With more than 70% of UK private businesses having furloughed their staff and other financial help sought in the forms of loans and rate holidays, businesses should now plan for their post-lockdown futures. Many office-based roles will be done more remotely, prompting the need for a serious rethink about location and IT. Amongst all the uncertainty, here are some steps to consider as we transition out of lockdown:
Prepare to welcome back furloughed/part-time staff
With the Chancellor’s announcement on 12th May that the furlough scheme is extended until the end of October, businesses can start welcoming back furloughed staff on a part time basis from August. Of course, this is dependent on suitable protective measures in place. Has a COVID-19 risk assessment been carried out? Ensure you communicate this to all staff, including specific information such as who is allowed into the office on which days, where employees will sit to observe social distancing rules and hygiene procedures such as how frequently & when to use hand sanitiser and more frequent emptying of bins. Until the end of July the government is covering 80% of wages (capped) but from Auguust employers are expected to share more of this cost and pay a percentage towards the ‘furloughed’ salary. More details to come at the end of May.
Adjust the business plan
Many businesses have already adapted to survive and continue trading, with management addressing the issue of what happens when we’re out of this crisis. Those without robust and reliable online platforms have suffered and customers have gone elsewhere, possibly forever. Teams are addressing practical issues such as how to continue manufacturing using technology but adhering to social distancing. Identify different markets and where possible, expand your model to sell beyond your usual customers. Rework the figures to calculate the new profit margins of selling via various platforms. Business plans aren’t set in stone and should be changed when the facts change, which they most certainly have in recent weeks.
Update your IT
Organisations quick to adapt online include those as diverse as interior design services, schools, DIY stores and professional service firms. With millions having switched to working remotely, for large swathes of the economy this will become the new normal post lockdown. Remote meetings of all magnitudes are conducted via apps such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom & Webex, saving hours spent commuting to meetings which can instead be accessed in seconds (much better for the environment too…). Now is the time to invest in more robust IT systems and cloud sharing/storage such as One Drive and Dropbox. Not only will this allow business to continue as smoothly as possible, it provides far more flexibility in the future for both customers and employees. Firms offering flexibility around working hours and locations are perceived as far more attractive propositions and will attract the best candidates. Trekking into the office 5 days a week will soon be consigned to the past.
Reconsider your office space
Will headcount be the same post lockdown? If not, consider moving to a smaller premises providing options for hot desking and remote working. Consider switching to online/cloud storage rather than hard copies. This results in either saved storage costs or extra office space – does this business need that extra space for new staff/ventures or could it downsize? Also consider relocating if being in the centre of town is no longer a priority.
Rotate your furloughed staff
It is possible to rotate staff on furlough, to avoid the same people doing all the work on only marginally more pay with the rest not required to work at all. This ensures staff retain their skills and avoids resentment within the team. Bear in mind there is a minimum claim period of 3 weeks per furloughed employee.
Stay close to your clients & customers
Build customer loyalty by helping them as much as possible and keeping in touch with their situations. This is an incredibly challenging time requiring communication between both parties to help each other out. How businesses treat their customers now will be remembered for a long time to come.
Furloughed staff can take on other jobs
With a shortage of fruit pickers in the UK and the busy harvest upon us, furloughed workers are being urged to take second jobs picking fruit. The peak demand for pickers will be June and you’ll need to get permission from your current employer before taking on a second temporary job.
Get the accounts & tax compliance done early
We’re urging businesses with a March ’20 year end to consider getting all possible compliance done now, freeing up time post-lockdown to grow the business. The same goes for individuals who are now able to submit their 2019/20 self-assessment tax returns. Of course, the sooner HMRC receives your return, the sooner you receive any tax refund due.
Reopen the business using appropriate social distancing measures
Not all work can be done from home. What measures can your business reasonably adopt to reopen the business and get it moving again once restrictions are eased?
Get an accurate picture of stock levels and reassess how much really needs to be held. Could you renegotiate storage facilities?