Small businesses have been bearing the brunt since the COVID-19 pandemic took a turn for the worse and the government mandated strict isolation regulations. Three months ago, no one could have guessed that an outbreak would interfere with our everyday lives, and that some businesses would struggle to stay afloat.
This will have prompted many business owners to rethink their contingency plan and how they can prepare for any future crisis effectively. So, how should small businesses react during a time like this? In this article, we will cover some of the steps the team at EWIB have put in place and the measures that have worked for us. We hope this will help you and your business as we continue to navigate through this.
- Have a contingency plan to work remotely
The health and safety of the team is your number one priority. So, establishing a plan that allows staff to work without compromising their health or welfare must be considered. One of the measures we took as a company was to prepare a contingency plan in the event working from home became essential. Our tech and management teams worked closely together to ensure that systems and phone calls are seamless for all departments. This was one of the biggest transitional challenges we faced, so we thought it best to conduct a trial day where everyone worked from home to test the efficiency of this plan. Any errors encountered were rectified and staff feedback taken into consideration. If your business relies heavily on online systems, it would be ideal to have a plan trialled and tested beforehand, to avoid complications and confusion amongst your team.
One other security measure we actioned on is cyber protection. With the majority, if not all, of your staff working remotely, every communicative exchange has now moved online. Those who usually work on a PC at the office may now be using a personal or shared laptop, a potential danger if not properly protected against viruses and hackers. Before work-from-home was implemented, we worked with our IT team to ensure security procedures were updated and our server safeguarded against any malicious attempts.
- Transparency and communication with clients
With changes to your business operation, being transparent in your communication has never been more vital. We’re all trying to manoeuvre through this crisis, so be open with your customers about what your business is experiencing and let them know the steps you’ll be taking in response. Clients will appreciate the update and can empathise with a company affected by the pandemic.
One of the quickest and most effective ways you can keep your customers informed is via email or EDM. Ensure details such as working hours, new processes, and important contact information are included in your email. Even now, as we begin to see the pandemic settling, it’s important to communicate with clients on these changes and how your business will be responding to it. Being transparent and open in your communication significantly improves trust in your brand. In their 2019 report, Harvard Business Review found that customers who are separated from the work behind the scenes appreciate the service less, and eventually begin to devalue the service altogether.
- Staff communication
The importance of staff communication has never been so crucial since work-from-home policies were implemented. We wanted to make this shift as easy as possible for our team at all levels, so no one got lost in the transition. We have scheduled regular video calls to catch up on how everyone is doing, either one-on-one or in a small group setting. Team leaders have the responsibility of touching base with their group as they usually would in the office.
Keeping communication channels open is not only important on a professional level, but personally too. The mental health of our team is just as important as their physical health, and many of us may not be used to the sudden switch to working from home, what more with strict regulations in place. We make it a point to check in on our staff and how they’re doing on a personal level, letting them know that if they’re facing any hardship, help is always available to them.
- Preparing for the aftermath of COVID-19
No doubt the situation we are currently facing is challenging, inconvenient, and a disturbance to our usual norm. Instead of focusing on the negative, this is a good opportunity to plan for the future of the business. As we see the slow lift in restrictions, a question we’re asking ourselves is “how can we support the transition to return to business as usual?”. Our management team are in early discussions of facilitating the preliminary return to the office in several stages, starting with two or three teams at a time while maintaining the recommended social distance. We do this while bearing in mind that it may take many more months before we can truly say things have gone back to pre-pandemic times.
If anything, COVID-19 has really opened our eyes to the multitude of ways a business can operate. As we come out the other side, there is an undoubted effect on the way we do business, and this in turn, forces us to reconsider our current mindset and approach. Business owners should be open to the idea of implementing flexible working options in the event of another emergency. As for EWIB, we are looking into ways to improve how we work, like using remote meetings to our advantage and exploring other alternatives to traditional methods. It has also become more evident to us that a cloud-based server will benefit the team in the long run, and we are working to get this up and running in the near future.
This is also a perfect opportunity to think about what other services you can provide to expand your business. Mark Cuban, billionaire entrepreneur and investor, says this is a great time to experiment with new lines of business to see what works. He recommends brainstorming with similar companies to find ways to reignite the industry, as there will be many struggling to return to business as usual post-pandemic.
We understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on businesses around Australia. Now more than ever, it is important that your business insurance is up to date, something that East West Insurance Brokers can assist with. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, we encourage you to reach out to one of our team or the relevant authorities for help and support.
Important Note: All insurance policies have exclusions. Please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement or Policy Wording to decide whether an insurance policy meets your needs.