Updated on 28th May 2020
For small business owners across the country, the chances are that you’ve had to scale back your operations in some way because of the impact of coronavirus. Whether this has involved stocking less products, furloughing your staff or reducing the amount of services you offer to your customers, you’re most likely wanting to get back to full speed as soon as possible.
What this exact rebuilding process will look like, and exactly how and when lockdown restrictions will impact you, differs from business to business. Despite this, there’s nothing to stop you from planning ahead and identifying the key steps your business may need to take to restore your operations to what they were pre-lockdown.
We have no doubt that you’ve grown tired of hearing the phrase ‘lockdown’, so before the ‘new normal’ becomes overused, it could be worth noting that restarting your operations may provide opportunities to adapt and develop your business model; taking advantage of new technologies and working habits learned while you and your team have been working from home.
So, let’s take a look at some key steps you could take to make your business a success in the post-lockdown era.
We can’t overstate the importance of following the government’s advice around coronavirus, which has evolved from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’ in England - while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own guidance. The messaging across all of the UK is likely to evolve further as we learn to cope better with the impact of the virus.
The likelihood is that we won’t be returning straight to our normal office routines and procedures any time soon. Re-opening offices may be a gradual process, with many people continuing to work from home for a considerable amount of time and changes being made to office environments to allow some workers to return safely.
When you’re in a position to start thinking about moving some of your staff back into the office, double-check the latest government guidelines on how you should go about doing this. For example, it may be the case that hot-desking is required, or that employees should work alternative shifts where possible so that proper social distancing measures can be maintained. You might want to make this one of the first post-coronavirus steps you consider, and pop it on your to-do list.
One of the first steps you may want to consider taking is to refresh and re-define your relationships with your suppliers. But before you can do this, you’ll first need to meet with your stakeholders to ensure that you develop an action plan that everyone can get behind - which truly has the best interests of your business at heart.
Creating an opportunity for your stakeholders to pitch in their ideas on how you can not only restore your operations, but improve them, is a good way to kickstart your comeback. Having built a good plan for the future, you’re ready to reach out to your suppliers to rebuild your relationship, set goals for Business As Usual (BAU) activity, and re-negotiate your contractual obligations.
Take time to listen to your suppliers’ needs and plans; explore how they have been affected by the lockdown and see how that has affected their aims and objectives. This initial step could lay the foundations for a more productive and healthy relationship between your two organisations going forward.
Employees across the country have faced a huge challenge in adapting to lockdown working conditions. This applies not only to the technical challenge of getting used to working from home, but the mental health challenges associated with being in a different environment- including those brought about by not being able to work due to the lockdown restrictions imposed on some industries, or from being furloughed.
So, they could use a proper reintroduction.
It may be worth re-training your employees to ensure that everyone is following the best-practice guidelines you’ve put in place to make your service or operations as effective as possible. Talking through industry updates, updating your best-practice documents and giving a general refresher on what you expect from your employees and what they can expect from you could be a healthy way of kickstarting your operations.
What’s more - it may be worth going over deliverables, and ensuring the workload is split evenly between your team. Potentially, you could assess what new skills your employees have acquired and revisit responsibilities to react to any changes your business may be facing.
For many, getting back together in the office will be an emotional experience - and reconnecting with your colleagues can be exciting and fun. As an employer, you could look to facilitate this reintroduction while abiding by the government’s latest social distancing advice.
Sharing stories and reconnecting with your team could form an important part of your post-coronavirus plan. One handy tip could be to put in place a feedback system for employees to get a better understanding of their worries and concerns. Perhaps they’ve been affected by the lockdown more than you realise, or have outstanding questions about their roles. A simple survey via a surveying platform such as Google Forms may achieve this goal but there are many other free survey tools out there.
The various changes you’ve made to your business, your goals for the future and your commitment to quality are some of the key pieces of information you may want to share with your customer-base as part of your lockdown-recovery plan.
A simple personalised email with an engaging subject line might just do the trick - and you don’t necessarily have to treat this as a sales opportunity. Let your optimism, positivity and energy shine through as you detail your plans for the future.
Many businesses who were able to continue operations from home adapted surprisingly well to their new lockdown lifestyles. For some, working from home proved fairly straightforward - with team meetings shifting to online platforms (e.g. Skype, Teams or Zoom), and most other communication taking place via emails.
Some of the perks of working from home for employees and employers alike include having access to home comforts, not having to commute, and enjoying spending time in the relaxed and comfortable environment that is your own home - although we realise this isn’t true for everyone. However, PALife’s research suggests that working from home is here to say - with two thirds of respondents expressing this view.
So, it may be worth updating your office rules and guidelines. If working from home has proven to be effective for your business, why not open a conversation with your staff around working from home options in future? Or, you could implement a flexi-time scheme that could help your employees be more productive.