The coronavirus pandemic has hit UK entrepreneurs and small businesses hard. Many business owners are unsure of where to turn to for help in a situation like this and what may happen next. As the UK gets used to lockdown life, for once we really are all in it together.
To give business owners clarity on how to continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we've compiled the best reliable sources of advice and guidance to help you keep your business afloat. It's important to regularly monitor helpful initiatives and resources out there that can offer practical support over the coming weeks.
1. Prioritise the physical health of staff and beyond
Keeping yourself and your team healthy while limiting the spread of the virus should be your number one priority. You should have already started to refine your COVID-19 corporate policy that aligns with official recommendations and highlights your infection-control efforts.
Make sure you continue to monitor the public health guidelines for employers on a daily basis. Here you will find information on how to respond to the crisis as an employer and look after your team's physical health.
You should also continue to educate your employees on ways that they as individuals can prevent the spread of the infection. There are still times they will come into contact with others during lockdown. Keep directing them to official sources of information, such as the government's stay at home guidance and NHS advice.
In addition, if you haven't done so already, make sure your employees’ contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date and instruct staff to inform management if they have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms of the infection (e.g. a new continuous cough or a high temperature. Check the NHS list of coronavirus symptoms and what to do).
It is also a good idea to plan for the event that key members of your team contract the virus so you can respond quickly to a "worst case scenario" if it happens. Keep records organised, such as meeting calendars, and know who your team have been in contact with so that if somebody tests positive for COVID-19, you can identify who else may be at risk.
2. Regularly communicate key messages to employees, customers and the public
Keep up a dialogue with employees, customers and the public as they will want to know how you are responding to the crisis every step of the way.
Keep posting clear updates on your company's website and social media – be that changes to working hours, products or services. Consider "pinning" a post to your Twitter page, re-posting your key messaging frequently and creating a date-stamped banner on your website so your crisis response is clear. Also, send regular updates to key individuals who are most affected directly before they come knocking on your door. Even if business is running as usual, it’s important to keep the dialogue open with your customers at all times.
For important information for your employees, create an internal hub that the whole team can access and you can continue to add to. You can populate this with insurance information, your remote-work policy, coverage schedules, and more. Make sure you direct them to it via email.
3. Manage your cash flow
This is the lifeblood of your business. Maintain continuous communication with your Financial Director (if you have one); your accountant, who will have access to a wealth of information; and your bank. Schedule regular calls with them to assess all of your options to firstly maintain as much cash through this time as possible and secondly retain as many of your employees as you can.
For updates about financial support on offer, keep checking the government's help for businesses here. As of 27th March, examples of help include: a Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, Statutory Sick Pay relief, business rates support, small business grants, the Business Interruption Loan Scheme which will provide government-backed loans of up to £5 million to small and medium businesses, and more.
Plan for a worst-case financial scenario – for example, zero sales in three months – and update your crisis strategy as you go along.
The UK Government and Bank of England have made billions of pounds available for domestic banks across the UK to help small businesses in a challenging position.
Also, make use of the HMRC helpline if you are concerned about paying your business tax due to coronavirus. Call 0800 0159 559 for help and advice.
4. Look after your employees' mental health
Mind has issued wellbeing support you can share with your employees to help them through an isolating period of working from home. Check in with your team face-to-face via technology on a daily basis and encourage them to take regular breaks and keep active, keep up virtual conversations with others, take care with an overload of news and information, and let them know who they can contact if they have any personal concerns.
You can also refer to the Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing Hub and the NHS website for more information.
5. Stay well-informed and look positively to the future
A rapidly changing situation can make it hard to stay well-informed and avoid rampant misinformation that could negatively affect your business operations. Streamline your social media feeds to limit your exposure to fake news. Rely on getting your information from main news websites and BBC broadcasts.
Keeping your finger on the pulse will allow you to react to changing circumstances quickly and put you in a good position to ride out the storm. Take advantage of this rare learning opportunity and strive to take lessons you've learned forward to cope with any future crisis even better.
For real-time updates on where you can access business support during the coronavirus outbreak, follow Workspace on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
For information on how Workspace is responding to COVID-19, please visit our coronavirus response page.