The Coronavirus outbreak and its rapid spread has proven an incredible shock to Irish society and business. Following the announcement of further restrictions, the country is adjusting to new, uncharted waters. Greater social supports for those who lost jobs, non-essential services asked to close, gatherings restricted – all measures to strengthen the physical distancing policy and contain COVID-19 in Ireland.
Companies have rightly put the health of staff, customers and suppliers at the heart of their response. The efforts to prevent transfer and ensure social distancing measures are adhered to has been substantial, and many companies have made the tough decision to temporarily close functions or their entire business. For those companies and brands still operating, human health and the continuation of their business is paramount. Nothing should distract from the focus on these two areas.
Uncertain times calls for calm, measured action. In a situation as fluid as the one presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, what actions can companies take to ensure they are playing their part in society by supporting their employees, partners, suppliers, consumers, and stakeholders.
Support your employees
Never has communicating with your employees been more vital than in a time of crisis. Many companies have moved swiftly to address immediate priorities but given the protracted nature of the pandemic – further challenges can and will emerge. Ensuring employees are clear on business objectives, their role and their future is paramount as we look ahead to continued stricter physical distancing measures.
The impact of the pandemic is different across sectors and the next few weeks will amplify certain issues. Where companies have already taken steps to address the new “normal”, the shift to remote-working poses a further challenge – how to maintain employee morale and engagement.
Business leaders need to consider daily check-ins, how they are using messaging platforms, video calls, skype town halls – as ways that can minimise social isolation and as we grow accustomed to physical distancing. Beyond day-to-day activity are there supports you can offer your staff – such as small interest free loans or allowing flexible time for those who wish to volunteer with HSE.
Companies who demonstrate a commitment not just to employee health but to supporting their employees will come out of this well with employees.
Consider what’s in your immediate control
The current crisis has had a massive knock-on impact to a range of services and sectors. Daily updates of businesses suspending services or worse, businesses folding, underscore the need for the wider business community to support where they can.
Many companies have already begun to expedite their payment of invoices to small suppliers. Another avenue companies could look at addressing is delaying payment on certain products.
Companies should consider how they can best support the small businesses, contractors and freelancers who support them day to day.
Look beyond your business
Society is being asked to pull together and companies can also play a role. Some companies are making a proactive decision to step up and go beyond their day-to-day operations to support their local community and society at large.
Look at you at how your company’s physical footprint, could it be better utilised? Can you offer free car parking for essential services for example? Many companies have made their products temporarily available for a reduced cost or entirely for free. Subscription-based services can also be discounted or extend trial periods to enable consumers avail of much needed services.
Companies need to carefully consider an appropriate response, and importantly, consider how it is communicated to the market during this challenging period. This is not about a knee jerk reaction, but a carefully thought–through strategic approach to ensure your contribution is effective, timely and appropriate.
There is no one answer for how a company should help its local community and broader society, but every organisation has the opportunity to make a difference.