When the impacts of Coronavirus (COVID-19) only extended to our toilet paper supplies and travel plans, it was easier to proceed as usual. In true Australian fashion, we laughed at memes on the toilet paper shortage as a way to lighten the situation.
As weeks have passed, the impact of COVID-19 has firmly landed on our doorstep and it’s harder to ignore the reality of the situation. However, as we’ve seen reiterated by many experts and advisors, panic will not help us move forward in the age of COVID-19. It pays to remain informed but calm. As this situation evolves at a rapid pace, it’s best to stay up to date with the latest updates from official sources such as the Australian Government , and SA Health.
The first question on everyone’s mind is how do we protect ourselves and others?
The current approach being recommended by the Australian Government is that everyone must practice good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spreading. This means covering the basics;
- keeping surfaces clean and disinfected,
- regularly washing hands with soap and water,
- using tissues once only and safely disposing of them and
- covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
In an office environment also consider those areas you don’t ordinarily disinfect such as keyboards, mouses, doorknobs, handles and power switches.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay at home and away from those vulnerable to illness (elderly and immunity compromised) while experiencing illness yourself.
Fourteen-day self-isolation is now also mandatory for all travellers returning from overseas.
How do we manage our response and continue to operate as a business?
Each businesses response and considerations will vary depending on industry. It’s important to comply with all advice provided by the Australian Government and your local government. Putting the health and safety of your customers and employees at the forefront will ensure your business can minimise the impact of COVID-19.
The key consideration for most Australian businesses right now is how to continue operating safely and how and what to communicate with their customers.
Operating your business amid COVID-19
Depending on the type of business and industry it’s likely over the coming weeks a lot of work will turn virtual and online where possible. While you might like to enlist the help of an expert to take your business online for customers, internally there are a number of ways to decrease the need for in-person work and communication.
Why not work from home?
Allowing employees the opportunity to work from home allows them to have more control of their own hygiene and environment. It may also become essential with the increasing care needs of little ones with the cancellation of sports, events and potential closure of schools and childcare facilities.
For work from home newbies here are three tips to making the most of it!
1 – Have a dedicated space for work
Don’t be like Robert Kelly whose children very comically interrupted his video conference with BBC News – video here if you need a laugh. Even if you’re not lucky enough to have a home office try to dedicate one quiet spot in your home as your workplace. Also, as tempting as working from bed may be choose somewhere comfortable and safe to sit down and focus – your back will thank you later!
2 – Don’t take meetings offline – put them online!
Corporate types will be familiar with the phrase ‘let’s take this offline’ but in the age of COVID-19 it will be all about taking it online. While one-on-one in person meetings can easily be changed to a phone call. Multi-person meetings add a level of complexity. Thanks to online platforms like Zoom and Skype these meetings become more possible. Zoom even has the functionality that allows you to share your screen with other attendees so you can discuss work together. Don’t be afraid to jump-in and learn with these platforms. The tools and functionality available might even make your meetings more efficient – and most offer free basic packages. You can download them and learn all about them here Zoom and Skype.
3 – Have clear expectations
The expectations of working in an office environment are clear and very familiar to most. When working online and from home the expectations can become blurred. To ensure your team is on the same page have clear expectations and guidelines in place. For example, you might set virtual office hours so it’s clear when people will be online and contactable. Equally setting a daily check in via email or phone to ensure everyone’s on track and maintain personal and team communication which is important in these dynamic times.
4 – Keep spirits high
Working from home can be liberating but it can also be lonely and isolating. Make sure your team stays connected and checks-in with each other. When you’re out of office it’s easy to feel forgotten and disconnected. Scheduling a weekly whole team meeting can bring the team back together. It’s also important to advocate for your employee’s wellbeing during this time and provide support for those finding it difficult. Educate them on at-home exercise, meditation and counselling services and free online resources available. In these times it is important to come together – even when we can’t do it physically.
Communicating with your customers
With a large percentage of communications occurring via social media today, news whether true or false, moves fast and if you don’t speak someone else will. Whether COVID-19 directly impacts your business or not – it may be timely to communicate on the matter to keep your customers informed and instil a sense of calm.
When developing your communication strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re making the right move and sharing the correct information.
1 – Use reputable sources for any information you share or comment on
Make sure what you’re sharing is in fact – fact! It’s too easy to fall victim to false news or re-share content that isn’t necessarily true.
2 – Have care and consideration for those affected
It can be tempting to make light of the situation and make jokes or memes about the scenario. You should always have care and concern for those directly impacted and exercise caution in your communications. Due to the escalating nature of the virus the time has passed to make light of the situation as it is becoming a very real threat for many individuals.
3 – Detail how you intend to respond and what actions will follow
Let your customers know how you intend to respond and what actions your business intends to take to protect them as well as your employees. Also, detail any impacts on the access to and purchase of your goods or services.
4 – Offer timely updates
As COVID-19 is a rolling issue and is constantly and rapidly developing. Ensure you keep communicating with your customers any updates from your end and keep assuring them if the situation intensifies.
So even in these unusual times, it can still be ‘business as usual’ by putting a few minor modifications in place. It’s just a matter of thinking sensibly and creatively and communicating clearly and calmly to your employees and customers.
We hope these simple tips help you and your business navigate the changing landscape we’re confronted with in this COVID-19 pandemic.
We also hope you stay happy, healthy and safe during this unprecedented time. Of course, if there’s anything we can do to support your marketing and communications strategy – we’re here – virtually.