In many ways, the novel coronavirus was a once-in-a-lifetime event – the public health risk equivalent of a 100-year storm. An extraordinary number of people and businesses were impacted. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 72% of businesses nationwide saw revenues decline because of COVID-19 and the accompanying shutdown the pandemic spawned.
Employees felt the effects as well. As the Centre for Future Work discovered, the rate of people working from home doubled during the lockdown – from 15% to 30% – and more than half of all businesses reduced the number of hours staff were scheduled to work, the Australian Bureau of Statistics also found. Operating conditions – meaning business as usual – changed for many as well. The same study from ABS revealed 74% of businesses had to modify certain work processes, which jumped to 82% for medium-sized companies. Roughly 26% kept things the same as they'd always been.
While the economic strictures have largely lifted here and abroad, health officials caution that the virus isn't going anywhere, at least not until a vaccine is created, approved and becomes commercially available. Therefore, social distancing, face masks and other measures designed to slow the spread may be the "new normal."
The good news is you can adapt business operations and still grow. Here are a few suggestions for how you can adjust and flourish simultaneously:
1. Invest in technology
State-of-the-art technology and its speed of development proved to be a lifeline for many organisations. Were it not for broadband internet access and the ubiquity of mobile devices and laptops, Australia's economy would almost certainly have been crippled.
Organisations that were once reluctant to offer work-from-home flexibility may be reconsidering, depending on how those arrangements turned out and overall productivity. Regardless, business owners would be wise to examine their equipment that allows them to connect and if there is anything that could use tweaking or substituting, whether that's in terms of internet providers, router devices or network connection methods. Talking with a telecommunications professional may help with this process and they may also have recommendations about cloud computing if your firm isn't already leveraging it.
2. Examine purchasing habits
From hand sanitiser to face masks to toilet paper, certain items flew off store shelves starting in early-to-mid March and the "out of stock" signs remained in place for longer than many people anticipated – including consumer spending experts. In fact, at one point, toilet paper sales rose 105% over a four-week period compared to the corresponding time frame in 2019, according to Nielsen. Canned meal purchases also skyrocketed by 192% on a year-over-year basis.
Blooming sales in toiletries and canned goods isn't likely to last, but some purchase trends or service options may be in place for the foreseeable future. For example, many people in Australia – as well as in other parts of the world – remain somewhat reluctant to patronise locations where large numbers of people gather, such as restaurants. Restaurateurs, as a result, may want to commit more resources to the delivery side of the business, whether that's by partnering with a third-party delivery service provider or building their own. They may also want to re-examine the orders the kitchen completes first to better expedite requested dishes and meals.
3. Prioritise sanitation
As it always does, time will tell what the biggest lesson is from COVID-19; hindsight is the ultimate teacher. What will undoubtedly be among the largest takeaways is the importance of sanitation.
While it remains somewhat unclear the exact manner in which coronavirus spreads – whether by air, surfaces or a combination of both – what is known is its highly contagious. As reported by Business Insider, health experts from the World Health Organisation believe that for every new infection of COVID-19, an additional 2.5 people go on to catch it. That makes it significantly more communicable than the traditional seasonal flu.
No matter how tidy you keep your facility, you may consider re-evaluating what processes you use to decontaminate and how often you do them. You may also want to re-emphasise to employees the importance of their staying home if they feel sick. Their doing so can spare other workers from coming down with the cold, flu or something more severe like pneumonia. Those who are well enough to work may be able to do so remotely.
4. Diversify suppliers
Supply chain disruption led to nightmare scenarios for numerous industries amid the crush of demand for certain items. Some of these orders could not be completed in a timely fashion due to suppliers' own production problems.
If you own a company that relies on a third party for virtually any reason, consider adding another to guard against scenarios where your primary supplier is offline or unable to fulfill your request. Strategic adjustments such as these can help you bounce back or adapt in the face of worst case scenarios.
If you're in need of emergency tax, audit or other business services, please contact WMC Accounting today. We're so much more than numbers.