11th March, 2020

Corona Virus – Business Survival

What is Corona?

It’s unlikely with the amount of Media attention surrounding the Virus that this is the first time you have heard of Corona. Just in case, here’s a quick summary.

The symptoms of the corona virus are:

  • A cough
  • A high temperature
  • Shortness of breath

However, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are like other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

  • The first reported case was in China on the 31st of December 2019
  • 13th of January the first case is reported outside China with the spread to Thailand
  • 23rd Cases reported on Republic of Korea, Japan Thailand and Singapore
  • It was declared a Public Health Emergency on International Concern on the 30th of January 2020
  • On the 11th of February 2020, WHO announced the name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19
  • The Virus is now in 85 countries World-wide with 87 reported cased in the UK

What Does this mean for Businesses?

Whilst your local area might not have been affected yet, like any flu outbreak, it has the potential to have a detrimental impact on businesses when it comes to resources and customer numbers due to:

  • Staff members becoming ill and spreading to other staff members
  • Customers avoiding Public spaces
  • Appointments being cancelled
  • Deliveries not being sent because of the effects on supplier’s resources
  • Travel being discouraged
  • Large gatherings and events being cancelled

 

How to prevent the spread

Promote cleanliness

Although this seems like an obvious thing to do, there are a lot more things that can be done to prevent the spread of germs than you may not have thought of:

  • Alcohol gels and foams are great but not if they are just on a few people’s desks dotted around the office, put some on the doors of the toilets and entrance and exit of the office
  • Ask people to clean their desk every Monday, you could even do a novelty prize for the cleanest desk
  • Start the day with a buzz session reminding people of the importance of cleanliness and how to prevent the spread of germs
  • Ask the cleaners to do a deep clean of the workplace
  • Make sure there are signs in the toilets telling people to wash their hands! As much as we would like to think everyone does wash their hands, there are people who don’t
  • Catch it, Bin it, Kill it. Provide facial tissues to encourage people to use them, make sure there are enough bins to be distributed around the workplace evenly and preferably close to sinks or alcohol gels for people to clean their hands once they throw away the tissues
  • Send an email to all staff highlighting the importance of cleanliness, tips on how to stop the spread of germs and a reminder of the process to follow if they are sick
  • Encourage your staff to let you know if they are planning to travel or attend large scale events.

Advise your Employees of the Do’s and Don’ts

Because it is a new virus, experts do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. It’s very unlikely to be spread through packaging or food. You need to avoid public places and self-isolate when advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or medical professional.

Do

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands, when you cough or sneeze
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don’t

  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Avoid people who have been confirmed to have the illness
  • Stay away from anyone who has traveled to a country or area with a high risk of the coronavirus

How to keep you business healthy

Are you prepared for an outbreak of the virus in your company? Do you have a plan for the lack of resource and or supplies? It’s not something that most of us have ever thought about but having a contingency plan in place is something we all need. Here’s a few tips on how to prepare, adjust and adapt.

Keep your staff informed

Give your staff daily updates of what is happening. Keeping them informed will help keep panic at a minimum whilst also giving them an outlet to be able to ask questions.

  • Make sure your sources are reliable
  • Only report hard facts and not opinions or speculations
  • Whilst they will have access to the news themselves and internet, the information they are all absorbing will be very different and some may be sensationalised. Having a clear and regularly updated message will help stop hype and panic spreading.

Dedicated Team

Assemble a small trusted team to deal with the communications and tactical decisions based on up to date information.

  • Ensures the message is consistent and vetted
  • Stops confusion from different messages being sent from various areas of the business
  • Provides staff with a contact point for any questions or concerns they may have
  • Ensures a considered and balanced approach to risk

Absences

Sick Leave is almost inevitable during this season for a percentage of the workforce. The effect of this differ depending on the scale of the workforce. If you have a small team and half your workforce are unable to work, this could mean the business is not operational.

To tackle this may be as simple as expanding you teams. Whether this looks like temporary bank staff, part time workers, or finding additional tasks that can be used to fill spare capacity until you need them.
Look for areas in the company where new staff can make an impact all year round but can also step up with the operational side of the business when needed.

Upskill

If you have job roles which are integral to the running of your business but only one or a few people are trained in this can cause chaos when they take holiday, imagine the impact if they were to be out sick for weeks or even months

  • Look to upskill staff members as part of a personal development plan to be able to perform these tasks in their absence
  • Not only does this ensure the smooth running of the company, but is also a great moral boost for staff who feel appreciated
  • Ask Subject Matter Experts to lead training and coaching sessions for staff members who are interested in personal development and career progression

Multi-Skilled

People managers are not always the most hands on when it come to systems, processes or frontline work. When the numbers are against you, its all hands-on deck so it makes sense to make sure Managers have enough of a working knowledge in order to cover the workload of their staff if necessary. If the job is a skilled role with a level of expertise required, try to think of a process you can put in place where anyone can assist. For example:

  • Answering calls and arranging call backs
  • A cheat sheet so they can resolve easy to identify common problems
  • Provide help from other departments which are less affected
  • An automated message for calls to redirect customers with non-urgent issues
  • Set up an inbox to reduce calls in to the department which can then be triaged
  • Send an email to customers/clients making them aware that delays are expected and any quick solutions or alternative options they can take

Remote work

If you have the capacity for some people to work from home, this can be a great solution for stopping the spread of the illness and keeping a business running remotely. If you have the ability but have not put it in practice, test it. It is a great to have this facility to use a backup plan but is also a great benefit to offer staff members flexible working for when issues arise for them which means they can’t make it to the office. More and more employers are embracing flexible working so why not take this opportunity to join them.

Expand your Supply chain

One reliable supplier that you have a good relationship with is great however this can spell disaster if they are hit badly by the effects of the virus. It’s also something to think about without the threat of a pandemic, as any business could struggle and no longer be able to be your main supplier.

  • Seek out local suppliers and a variety of different businesses and ask them for samples and test orders. This means you have back up supplies ready and an understanding of the time scales they require to full fill orders
  • Develop relationships with other businesses.  Pooling resources and sharing supplies so you can support each other when issues in the supply chain arise

Reflect

Covid-19 is not a one-off event. We should expect additional phases to the current epidemic and similar issues to arise in the future. Use this experience to draw up the best plan of action for any similar events that may arise. Make a note of any change in processes that worked effectively or didn’t add any value. This will make your response time a lot quicker next time around. Use the dedicated team for staying updated on up and coming possible epidemics.

Let us help

Whilst we at Full Picture can’t come and personally take on some of your workload, we can find the right people who can. Call us to start putting together a contingency plan and tackle all your staffing issues.