THE C-WORD: How to survive and thrive in a crisis
Published on 12 March 2020
There's no avoiding the C-word. According to safety-management, accident-prevention and emergency-response specialist Simon Lever, the Coronavirus is a hot subject and every business should be considering this now as their reality.
He says having seen different parts of the world shut down to contain the virus, as it moves to other areas and China starts to recover, the rest of the world now to be needs to be preparing.
"We need to really look at Coronavirus realistically without panicking. Because we don't have a huge population in Australia, we're not walking on top of each other. We've got space, we've got the ability to have personal space, unlike other parts of the world.
"This is where workplace health and safety and HR comes into Small Medium Enterprises, large businesses and corporates. We need to work out now what to do to look after our businesses…if we have people who get isolated and can't come to work, how does that affect our business now?
"If we've got a team of 20, suddenly we've got a team of three. If one person gets isolated, can we then now set up so that person can work remotely or are they can totally out of the picture for 14 days or even more if they are sick?" Simon asks.
Simon maintains businesses need to undertake contingency planning; asking themselves what are the key components of our business that we need to survive to deliver a service that we get revenue for? And if we can't get that, what is the knock-on effect?" he suggests.
C is for Contingency
More contingency questions business owners should be asking:
- How is the current situation going to affect business cashflow?
- How do we pay bills?
- If key people get sick, how can we make decisions on the business on a day to day basis?
- If the IT system goes down and our IT person is not there, how do we outsource that?
- How do we get extra people into the business, whether it's labour hire for a short period of time?
- Can we get people to work from home?
- Can we get our parts?
- Have I got enough stock I can supply?
C is for Containment
Whether you're the business owner or part of the business team, if you were to become unwell, what would happen? How will you continue to ensure you have enough cashflow? If everyone is in self quarantine and working from home, how can we ensure a safe working environment and how do we set up the IT systems to allow us to work remotely?
Simon advises there are workplace health and safety requirements around personnel working from home and measures for ensuring their 'place of business' is set up so they can work properly and safely.
If your team are taking equipment from the workplace to the home (which then becomes a workplace), he says individuals need to make sure any assets are put it in a safe place and set up in a safe environment with good ergonomics.
"Businesses also need to look at the point of law. As a business owner, you're best off having a check sheet to say, right, this is what we've done.
"In reality when someone's sick, they haven't got the right decision-making skills. If they are not well, they're just on sick leave…they shouldn't be working at all," he says.
Simon emphasises that businesses need to be clear there is no payment scheme set up because if you've got the flu, you cannot claim worker's compensation when sick.
full time employee = sick leave
casual employee = no sick leave
C is for Connectivity
In response to the Coronavirus crisis, Simon acknowledges some software providers are providing businesses with tools for free.
"Zoho, which is a global company offering many different apps. They've put a package together, called Zoho Remotely that anyone can download and access all this information for free until July 1.
"Another good resource to run your team remotely is Zoom conference rooms to communicate with your team if they're virtual.
"Businesses need to be looking at how they can communicate properly. If you've got connectivity, you've still got a business," he advocates.
C is for Compliance
What are the workplace health and safety responsibilities for the business owner when teams work from home? What are the legal requirements to make that work? Where can businesses find a comprehensive overview of their obligations?
Simon explains there is a plethora of platforms to find this information.
"Government agencies and legal people are flooding LinkedIn and Facebook with information on what to do and how to do it, to comply and understand it too, so everyone knows their rights.
"The Fair Work Ombudsman are putting stuff out all the time, which is fantastic. Coronavirus aside, businesses should be following that because if anything changes in law, they post it straight away and let people know.
"As a business owner, if you're a director of a business, an employer or a HR person, there is still an onus on you to understand and appreciate how does this impact me?"
"You need to know to be able to ask questions of your management or people that you hire in, to protect the business and yourself. Information is key. You cannot make a decision without the relevant information. And that's how you build a team," Simon explains.
C is for Communication
Getting the right information from a reputable source so business owners know they are doing the right thing by their team is the first step in building a good team, according to Simon.
He also recommends talking openly to your teams because part of building the team environment and getting buy-in with everyone, is everyone needs to be able to be a part of the decision making.
"Innovation is born out of times like this. As horrible as it is, every time we had a world war, innovation was born, big time.
"Innovation is asking your people, what are we doing as business as usual? Can we now improve? Can we think outside the square? Because currently we're doing this, we're doing quite well. But if we take half this element out now because we don't have people or we don't have these supplies, what else can we do?" Simon questions.
