Reopening Business: Challenges We All Will Face
The hinges make a squeaky protest as you open them; after all, you haven’t unlocked that door in months. You are excited to be reopening, but you’re also apprehensive: what has changed? What new strategies or solutions will I need to succeed? Is my network as ready to get back to work as I am? I already know that when I’m reopening business, challenges are just on the other side of that door. Am I really ready?
Reopening Business: Challenges Await
COVID19 hit all businesses hard. Many have had to rely on loans just to keep employees paid and the lights on in the building. Others have shifted their business focus to a more “COVID19 friendly” model. Lost income, customers unable to pay bills, businesses unable to pay vendors, employees furloughed…how do you get your business back on track?
When you’re reopening business, challenges don’t have to be overwhelming. Take a step back and approach them one by one.
Reopening Business Challenges #1: Supply Chain Disruptions
Unfortunately, just because you’re jumping back in doesn’t mean your vendors are on the same page. Supply chain disruptions will continue to be an issue for businesses, affecting everything from shipping times to office supplies and technology. Face it, you can’t open your office without coffee and snacks for your employees; that’s just mean.
Considerations: There isn’t a lot you can do to speed up Fed Ex or get UPS to stop losing packages. Your best bet is to be up front with customers and advise them that there will still be delays in shipping as things begin to normalize. Offer them updated tracking information so they can see exactly where their packages are in real-time and decide on a timeframe after which the package will be considered “lost” and a replacement or refund sent to the customer.
Expand your third-party vendor lists (decentralize them) so that you always have a source for goods and services. This can benefit you financially, too; you will most likely find third-party vendors vying for your business with price cuts and budget-friendly options.
Reopening Business Challenges #2: Social Distancing
Your office is probably set up as a maze of perfectly aligned cubicles…all of which will need to be rearranged to stay in compliance with COVID19 guidelines for businesses moving forward. Gossiping around the water cooler? Probably not a good idea unless your employees know how to stage whisper from six feet apart. So now what?
Provide Personal Protection Gear
Hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks should be provided for all employees. Make sure they sign an acknowledgement that they are aware of these supplies to lessen your own liability, and firmly outline a social distancing strategy that complies with the CDC’s Return to Work guidelines. How many people in the breakroom at one time? Your bathrooms? Conference rooms?
Considerations: Let a professional help you with the redesign of your office space. Many, like Workplace Interiors in Rochester New York, are offering free consultations to get your offices up to speed and in line with CDC recommendations.
Temperature Checks for All Employees and Customers
To keep employees and clients feeling secure in a time of uncertainty, provide temperature checks at the door. Compile a list of short, targeted questions to ask all visitors and post them where they can be seen; advise your employees and customers that if they do not “pass” the temperature checks or have a risk of having been exposed to COVID19, you will not be able to let them in your office.
Considerations: Your thermometer should be as “no contact” as possible. Get an ear thermometer with disposable covers and wipe the device down between readings.
Rigorous Disinfecting Procedures
Supply effective cleaning supplies and set up a schedule for employees to wipe down often used items, such as door handles and breakroom appliances, as well as frequently used spaces, desks, and counters.
Considerations: Post the cleaning schedule where it can be seen by visitors and employees, and have items checked off as they are cleaned throughout the day.
Reopening Business Challenges #3: Building Your Customer Base
This presents a challenge on many levels. How do you bring customers back, how do you attract new ones, and what do you do if your customers are still reluctant to physically come to your offices? It may be time to make remote services a permanent part of your business model, and see what products or services you offer that are currently “in-demand.” This is the time to throw caution to the wind; offer those massive reopening sales, free consultations, and free service calls.
Considerations: You will need to notify your client base and potential customers that you are open again. Moreover, let them know the precautions you are taking to keep them safe, and boast your continued remote support and services.
Reopening Business Challenges #4: The Reluctant Employee
Your employees may not feel comfortable physically coming to the office quite yet. You can develop a strategy that incorporates a telecommuting aspect, with employees coming in a few days a week for shorter hours and making up the time with remote work (if possible). This is the time to re-evaluate any remote strategies that you’ve been using and incorporate them into your daily operations to limit the number of people in your office at one time.
