It’s fair to say that the vast majority of people entered 2020 the way they usually begin a New Year, with ambitions and goals they hoped to reach and an optimistic outlook. Few of us could have expected that our plans would have a wrench thrown into them within the first three months of the year. Fewer still could have predicted the extent of the current crisis; with very few exceptions, the entire world is under some form of quarantine, with tentative plans to lift some restrictions but no real idea when normality will return – or even what “normal” is going to look like from now on.
As a business owner, you can’t be criticized for not being ready for a development like this. What business could have been really, truly prepared for this situation? What we can do, however, is aim to be ready for when it stops. As of right now, the picture is changing every week and in some cases every day. But when that “new normal” is in place, we all want to be ready for it – so now, while there is some free time, is a good time to look at doing some of the following.
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Plan for the unexpected
We can all agree it would be extremely bad luck for a once-in-a-lifetime situation such as the current one to be followed closely by a similar incident. However, it was bad luck that this one happened at all. Let’s not allow the fact that an event is unlikely to be mistaken for it being impossible. In any case, there have been various uncertainty since the turn of the century; while this one is the most serious of them all, it’s not the first. Also, a lot of systems will have been weakened by the impact of this one – while we can all be vigilant for a future outbreak, we have to be realistic and recognize that it could happen anyway.
Hopefully, on a global level, leaders have taken the message on board and official bodies can be ready for anything in the near future. In your business, it is up to you to make sure that you are ready – so you should put together a policy for dealing with a situation like this if one should arise. What will you advise employees, and what will you tell customers? Are your premises equipped for social distancing? What measures do you wish you could have put in place this time, that you would if you had enough warning? Hopefully it’s a plan you’ll never need; but if you do need it, you’ll be glad you made it.
Spruce up your premises
Hopefully, the time will come when we can all safely return to work and life will be as normal. We can’t know when that will be, but we can make ourselves ready for that time, and get our businesses ready for at least a soft relaunch. The point where we went into isolation came upon us suddenly in a lot of cases, and so it may take a bit of groundwork to get to a point where we can pick up tools and get back to business. Now is as good a time as any to work on plans for that moment.
Your business premises may well need a cleanup in advance of any opening, and along with a fleet power washing for your business vehicles that can go a long way to readiness. You will also benefit from getting a teleconference set up with all the people who need to be consulted on a return to work. Between you, you can get the idea of a specific “return to work” date in place, and figure out what needs to be done to the office before then (and how to do it!)
Consider home-based working in the long term
Working from home was already a subject for discussion prior to the situation, with opinion-formers in the field of business already giving arguments for and against. The crisis has meant that a number of businesses have had the reality of telecommuting forced upon them. Even if you were a skeptic on the concept before, most of us have had no choice but to embrace it now. The question is: has this crisis helped you make up your mind? Because home working is not going to go away.
Given that transportation systems have been identified as a factor, workers will be justifiably dubious about commuting to do a job that they have just spent several months doing from home. When the final restrictions are lifted, you might find that it helps your business to continue offering flexibility on this issue; the signs are that it increases productivity, and it’s certain to increase the talent pool from which you can recruit.
Ramp things up gradually
We’ve alluded to this point a few times, and we’ll reiterate it here: at least some of what we considered “normal” before this pandemic may be gone for good. We are, to some extent, already in a new normal world. So the idea of getting back to “normal”, as desirable as it may be, might not be a practical one. This may mean that there is a certain amount of adjustment involved in getting your business back to an everyday rhythm in the future; even if you can get everyone back under one roof, don’t expect things to immediately return to previous patterns.
Some of your workforce will, in all likelihood, have lost loved ones to the virus. Some of your workforce may, indeed, have been lost themselves. A great many may be quite edgy about the possibility that we may need to return at any moment. All of this is sure to affect output. You’ll need to allow for this, and keep an eye out for your employees as they feel their way back to familiar territory. Be prepared to talk through things in both one-to-one and team meetings. It’s OK not to be OK with a world that has changed so much in so short a time, and talking about it is going to be part of acclimatizing to it.
We all look forward to a time when normal service can resume, but we need to be aware of what that will mean, and how we can help it happen for our business.