Elize agrees, acknowledging the Coronavirus is creating an opportunity for businesses to be more creative, resourceful and innovate solutions.
"Plan and don't give up. Think very creatively and try and be as resourceful as you possibly can about solving these problems. And in that, innovation is born," she advises.
Simon adds businesses should also reach out and network by talking to people in the community. He himself mentors for two different organisations and says he gleans a proportionate amount of information from those sources, which can help others.
While there is much dialogue around self-isolation at present, Simon warns against taking this too literally.
"Don't lock yourself in a little room and think we can do it all ourselves. Okay, we've got this scenario now, how can we do better? Or how can we prepare?" he advises.
Simon suggests reaching out to local Council's, Chambers of Commerce, Fair Work Ombudsman and Workplace Health & Safety for support and up to date information.
C is for Cleanliness
While hygiene is the buzzword for Coronavirus, Simon proposes people would be shocked by what 'washing your hands' really means.
"Your skin is made up of pores. You have a coating over your skin to protect it from dermatitis and things like that. If you wash your hands superficially, all you're doing is rinsing off the top layer. It leaves it in your fingernails, your follicles around your hairs on the back of your hand, creases… it leaves the virus there.
"When you wash your hands, you really got to get right into the creases and wash your hands properly with the right type of soaps and under running water," he explains.
Simon recommends washing hands up to a minute and a half, making sure you're getting it all the way around and over.
C is for Consultation and Change
Throughout his career as a consultant, Simon has seen countless instances where a simple little thing can change the whole business.
"You need to change. You need to keep up with technology. You need to keep up with the rules and the regulations…if you can't do that anymore, how can you do it moving forward?
"Consultation, although some people think it's a bah humbug…the benefits outweigh the bah humbug involved with it," Simon urges.
He cautions businesses against being too regimented 'because this is the way we have always done things' and not heeding the lessons in the process.
"In this region, we face it yearly. We get cyclones, we get floods. Time and time again, certain businesses fall over each time because they didn't learn, or they are in this regimental, this is the way we do it. They need to think outside the square on how to set the business up safely," he cautions.
Simon says it comes back to the underlying message of not letting this good crisis go to waste, urging businesses to use it to innovate, to solve problems this crisis might bring that could help you improve your business in the long run.
He encourages businesses to write down lessons learned and review it yearly; what happened two years ago? How did we handle that? Is what we put in place still working? Is it relevant?
C is for Clear, Concise and Consistent Content
Having content ready to go in an emergency or to respond makes your life easier as a business owner. Elize suggests generating content frequently to be considered an authority and a go-to resource for media opportunities for journalists when the next crisis arises.
Simon also highlights the importance of having a consistent message going out to ensure the media only receives one message that's been pre-approved by the business, to avoid miscommunication or being taken out of context, which can have a brand damaging effect.
"Have emergency response plans in place. Most businesses have a business plan and component of that is a business continuity plan. As an appendix of that, what do we do and how do we do it, if this happens?
"All businesses right now should be taking this seriously and should be looking at how it's going to affect the business and their people, which again are the most important part of the business," he advises.
C is for Conversations
Simon's central takeaway from Coronavirus is conversations; urging not only businesses but families to talk about it openly.
"Have a talk about this openly and see how it affects you in your home life as well as your business. If the kids get sick, basically the house is in lockdown, because you are automatically part of that envelope. How are we as a family unit going to deal with this? How are we going to get shopping?
"We need to contain this virus, so that doesn't mean ducking down to the pub to get a beer or to a shopping centre, because then you have the possibility of risk transferred to everyone. Going to work, there's that issue there…everyone needs to have that open conversation, whether it's work, at home with your partnering businesses," he urges.
C is for Conclusion
- Plan and prepare
- Seek solid, reputable information
- Reach out to organisations, government and talk to people and ask questions
- Capitalise on the opportunity to be more resourceful, to innovate new solutions and ways to run our teams, deliver our products and services, how we make and manufacture things.
- Ask and involve your team in making your Coronavirus and other plans
Simon Lever is a safety-management, accident-prevention and emergency-response specialist and Managing Director of CROSS Asia Pacific. He is also a SmartHub community mentor, supporting local start-ups and entrepreneurs through their business journey.
The SmartHub encourages entrepreneurs and business owners to adopt technology and modern based business practice to make the entire business journey more profitable, more enjoyable, more effective and more efficient.
Being part of the SmartHub gives local business owners opportunities to meet with and learn from mentors, to help them learn the discipline required to succeed in business.
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