Filipinos had a tough couple of days this past week as the government had to enforce stricter mandates similar to a lockdown, in response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Not all had a business contingency plan drafted. This is not just a local problem as the world continues to struggle in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only a few governments have ever faced a pandemic and its economic fallout; what more for the Philippines which relies heavily on labor-intensive industries to keep its economy running?
Although a few started to implement a Work From Home (WFH) policy as part of their COVID-19 business contingency plan when the Department of Health confirmed the Philippines’ first Coronavirus-infected patient due to local transmission, many Filipinos were still carrying on with their jobs in their respective offices until March 16; having to commute to and from their homes as businesses in the manufacturing, logistics, retail, and service industries could only offer to implement business as usual policies to sustain their companies. Hence, when the Enhanced Community Quarantine was announced by the Office of the President, the business community — especially Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) — was left scrambling.
A Business Contingency Plan: What you need to avoid your business from crippling
The unfortunate fact remains — some businesses are unable to implement a WFH policy simply because doing so would mean the instant death of their business. If your business has the same challenge, this is the time for you to check your company’s liquidity or net working capital and decide on your next steps. Whether it’s protecting your working capital by cutting down on staff or liquidating your assets, it’s one of the hardest decisions any business owner will ever have to make.
For businesses who are simply having a hard time implementing a WFH policy because you either issued desktops to your employees or are not equipped to operate remotely, get creative. There’s more ways than one in implementing an alternative solution or simply, a business contingency plan.
Rotate your workforce. The world economy is slowing down and that means your business will not be as busy as it was last week or month. Now that you can optimise your employees, you’re also decreasing their chances of getting infected by their colleagues due to close proximity to each other. If you’re able to ensure a safer environment for your employees, it can only provide you good news in the form of business continuity. You’ll have healthy and confident employees who will work at their optimum.
To businesses who continue to hold office, exhaust all efforts to sanitise places of work, communicate safety guidelines clearly and frequently, and find ways to shuttle your employees to the office amidst the public transportation ban. To those who have sites outside of Metro Manila, ensure safe and comfortable lodging if your employees will have to stay there temporarily. Your employees will thank you for it in ways that will impact your business positively.
A Little Compassion Goes a Long Way
Businesses who were able to see through a dry run of WFH operations are probably enjoying the fruits of at least 60 percent of their workforce providing better outcomes these past five days, compared to two weeks to a month before WFH happened. Factors contributing to productivity could be better concentration or less stress due to the absence of traffic. While it’s tempting to fall back on support and expect better work output, continue communicating safety tips. Also, make sure they still have access to their Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) benefits.
It might be harder for business owners, management and team leaders to monitor staff at this time, but trust that a healthy employee who is given peace of mind will get the job done at the end of every business day. The economics of keeping healthy and happy employees to ensure better productivity always works. There is also no other substitute for loyal employees who will ensure your positive brand rating.
At First Circle, employees were delighted to hear options provided for those who wanted to WFH that included provisions for wifi allowance and provisions to bring home all needed equipment such as spare monitors and other devices. Having this option dispelled growing anxieties of acquiring COVID-19 and carrying it to their loved ones. It allowed them to be with their families and work with them in the safety of their own homes. Not everyone will be working at their best as the days progress into weeks, depending on how they apply work-life-balance from where they are currently situated, but it does the trick of ensuring business continuity during the Enhanced Community Quarantine period.
Quick Tips to Keep your Employees Motivated and at their Optimum
Try holding brief daily video conferences with your staff. Everyone in Metro Manila has a Facebook Messenger account, and even if it isn’t the best app for video conferencing, it will help ensure business continuity. A check up on what they are doing doesn’t have to be the daily agenda, but just a short time to check up on them and their condition at home is a first step to keeping morale high. You can even assign one member of the team to share anything that would upskill or provide relevant tips and insights for the entire team.
Share helpful and interesting resources such as ebooks, recommended Netflix movies and series list, exercise apps, etc. Don’t forget to simultaneously direct your employees to legitimate and trusted sources of information on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that can help answer their questions on treatment or contingency plans.
Continue creating processes to support your WFH policy. Even for companies who have had a WFH policy in place for specific teams, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to enhancing protocols in place. This will also help create more cohesive teams as you all learn to create your “new normal” working environment.
Sustain your Business and Keep Working Capital Healthy
On the flip side— just as the world had not been prepared for COVID-19’s deadly one fell swoop action, we can’t blame businesses who had not been prepared to suspend office work in less than 24 hours. What you can do is take lead from companies in your industry who have already rolled out their policies.
Big supply chains such as food manufacturers, oil companies, and banks are on business as usual mode. Most energy, utility, and telecommunications companies have extended their payment terms, and small businesses were promised to be granted aid. If a healthy working capital is what you need despite these extensions, you can always rely on online lending companies such as First Circle, which continues to be operational to help sustain small businesses.
While operating from home, it’s business as usual for us— all transactions can still be done online at the convenience and safety of your own home. Ensuring we all have the strongest internet connection to fulfil our mission, which is to help businesses achieve their full potential through fast, fair, and flexible financial partnership, we strive to be resilient to continue serving our customers during this critical time.