Covid-19 has forced the entire world to remodel how it operates, from the personal perspective to ways in which businesses operate.
Experts, including academics and government, have warned the nation of the possibility of a second wave of high infections. Research suggests that a national resurgence is most likely on the way and expected to hit by early 2021. A new trend in the resurgence is set to start and repeat every year around the same time going forward.
The national daily infection rate has decreased considerably in the recent past, but the country is far from listing the Covid-19 pandemic as a thing of the past. As mutters of a second wave increase, it’s only understandable that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) are also scrambling for cover.
“Forewarned is forearmed” (Samuel Shellabarger, Prince of Foxes)
The daily covid-19 infection rate has decreased considerably over the last month or so. South Africans have found a way to live with the risk of infections and have in the recent past become generally more active. This has increased the fear that there might be a second wave of high Covid-19 infection and mortality rate. Western Cape government, for example, has warned a resurgence is highly probable considering the second wave of mass infections sweeping across internationally.
Explaining why it is still important to be cautious against Covid-19 for the next few months, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) warns that “Coronavirus is not going away any time soon”.
“We are seeing second waves in European countries three to four months after their first wave. We don’t know if this will happen in South Africa, but it is possible, and even likely. Also, we know that once you get Coronavirus you are not immune from it for life, and you could become re-infected in the future,” it says in a statement on its website.
SMMEs, like the citizens, have to protect themselves from the possible re-emergence of high numbers of infections, which have crippled a considerable number of them earlier this year.
Based on advice from a collective of experts, here are some tips for SMMEs looking to prepare for the possible second wave of high Covid-19 infection rates:
- General working conditions and workplace policies have to be reviewed
According to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention in the US, the working conditions and policies must be reviewed in order to best assist companies in protecting themselves against the full blow of the virus. Companies are advised to “examine” working conditions and policies in order to protect employees, and ultimately themselves.
“When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g. telework) and flexible work hours (e.g. staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities,” said the organisation.
2. Consider remote working more as an option than a forced situation.
On the local front, Accelerate CEO, Ryan Ravens, recently spoke on a survey conducted on remote working due to Covid-19.
He told radio station Cape Talk, that “increasingly, it (remote working) works better for companies as well as employees. I think there has always been a resistance by our very traditional corporates because they felt employees would not be as efficient and/or wouldn’t deliver more, but I think that notation has been turned on its head. Employees have actually showed up and shown that they can work far better when working from home.”
3. Inventory and stock
Consider stocking up on supplies and raw material reasonably, knowing that replenishing them can’t be guaranteed ahead should the stricter lockdown regulations be reimplemented by government. The stockpiling process should be ideal to each business, considering aspects like expiration dates in certain goods, for example, and access to market. Careful management of the inventory is necessary.
The importance of having quality insurance in general can never be overstated, and the same thinking prevails in business. Policyholders are encouraged to relook at the fine print of their business insurance policies to refresh their memories and for better understanding, bearing in mind the unusual circumstances the world is operating in. Insurers on the other hand are encouraged to “pick-up the pace”. However, the global scourge is seen as a challenge that should motivate insurers to put customer-care first.
A jointly authored blog by Price Waterhouse Cooper’s global insurance advisory leader, Abhijit Mukhopadhyay, and leading practitioner in “customer experience”, John Jones, expounds on this narrative. The two expert authors express that “Policyholders will want to know their claims will be paid. But it doesn’t always work out that way — especially with a pandemic, which is not generally covered by insurance (except possibly through costly business continuity insurance). Customers are bound to be confused and anxious, and they need to feel that their questions and concerns are addressed with honesty and empathy.”
5. Understand the seasonal cycle of business
Businesses prepare and operate with attention to their annual business cycles. They are advised to prepare knowing that the unidentified length of the possible viral resurgence might overlap their business season, i.e. quarters and other periodic demarcations of business.
6. Minimise spending
SMMEs are advised to minimise spending in order to have as much in the piggy bank as possible. Reserves will be critical in a period where there is minimal income. Careful budgeting could be the possible rabbit out of a hat for successful businesses during the dreaded possible re-emergence of stricter lockdown restrictions.
7. Get familiar with the government’s Covid-19 Relief Fund for SMMEs
This could be critical for SMMEs. Understanding the qualification process and benefits described by the Department of Small Business Development (DBSD) can be the determining factor between relief aided continuity and capitulation. The current amount given to businesses that qualified for the Covid-19 Relief has eclipsed R500 000, according to the department.
The department supposedly updates information related to the relief fund on its website for entrepreneurs to peruse, according to the set business classifications of the SMMEs.