Businesses in Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world are still adjusting to the new realities brought on by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. There are a lot of factors likely impacting your business as a result, including government restrictions, decreased consumer demands, the implications of physical distancing and many more.

China faced this situation several weeks ahead of the rest of the world and as we begin to see recovery amongst Chinese businesses, there are commonalities we can observe as to how they've achieved this. Learning from these businesses can help guide your business response in a direction to make recovery easier and hopefully much quicker.

Here are some considerations to help your business respond to Coronavirus.

1. Be proactive and flexible

If we've learned anything over the past two weeks, it's that this situation is dynamic and changes are happening by the hour. Having a solid business continuity plan in place is an important first step (the Government of Alberta has helpful business continuity plan resources to help). Your plan will clarify and mobilize critical processes such as reporting structure, health and safety measures and more.

Once these procedures are in place, focus on looking ahead at what is (or might be) coming next. Centralizing decision-making is crucial to allow your business to respond quickly. Build in the flexibility required to pivot when necessary.

2. Provide clear and transparent communication to employees

In times of crisis people naturally have a lot of questions and misinformation can spread quickly. It's important to provide an avenue for your employees to access the latest information and find answers to their questions. You can choose to centralize this information on your intranet or in an all-employee email from senior leadership – or a combination of both. However you present it, update the information regularly.

Your approach to employee communications should be as transparent as possible keeping health and safety at the forefront of messaging. Key things employees will want to know (as it relates to your business) are: Can I work from home? What procedures are changing? Are layoffs coming? Predicting and addressing your employees' concerns, as soon and as best you can, will benefit your business.

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3. Reallocate labour where it's needed most

Your organization's needs have changed from what they were even a week ago depending on the size of your business, the way it's structured or the industry you're in. You may have individuals or entire teams whose normal duties are no longer urgent, or in some cases even possible to perform.

Look for opportunities to redeploy labour to areas of your business that need extra support, for example your frontline call centre. There have been great examples of businesses who've modified their operations to support frontline response, such as breweries/distilleries producing hand sanitizer. Think about how your business could do something similar.

4. Look for opportunities to modify your distribution channels

People are actively taking measures of physical distancing and isolation. This presents an opportunity to switch up how you deliver your product or service to market. E-commerce is trending up as customers search for ways to supplement their regular purchasing habits using digital channels. Check to see what e-commerce/mobile solutions are available through your current payment provider and take advantage of them.

Get creative and think of ways to reach your customers remotely. For example, host webinars or tutorials, or offer curbside pick-up or free delivery of products. If you already distribute online, consider offering free shipping and highlight secure payment options to encourage customers who may be hesitant to transact digitally.

5. Use social media to connect and contribute

If you've yet to fully embrace the power of social media, now's the time. You can use social media as a tool to support employee and customer engagement, as well as to connect with other businesses.

"Business as usual" has slowed to a halt for many and social media use has surged, making this a great time to leverage social media to reach out to organizations in your community and possibly develop new partnerships. As mentioned before, if there's a way for your business to support frontline relief efforts or to help people in your local community, connecting and sharing (if it makes sense to) with the right people online is a way to move that forward.

6. Be ready for recovery when it comes

Reality today won’t be our reality forever – recovery will come. Chinese businesses began seeing early indicators of recovery as early as six weeks after the initial outbreak. It's too soon to tell when Alberta will start to see the same, but it's always good to be prepared. Start considering what it will take to get your operations back to normal (at least a new normal) so you're ready when the time comes.

It's impossible to understand the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing is certain – we're in this together and Servus will stand by you every step of the way.

Keep up to date with Servus's response to COVID-19, including financial relief and resources for business members, and reach out to us anytime at 1.877.378.8728.