A week after Ramaphosa announced the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa a National State of Disaster, the President announced a national lockdown for 21 days, starting from the 26th March. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed, travel restrictions are in place, and citizens are to stay home. Residents may only go outside for essentials like food, medicine, and banking services.
Your COVID-19 business protection plan
Essential and non-essential businesses alike are expected to suffer. How can you protect your business from the effects of the coronavirus?
Have a disaster preparedness policy
This plan should cover several concerns, including policies around remote work, the tools employees will need, how to approach travel, meetings, and more.
According to an employment law specialist at Caveat Legal, “Our existing employment legislation provides a comprehensive framework for employers and employees to conduct themselves to safeguard health and safety.” Read more on the employer’s responsibilities here.
Sick leave and remote policies
Businesses that can operate remotely are encouraged to do so. Policies on leave and remote work should be included in your disaster management plan to avoid confusion and to protect both business and employees.
Some businesses simply cannot operate remotely, like retail, health, and services industries. If your business must remain open, consider the following:
- A clean and safe working environment. Having your place of business cleaned once or twice a week is no longer enough.
- Employees should in no way take public transportation, period. Arrange alternative options, like carpooling with other staff members.
- Minimise duties so that employees can work shorter shifts.
Of course, shorter shifts (and even the temporary closing of businesses) will affect salaries. Can your business still pay salaries even if you’re forced to close? What kind of leave will employees need to take? These are some of the very first questions your team will ask you.
Speak to your staff
That brings us to our next point. Your team will be looking to you for leadership now more than ever; if you haven’t already addressed the outbreak you’re far behind. As a business owner your first thought may be concern over business operations, however, your staff are likely more anxious over their health and whether they still have a job – so address them with empathy. Let them know what the plan is.
Invest in WFH technology
If you’re not a remote-friendly company, now is definitely the time to start. Collaboration tools and video calls make working from home a viable option for most office workers. While many people these days have a laptop and Wi-Fi, they may not have enough bandwidth to keep up with the type of work required. If your business can afford it, provide the equipment and data to employees so that they can continue working. If you’re expecting load shedding, allow your team to work more flexible hours.
It goes without saying that business travel is out of the question. If video conferencing won’t suffice, postpone your travel plans until it is safe.
Take advantage of economic relief packages
Many strategies have been put into effect to relieve the pressure on businesses and employees, like the Debt Relief for Small Businesses and the Solidarity Fund. You can see a breakdown of the other strategies here.
If you’re a bricks and mortar store selling products, now is the time to open a website so that your customers can shop online. Now more than ever people are looking for the convenience (and safety) of online shopping.
Investing in digital marketing will ensure that your business is still out there. A social media strategy, website, and newsletters can do a lot to boost sales in these tough times.
Stay safe, everyone. Until next time. 😊