A guide to Corporate Responses to COVID-19

With coronavirus having an unprecedented impact on businesses of all sectors and sizes, many companies are having to take unfamiliar measures to ensure they are in as strong a position as possible when normality eventually resumes.

Although companies are likely to be at different stages of this process, the following steps may help minimise the damage caused by the pandemic.

First of all – working from home.  While remote working has largely been adopted and rolled out across the country, companies who are resisting this may find stricter measures being taken by the Government shortly.  The latest guidance can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

It is therefore essential that a remote working system is inplace and IT security is up-to-date. There are various online communication systems, which can be useful in creating a virtual office environment.

Regardless of what stage a company is at in terms of their response to COVID-19, communication is key.  During such uncertainty, and with the media providing updates with such regularity, employees will no doubt appreciate being kept in the loop as to the company’s stance.  This can be a very concerning time for many, with possible implications on their income.  As such, it is essential that any contractual addendums, including changes to sick pay, are carefully considered and communicated.  This may necessitate some awkward conversations, possibly about more senior staff taking pay cuts, but itis important these issues are covered sensitively and comprehensively.

It is also important that they have the means to work efficiently, even when their primary tasks are minimised.  This may involve clearly detailing projects for them to work on that have perhaps previously been on the backburner.  This will help ensure that employees are kept busy and motivated during unsettled times.

Likewise, regular communications should be sent out in the usual channels to customers, to ensure they are aware of any enforced changes to the products or services they receive. Even if the situation is currently business as usual, customers may not immediately assume that to be the case, making regular communication all the more important.  If your company is fortunate enough to have not yet seen too detrimental an impact on operations, it may also be worth contacting customers to discuss expediting projects, if applicable, due to uncertainty as to what the coming weeks and months maybring.  While it needs to be done in consideration of the immediate financial security of the company, this may also be a shrewd time to share details of any offers or deals, to try to build up funds to see you through a lean period.  Due to the mount of time people are going to be spending at home, this can also be a fruitful period to send out marketing materials.  The additional free time may lead to a significant rise in click-throughs and registered interest.  As companies may be forced to furlough employees and temporarily close offices, setting up marketing communications on an automated system can be an effective way on maintaining a brand presence during downtime.

If you offer digital products and services, now is the time to push them aggressively.  Going into lockdown is sure to have a significant impact on the country’s digital footprint.  As such, you may wish to target such markets, especially if the product or service will be unaffected by the pandemic and can therefore allow customers to retain an uninterrupted presence during this period.

Finally, the financial well being of a company will surely lead to sleepless nights for managing directors worldwide.  While so much is out of our control during this time, companies should be planning as best as possible, dropping any discretionary expenditure, reviewing cash flow forecasts to determine the best and worst case scenarios, invoicing weekly and being hard on recovery, applying for the Government aid available to them at the earliest opportunity, and discussing the possibility of rental holidays with landlords or banks, to reduce premises costs.  Accredited lenders and partners for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme(CBILS) can be found atwww.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/current-accredited-lenders-and-partners

Equally importantly, implementing a crisis team can help ensure issues that arise unexpectedly, as is likely to happen in this unfamiliar scenario, can be quickly and effectively addressed.  Regular discussions with advisors, especially those who experienced the 2008 financial crisis, can help with problem solving and forecasting.

There is so much uncertainty in the global market right now that it is important that we maximise the effectiveness of the things we can control, and, where possible, turn adversity into opportunity.

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