15 Feb Uncharted Waters: 3 Swift Ways the Business Community Can Respond to COVID-19
To say that the crisis posed by COVID-19 aka the coronavirus is unprecedented is an understatement. Entire nations like France, Spain, Malaysia, and Italy — which arguably is the hardest-hit next to China — are on total lockdown; flights in and out of these countries are prohibited, and their citizens and residents are told to quarantine themselves indoors.
The Trump administration in the U.S. has likewise banned flights entering from Europe to reduce the risks of contamination. To date, according to the NPR, American health officials have warned that positive cases have risen to the thousands.
The number of states which first experienced outbreaks, like New York and Washington, has extended to a total of 49 with 70 people dying. The entire state of California has documented 557 cases and 7 deaths.
While businesses are not yet in a standstill, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business leaders are scrambling to put contingencies in place or risk falling under. A pandemic can compel the government to make people stay indoors.
With the reduction of both productive personnel and customers, profitability itself remains at high risk. Further loss of revenue can lead to entire companies shutting down. Forbes estimates that the global economy will experience “rolling recessions.” The Chamber Business News forecasts that the U.S. GDP will suffer disruptions to a cost of $17 billion.
At this point, heads and owners of companies will be doing their own research and pencil-pushing to see how they can survive this onslaught intact. Here are some quick responses that can mitigate risk while creating solutions that will enable you to bounce back once the crisis is over:
Study the pandemic and separate the facts and the scientific from the myths and speculative
Check authoritative, credible sources, and stay away from fake news. Knowing what the virus is and what it is not will keep you grounded, and perhaps free from the paranoia paralyzing your friends.
Finding out the things that you can do (and not just those that you can’t) will make you realistic in your planning. It will also give you the confidence to make hard decisions. As PwC points out, basing those decisions on solid truths will also give you the courage to deal with your stakeholders in these tough times.
With the facts as your arsenal, having your department heads discuss COVID-19 in a straightforward manner with their teams can stem their panic and boost morale. Your employees and assignees will feel safe at the knowledge that you are well-informed about the crisis and are dealing with it in a professional, efficient manner.
Plan to work with a skeletal workforce
Deal with the possibility that your employees might have to go on a self-quarantine. In a worst-case scenario, one or two of them might even test positive.
Band together with your department heads to see how you can work with just the most essential people on the ground. The WHR Group says that the majority of your team might have to work remotely.
Plan for that situation now: create guidelines, make sure you have all the equipment you need, come up with systems that will enable your team to contact each other 24/7, and devise digital methods that will ensure the work still gets done.
Manage your employees’ sick leaves
Check if each employee or assignee has enough sick leave credits that will enable them to take prolonged breaks. Issues of salaries and compensation cannot be ignored but must be addressed. For example, what happens to an employee who does use up their leave because of a very necessary quarantine?
Everything has to be handled judiciously, discreetly, and gently. These are trying times — an employee who feels unjustly treated will complain to their colleagues. The collective anxiety can snowball and further lower motivation and cripple productivity.
This is the time where you show your employees you do care.
Stock up your financial war chest
This is where you really have to do a ruthless accounting of your resources. Find out how long your liquidity lasts. Check how many months your reserves can support your expenses. Brace yourself to dig deep into your savings.
Reduce unnecessary expenses. Maximize resources. Reach out to partners and stakeholders to create alliances and the sharing of platforms, people, and funding that can help ensure both your business processes continue.