. “If something were to happen, do I have the right alternative business models in place?”

All of this should be documented, as it shows that people are thinking about what could happen in a worst-case scenario, and it acts as an easy-to-reference guide on what to do, how to communicate and how to keep business running in difficult times.

“You need all the elements of a crisis-management or disaster-preparedness plan in place,” he says.

No matter what happens, small- and medium-sized businesses will no doubt take some sort of hit to their bottom line.

While the government may step in to help — some democrats have introduced a bill in US Congress to provide up to $2 million in interest-free loans to companies affected by the outbreak — business owners need to be proactive and do what they need to do to keep their doors open, even if their employees are not there.

While COVID-19 appears to be getting worse, especially in the United States, Skyroam President Plam is not panicking.

Why? His staff are set up to work from wherever they can, and while he does anticipate busier times ahead when people start travelling again, for now it’s mostly business as usual.

“We remain optimistic that we’ll get past this and the economy will roar back to life,” he says.
“We may have to catch up on some things, but employees are prepared,” he posited.

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