Working safely around Coronavirus: A guide to preparing your business for any situation

Working safely around Coronavirus: A guide to preparing your business for any situation

Alexandra Hayter of SmartVault shares guidelines for business continuity for working safely around Coronavirus with a handy home working checklist

Working safely around Coronavirus: A guide to preparing your business for any situation

The recent Coronavirus (or COVID-19) outbreak is the most pressing topic on most people’s mind. While most of us are familiar with the guidelines for how we can protect ourselves and our homes, there’s a lot to consider to also protect your business.

Coronavirus is of course the latest global issue, but there are many scenarios from which we need to protect ourselves as businesses. Whether it is due to fire, flood or a global pandemic, our businesses should be set up to be agile in the face of any unexpected disasters.

The good news is you don’t have to think of every single event that could possibly happen. Just follow the simple framework we’ve outlined in this guide to ensure your business keeps running no matter what.

Customer service

Customer service is always important, and there should never be a disruption in the service levels your clients receive, no matter what the situation. There are a number of things to consider to maintain good customer service during this difficult time:

  • Instead of in-person meetings, adopt professional systems such as Skype, Zoom or GoToMeeting so that you can share your screen or webcam with customers. This will allow you to have personal interaction with your customer, whilst keeping both of you safe.
  • If there are new regulations or changes you wish to share with customers or team members, consider hosting a webinar, allowing them to learn what’s new without attending in-person training days or conferences.
  • Look into other ways to send documents – if your clients send you information through the post or drop them by your office, you could encourage them to upload documents directly into a secure client portal. Remember, never send documents over email as it is not secure, if you’re attaching documents do it via a secure client portal.

Professional development

Many conferences have been cancelled due to Coronavirus (most recently QuickBooks Connect and Google I/O), but it’s possible to sign up for online webinars which help you learn about the latest news or technology advancements for your industry. SmartVault has its own education centre – but also check your governing body or news sites to see how they can help. As well as webinars, you can usually download eBooks or how-to guides free of charge. Take notes and present them back to your team (and ask others on your team to do the same) so you’re sharing knowledge.

Working from home

As part of population distancing strategies, some companies have started to recommend their staff work from home Of course, working from home can be challenging so here are some tips on how to manage the most common issues:

  • Set up a dedicated room, or if you don’t have the space, a dedicated area for working. This will mean you can dissociate from ‘being at home’ and reduce distractions. For example, try clearing your dressing or dining table from the usual paraphernalia and set up your laptop alongside a mouse, a pot of pens/pencils, a workbook or two and a headset for any video calls.
  • Set yourself a time to be working – if you usually work nine to five, keep that going. But remember to take regular breaks as you would in the office.
  • If you have a lot of distractions at home, such as children or a partner that’s always eager to chat, then communicate to them that you’re working and not to be distracted. Try writing a note and sticking it on the door so they know not to disturb you.

Business continuity planning

It’s important to continue running your business as effectively as always, so if you do decide to reduce staff movement, it’s essential you put some plans in place and communicate these to all members of staff.

  • Team meetings should still go ahead – if anyone is at home either self-isolating or because you have a working from home policy in place, that doesn’t mean cancelling meetings. You can continue running meetings over Skype or GoToMeeting.
  • Ensure staff have access to documents, working papers, client files, etc. Upload them into the cloud so staff can access if they need to work from home.
  • Ensure staff communication remains open. Use an Instant Messaging tool such as Slack or Flock, to allow staff to message each other when asking questions rather than blocking up Inboxes by sending emails. If you’re a small business, set up a WhatsApp group to open dialogue.
  • Don’t let productivity be stifled, utilise your practise management solution to manage projects, workflow and collaboration. That way you can ensure staff are all working towards the same goal and deadlines are not missed.

Three things you can do today to protect your business

1. Move data to the cloud

The best way to enable home-working is to have all your data accessible via a web browser. Many of us will be on cloud-based accounting or tax software already, but will need access to a local network in the office to access payroll or HR data. By moving all data to the cloud, we can build an office that can become fully remote when required.

2. Share documents electronically

Implementing a client portal means documents do not need to go in the post (or by unsecure email), and also means you can increase client serviceability by giving them 24/7 access to their files. Online document storage also means any employees can access documents from home, so reduces time needed to be spent in the office.

3. Adopt an e-signature platform

Implementing electronic signatures means we don’t need to print or post signed documents. It also means if a customer wants a copy of a signed document they can log in and get it whenever they want.

Home working checklist

  • Issue employees with laptops rather than PCs
  • Invest in cloud-based applications so your data is accessible outside of the office
  • Use a video conferencing solution for meetings
  • Adopt eSignature technology to streamline workflow
  • Implement online document storage for all important files
  • Create yourself a quiet, designated workspace
  • Utilise an internal messaging solution to keep communication channels open

We highly recommend that all businesses create a disaster recovery plan to ensure your business doesn’t skip a beat in the wake of an unforeseen event. We’ve listed some resources below to help you get started.

[Checklist] Disaster Recovery Checklist

[Article] It’ll Never Happen to Me: When the Unexpected Becomes Reality

[Recorded Webinar] Powering Your Firm in Any Situation with a Cloud-Based Tech Stack

By Alexandra Hayter, SmartVault

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