Coronavirus Is Affecting Companies
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has made headlines around the world and is now hitting Europe harder than ever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is “an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.”
WHO also stated that those infected “will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.” However, the elderly and those suffering from other health conditions will probably suffer more severely from the disease. Coronavirus disease can spread from one person to another through human contact with infected body fluids. Therefore, and as we have all heard, prevention is key, and includes washing hands frequently, maintaining social distance, avoiding touching the eyes, nose and, mouth, etc.
COVID-19 is not only impacting people, it is also affecting organisations. Some even foresee a new economic crisis on the horizon. Many businesses needed to close or even reduce the number of workers.
With more demand for products like medicines and less means of production, the shortage of products and supplies has begun. In other areas the problem is the opposite, less demand and thus less profit. With less profits, how will owners keep businesses open and pay employees? Many doubts seem to arise and worry.
However, organisations are trying to adapt to the new reality and help combat the coronavirus epidemic. For instance, LVMH, is using its cosmetic and parfum factories to produce hydroalcoholic gel to give to health authorities in France. Johnson&Johnson is using innovative technologies (Janssen’s AdVac® and PER.C6®) to find a vaccine for the disease.
Governments are aware of the problems companies face, and many have created policies to help. For example, through tax facilities, loans, payment of employees’ salaries, sick leave policies for sick workers, or to take care of sick relatives. In France, small and medium enterprises, with difficulties, do not pay electricity, rent, and water.
Organisations are also trying to find strategies to effectively address COVID-19. Many have implemented work from home to reduce human contacts, and therefore decrease the number of coronavirus infections. IT departments are crucial during this time, as they need to provide all the support so that employees have all the tools needed to successfully perform their tasks. Nowadays, there are so many digital solutions that the workforce can use to work and communicate, but organisations must not forget to train employees on them.
If work from home is not possible, organisations need to ensure that workplaces are equipped to prevent the spread of the disease. These spaces should be cleaned and disinfected daily, have disinfectants available and make sure that workers keep the necessary distance of 1 meter. But also, employers are responsible for encouraging workers/clients to wash/disinfect their hands regularly, educating and raising awareness of the disease and ways to prevent it, advising workers not to travel and to leave home only for what is strictly necessary (work, grocery shopping and urgent visit to the hospital).
But more than this, if employees cannot work from home, it is also very important to offer flexible working hours, so they can avoid commuting during peak hours, and thus avoid being in closed spaces with many people.
Moreover, it is vital that employees do not feel alone and anxious in this time of isolation. Corporate culture can help, as it is a way to engage workers, motivate them and encourage them to stay positive about their employers and work. It is therefore vital that leaders and managers praise and show appreciation for workers, adopt open and transparent communication, do individual meetings to check on employees and conduct team sessions to promote teamwork and workforce interactions. This is the time for leaders and managers to put into practice their empathy, emotional intelligence and strengthen the corporate culture. People need now more than ever to support each other, to be logical and not let themselves be consumed by fear. WHO has published an important document that addresses mental health during this time. You can have a look at it here Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak.
Besides, organisations also need to consider their customers in this time of crisis, thus contacting them often and being a helping hand is crucial. Many companies have made the smart decision to send communications and e-mails to their clients, to reassure that they are trying to tackle the coronavirus disease and how they are doing it. This is an effective way to strengthen customer relationships, improve companies’ brand and reputation.
All things considered, designing and deploying a Crisis Management Programme is key during this time. It allows companies to effectively tackle issues that may arise, have alternative solutions and grow successfully from crisis time. In addition, organisations must understand closely with governments and banks what plans they can benefit from.
- How Businesses Should Handle the Coronavirus Outbreak, Entrepreneur
- How Employers Can Deal With The Coronavirus Threat, March 2020, Forbes
- Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19, February 2020, World Health Organization
- How Companies Can Respond to the Coronavirus, March 2020, MIT