Considerations: Your employees may have a hard time transitioning back to the office. Allow a grace period where they can make childcare arrangements, adjust to commuting during rush hour, and get used to wearing clothing with waistbands once again. You may consider staggering your start times, allowing employees to choose what hours work best for them.
Reopening Your Business Challenges #5: Your IT Nightmare
It’s time to dust off your workstations and fire up the computers…or is it? Have an IT professional evaluate your network to make sure all systems and software are rebooted, patches installed, and security platforms updated. You will need to remind employees to bring back any equipment they borrowed for remote work, if applicable, and run security scans before letting them plug back in. Disable your remote workers’ access and permissions on personal devices once they return to the office if they will no longer be working remotely.
Download this comprehensive, easy-to-use DIY IT Business Preparedness Checklist to make sure your network is ready to get back to work, too.
Considerations: Your employees’ computers will have significant delays as patches and updates from the past few months are installed. Your teams may also have difficulty gaining momentum, be easily distracted, have login problems, forgotten their passwords, and have mountains of email to check. Don’t look at this as one of the reopening business challenges; that first day may be more of a “getting re-acquainted” day rather than having a focus on productivity. Having an IT professional on your side (even if you have your own IT department) will be a huge help; your IT department will be swimming in tickets for the first week.
Business Reopening Challenges #6: Customer Payment Defaults
It’s easily to overlook your customers’ own financial concerns when your books have more red on them than Spiderman’s costume. This is the time to reach out with deferred payment options, contract renegotiations, on-time payment rewards, and other incentives for your customers. You want to be Florence Nightingale swooping in to help, not Ebenezer Scrooge counting his gold. There is a balance to making sure you get paid while remaining compassionate to your customers’ own financial woes.
Considerations: Reach out to your customers with real solutions that allow them to catch up on payments before taking any further actions which may impact their credit scores and hurt their situation even more. The saying you can’t get blood from a stone is true here, but with the right attitude you may be able to get them on workable payment arrangements to recoup your losses.
Business Reopening Challenges #7: Your Own Finances Aren’t Looking So Great, Either
Your bills are all due, your lease agreement is coming up for renewal, and your third-party vendors want their payment in advance. Your customers aren’t paying, and you just ran out of coffee in the office breakroom with no petty cash available to get more.
This is your chance to really look at your business plans. Now that you’ve had employees working remotely, is this a sustainable model for you? You can save money on your office space, your servers, and your utility bills if you allow your teams to continue working from home. The tools and tech you are currently using work just as well in the office setting, meaning you may be able to downsize your office space even if you can’t keep your remote work model.
Considerations: Microsoft Teams and the entire Office 365 suite you have been using for your remote workers is an ideal choice for office work, too. Cloud services allow you to streamline your processes so you can use the right combination of remote teams and in-office workers that works for your situation.
Want to learn more about Office 365? Check out our free eBook, A 360 Look at Office 365 and see why so many businesses are making the switch to the cloud.
Patience is a Virtue
You will never overcome all the challenges of reopening your business if you look at the entire book rather than each chapter by itself. Break it down: what challenges do you face? What are your priorities? What solutions or strategies will work best for each challenge? Your employees are a valuable resource; ask for their input on what they see as your biggest challenges as well as possible solutions to solve them.
You don’t have to go it alone; hire the right partners for each challenge. Iconic IT may not be able to disinfect your office, for instance, but we are pros at disinfecting your network. Let us help you with your IT challenges with a free, no obligation consultation and let us help you settle your IT reopening business challenges so you can focus on the big things…like reconnecting with your employees and customers.
Is your network ready for you? Download our free, no obligation, easy to use, Do It Yourself IT checklist Preparing to Reopen Your Business: 51 Point Computer IT Network Preparedness Checklist and make sure your network is ready for business as usual.