Well the first quarter has certainly taken an unexpected turn for the entire planet, hasn’t it? A dangerous, stressful, and disruptive time for everyone. Public health and safety rightfully takes top priority; therefore, my first suggestion for small business owners in responding to this public health crisis is very simple: abide by the directives and guidelines issued by government authorities and health care professionals.

Second, how does your small business respond to this unexpected crisis? For some, like fitness centers, there is little choice but to temporarily close. In that case, the best you can do at the moment is communicate proactively with your customer base to keep them informed and express appreciation for their patience and loyalty. Take a close look at your cash flow, outstanding liabilities, and upcoming expenses for the next 90 days and plan accordingly. Confirm your credit line availability. For service-oriented businesses, consider how effectively you can shift your team from office-based to home-based employees. Many such companies have already started this transition and encouraged, if not required, their employees to work from home.

While reasonable people can disagree on the subject, many studies suggest that employees who work from home are actually more productive, work longer hours, and report fewer distractions than those who work in a traditional office. Under the exigent circumstances of today, working from home should also limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus and reduce the spread of illness. Effective communication and collaboration through telephonic and video conference calls can go a long way toward reducing the sense of isolation experienced by many who telecommute.

Having regularly scheduled “brainstorming” sessions on specific topics or updates on particular projects is also a good idea. Managers should continue to check in daily with employees via email, text, or phone, just as they would acknowledge an employee daily in the office. A quick note saying, “hello”, asking how things are going or offering assistance is always welcomed.

Working from home can present challenges and both owners and staff need to carefully manage and adjust expectations during this uncertain period. Just because employees work remotely does not mean they are now available around the clock. Everyone should still observe their “normal” working hours in completing assigned tasks and projects, with some flexibility to accommodate the reality of the present situation.

In short, for the time being, small business owners should simply embrace the roll of managing work-from-home-employees, leverage the benefits of today’s technology as much as possible and communicate in a consistent, transparent, and positive manner. The life of the small business owner is all about being creative, flexible, and having the ability pivot as needed to meet the challenges of the day. Good luck and stay healthy!

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