Mitigating Business Challenges Posed by the Coronavirus
April 30, 2020 Alexis McMahon
As we’re all aware, the world has been on near lockdown for well over a month. What at first felt like a few large-scale events simply being cancelled or pushed back (Staffing Industry Analysts Executive Forum comes to mind) quickly became much more extensive and long term.
Today in the US, government and medical experts are strongly encouraging social distancing across all aspects of life. These conditions are having massive ramifications on businesses, presenting a whole slew of challenges a lot of us simply were not prepared for. In this piece we’ll highlight a couple of those challenges, as well as few ways to approach and minimize them to maintain some sort of normalcy amid this unprecedented situation .
Perhaps the most immediate impact is that all non-essential employees, regardless of industry, have been strongly encouraged (and in some cases required by law) to work from home. There are various problems companies face as the majority of their workforce is suddenly working remotely. A big problem for many is simply making sure all employees have the appropriate equipment to effectively telecommute. For example, my roommate works for a loan advising company in downtown Chicago. As the head of training, she is responsible for onboarding and training new hires. In this climate, that means conducting the training remotely via teleconference which presented her with a hardware issue – no webcam! So, the company had to provide her with one. This is just a minor example.
Organizations are facing all kinds of issues regarding hardware, forcing them to rapidly implement new policies about employees taking devices home. Laptops are easy enough to fit into a bag, but what about companies relying on desktop computers? Can those be safely transported to employees’ homes? Can they instead use their own personal devices to work and access sensitive business information? Is the proper infrastructure even in place to even allow that? These are questions that many organizations are finding they need to answer, and quickly.
That brings cloud migration into the picture. What might have seemed like a trend or a cool project to take on eventually has now become all but a requirement for businesses that wants to maintain productivity in this remote work environment. While some organizations have fully moved their data to the cloud, others who put off adopting it are now scrambling to ensure employees have access to the proper drives and documents from their home setups.
Maintaining Internal Staff
While many of us are lucky enough to work from home, there are a lot more who are not as fortunate. Since the start of the crisis, roughly 30 million people in the US have been laid off or furloughed, the highest rate since The Great Depression. The industries hardest hit include travel, transportation, retail and food. Some restaurants are operating as carry out only with limited staff, which helps consumers, but servers who normally rely on guests dining in are taking a massive hit and seeing their income all but vanish.
The impact on the staffing sector has been less severe than others, but still significant. Some companies have curtailed their hiring, while others that are more closely tied to essential services are experiencing a hiring boom. Ultimately though, recruiting is a face-to-face business and a lot of organizations will likely see hiring dips with their end-clients. But as with all crises, there will be a bounce back.
Organizations, regardless of industry, would serve themselves well to do their best to retain their employees and internal staff headcount as much as possible. Of course, companies will be looking to shrink costs, but weathering an economic storm doesn’t do you much good if you lose all your talent in the process and need to train an entirely fresh team once things begin returning to normal. Maintaining your current workforce as much as possible is critical if your company wants to efficiently ramp back up when the crisis recedes.
Uncertainty & Employee Morale
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects about the current crisis is that we do not know when it will end or even what a return to “normal” looks like. Initially, social distancing mandates were in effect for a month, but recent news indicates that this could be a new normal at least through the summer in many parts of the country.
That said, it’s imperative that organizations keep up employee morale throughout this difficult time – not just to remain competitive, but also to maintain their employees’ sanity. This can be done through a variety of means: From setting up a virtual hangout on platforms like Zoom, to setting clearly defined business goals that are achievable in the context of our current situation. It’s important to remember that everyone across the globe is in this unfamiliar situation, and using that as a means to build unity and a support system within your teams can prove incredibly helpful.
The coronavirus poses immense challenges to businesses across sectors—we don’t want to mince words about that. But it’s important to keep in mind that we’re all in this together.