This amazing artwork was created during the webinar, courtesy of Matt Kemp from Scriberia.

On 31st March, we delivered a webinar on the business implications of COVID-19 together with the Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce, the Norwegian-British Chamber of Commerce and the Danish-UK Association. In the webinar, Goodwille HR Manager, Jacqui, discussed employer & employee challenges and our CFO, Kevin, provided an overview of the latest support available from the Government.

At Goodwille, we have a long history of actively collaborating with different Chambers of Commerce and, amidst these challenging times, it is important for us to continue working closely with our partners. We eagerly jumped at the first opportunity to co-host a webinar – on a topic we knew would be important for many at this time. We were glad to see so many attend and want to extend our warmest thanks to all 50 participants, for attending. The webinar has been recorded for your benefit, so if you were unable to attend, please check out the video above. Below, we have provided further discussion on some of the key points that were addressed during the webinar. 

Common HR Challenges Employers Now Face

Working from home arrangements

The outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered a shift towards home working at an unprecedented scale. Now, companies of all sizes around the world are forced to work remotely in order to help contain the spread of the virus. The UK is no exception and the government has strongly advised that everyone, apart from key workers, should work from home. When we adapt to this situation, there are certain things you can do to ensure a smoother transition.

From a practical point of view, employers need to ensure that everyone has the necessary tools to carry on with their work. Apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are making life easier for many remote teams by making it possible to organise meetings and catch-ups with a live video connection. In addition to the right IT tools, we would advise you to check that your home working policies are in order. As per the Government’s guidelines, the starting point should be that everyone works from home. However, if you don’t allow this for everyone, what kind of criteria are you using to draw the line? Make sure you remain neutral and base your policy on sensible criteria such as the length of the commute.

Check in with your employees

When we think about the current crisis, we often think about our physical health and safety. However, the situation is also putting our mental well-being to the test. As our HR Director Jacqui said:

We’ve got to remember that isolation can be isolating.

While some welcome the opportunity to work from home with open arms, some might struggle. Homeworking long term can be very challenging so make sure you check in with your employees and remind them of employee assistance programs and other support available. At this time, it is also crucial to maintain the community feeling at your company. The internet is rife with quiz tools & games you can use to bring everyone together and lighten up the mood.

Even if your employees’ mental well-being is okay, they might still struggle with how to structure their day and stay productive. Be proactive and share advice and tips for home working, such as how to set up a home office, how to stay productive and motivated, or how managers can lead their remote teams effectively. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that some of your employees are now sharing the “office” with their kids, which might require some special arrangements. Consider if it’s necessary for everyone to work their full hours. Instead of tracking productivity by hours worked, would it make more sense to track the completion of tasks? We suggest that you be as flexible as you can be, as long as the job gets done. 

Why should making redundancies be the last resort?

Naturally, many people are now also concerned over pay and job security. Many businesses are seeing a downturn in income to such an extent that they might not see any other way forward than making redundancies. However, we think they should be your last resort and here’s why. While the situation might seem grim now, it won’t last forever. With this in mind, you want to hold on to the talent in your business. Moreover, redundancies won’t only affect the people who are made redundant, but it will inevitably have an effect across the whole company, especially on team morale. Therefore, we would recommend you exhaust all your other alternatives first. 

So, what are some of the alternative ways to cut costs? If you can’t provide your employees with work as normal, you can try to negotiate reduced hours, unpaid time off or ask employees to take time off as holiday. If you have external recruitments going on, put them on hold and see if you can internally reallocate people to those positions. We can’t stress enough the importance of good communication during these times so where reduced hours and unpaid time off need to be negotiated, ask around to see if there are any volunteers. Involve your staff as much as you can, so they can be part of the solution rather than passive onlookers. Remember that the level of financial support offered by the UK Government is unprecedented and there are many different schemes available for businesses in financial distress. If you simply cannot offer work for your employees at this time, turn to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

How to overcome financial distress in your business

The speed and scale at which the current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the global economy has caught many businesses off-guard. Therefore, companies need to keep their finances in order more than ever. While the situation might feel overwhelming, we recommend that you take it one step at a time and work out these basic questions first.

Understand Your Cash Position & Liquidity

At times like these, cash preservation is the key. Do you have a good understanding of what your cash flow might look like in the coming few months? If not, make sure you have a reliable cash flow forecast for the next 2-4 months so you know what your pain points might be and are ready to tackle them.  

Identify Sources of Liquidity

Besides cutting costs, you should do an inventory of your existing, and potential, pools of liquidity. Think about your existing lenders, for example. Could you ask for more loan? What about your current agreements – could you renegotiate some of the terms? Think about all the options that could quickly improve your cash position. 

Liaise Proactively with Stakeholders

We are all in the same boat here. Regardless of where you live or what sector you work in, the current crisis is taking its toll on businesses. Everyone understands the scale and severity of the situation and therefore, we would advise you to liaise closely with all your stakeholders including employees, banks, customers, suppliers and insurance companies. Some of them might well be part of the solution for overcoming financial distress. After all, most stakeholders want your business to survive, as it is in everyone’s interest to survive this crisis with as minimal negative impact as possible.

We have written a separate post that covers all the main schemes and support measures that the government has put in place. Please refer to this article to see what options are available to you. We also encourage our clients, as well as other businesses, to get in touch with our team in case you have any questions or concerns regarding your UK operations and the implications of COVID-19.