Updated: Mar 20, 2020
The COVID-19 situation in New Zealand is changing rapidly and every day we are seeing new information come to light and regular announcements from the Government.
Nobody really knows how this disease will fully affect New Zealand, but we are already seeing a significant impact on business operations, employment, financial markets, travel, biosecurity, and our healthcare system. Based on overseas trends, the situation in New Zealand is only going to get worse before it gets better. The latest prediction for the spike in cases here is August 2020, so we have much more ahead of us.
Pandemic response and emergency management experts have been working tirelessly for months and have issued valuable guidance for businesses. Business Continuity Plans are being enacted and internal and external communications have stepped up a notch (or two or three, or more!). Every time you log onto your emails, you will see multiple messages from businesses, suppliers and industry organisations advising you of the measures they have taken to protect their employees and ensure continued service delivery, or the decisions they have made to suspend operations in order to reduce transmission risk.
At this time of uncertainty, it is critical to maintain the trust of your employees, suppliers, customers/clients and business partners. Open lines of communication are important. To help you stay calm during these times and focus on what needs to be done to protect your business, here are a few helpful reminders:
1. STAY INFORMED – Media and social media channels are in hyperdrive with information about COVID-19 at the moment. Choose your information sources wisely. The most reputable sources of information are:
2. COMMUNICATE OPENLY, HONESTLY AND FREQUENTLY – Keep your internal and external stakeholders well informed about what your business is doing, and any changes you are making to operational procedures. Word your communications in such a way the reader understands what the impact will be on them. Show you care and be mindful of how much information you share. Make sure it is relevant and don’t catastrophise. Provide regular updates as the situation changes so everyone remains fully informed and relationships are maintained.
3. PREPARE FOR THE WORST – Enact your Business Continuity Plan and review all your systems and processes. Make sure your IT systems will continue to stand up should your workforce all be required to work from home. Test this by scheduling a day where everyone works remotely so the system can be fully tested, and any bugs ironed out. Think about how your business will continue to operate should employees be unable to work. Do you have contractors or consultants on hand?
4. SUPPORT YOUR PEOPLE – Put your people first. Start conversations about the support they may need and how they may be able to support one another should they need to self-isolate. Review your HR policies, make sure they are up to date, and communicate these to your employees. As the situation is changing rapidly, encourage dialogue about the possible scenarios and build out a master FAQ document that can be the one source of the truth for your team members. Provide your team members with access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) including counselling services and outplacement services if required.
For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, call or text the free 'Need to talk?' service on 1737. This is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you to talk things through with a trained counsellor.
5. TALK TO YOUR BANK AND ACCOUNTANT – It is important you fully understand your financial position and your options for additional finance should you need it, so talk to your bank and your accountant.
6. INVESTIGATE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT PACKAGES - If you are struggling due to the impact of COVID-19, the Government has announced a $12.1 billion support package to assist businesses. Information about the Business Continuity Package is available here.