Monday | 23 March | 2020
Annelise de Vries (Solidarity Research Institute)
The Covid-19 virus quickly became known as unknown, unheard of and undefined, in other words novel. This unknown-ness spreads a lot of uncertainty. For example, look at the market’s reaction and how once rational people are suddenly doing panic buying.
For many business owners and heads of companies and organisations this is an extremely fearful time. Not only is their own vitality at stake, but the vitality of many employees, rests to a large extent on their shoulders as well.
Employers are thoroughly aware of the fact that they cannot simply close their doors and send their employees home indefinitely, because, like many economists predict worldwide, this economic impact of Covid-19 will outweigh the medical impact by far.
What is one to do? How can you manage your labour organisation to come out stronger on the other side?
The business rights watchdog, Sakeliga, announced in a recent webinar labour management options and operational adjustment measures for businesses during the time of Covid-19 (watch the webinar here).
According to Christo Bester from the LWO Employers Organisation, there is not one custom solution that applies to all employers, but there are general principles that businesses can apply to protect themselves from the impact of this virus. It is important to mention here that, in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must establish a work environment that, as far as reasonably practicable, maintains a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees.
- Question 1: How do I protect by business, company or organisation’s workforce? (click here for document that serves as a summary)
Policy and management
The protection of any business’ workforce must be preceded by policies, regulations and actions that must be taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to respond to incidents where the virus is spreading (or possibly spread) among the workforce.
These policies, regulations and action plans must be communicated to employees on an ongoing basis and through various channels. You as employer must be your workers’ source of truth. If you keep your employees in the dark, it will bring forth uncertainty which will lower productivity even more.
Staff and contractors
Analyse your workforce and communicate possible work options to your employees, for example, working from home or working for less hours. If you determine that key employees should be on site, offer them protection by constantly making them aware of the health measures (download Solidarity’s infographic for employees here) or close/reorganise certain high risk work areas (e.g. open plan spaces where people sit in close vicinity to each other).
Health and government interaction
Make sure that you know how and where to report certain incidents (the 24-hour Covid-19 helpline is 0800 029 999 and the WhatsApp number is 060 012 3456).
- Question 2: How can I stabilise my business’ provision lines?
Communicate with providers
Be transparent and honest with all the companies that are part of your supply line and renegotiate with your suppliers for better rates. All companies are affected by Covid-19, with the result that suppliers will be open to negotiation rather than losing your business.
Management and stock
Identify only mission-critical parts of you inventory to continue production or services as far as possible. Also, try to optimise the location of your inventory so that unnecessary logistical steps to transport inventory from one site to another can be eliminated.
- Question 3: How can I continue to keep my clients involved?
Try to protect your customers as far as possible through their entire experience of your business. Ensure that there are enough hand sanitisers and that surfaces not only seem clean, but that they are. Also, train your employees to exercise the necessary measure when working with clients, for example allowing the client to handle their bank card as far as possible. Now is also the time to introduce several delivering options to your clients as part of your product. Your delivery service will give you a competitive edge over other businesses.
Lastly, you constantly need to communicate with your clients. Let them know you are in control of the situation and that you think ahead. If clients are not left in the dark, they will continue to make use of your product or service.
- Question 4: What about my financial situation?
Define various scenarios that can be prevalent in your business and adjust your financial plans to it as best as possible. This includes different financial action plans for different triggers, for example if key personnel are quarantined and production or services cannot continue.
Also try to get as far as possible without any debt – refrain from spending money on things that are not a priority. If you have debt or cannot function without it, ensure that you lengthen the credit in case there comes a time when banks do not allow credit anymore. Also, look at the option to refinance assets over the longest term possible to relieve pressure on your cashflow.
It might seem unnecessary but now is the time to market. Cut your other expenses so that you can spend more on marketing!
In the second part of this article, we elaborate on setting up a crisis centre for your business to implement these tips and we also equip you with examples of actions that can be taken to ensure that your business is virus resistant!
* All information was correct at the time of publication.