The world is facing a global event unlike anything we have seen this century. Almost overnight, businesses have had to adjust to a way of working they have never even tried before. For many, working from home will be the new norm thanks to COVID-19 and several businesses are learning how to manage a scattered workforce.
It is fair to say it is a time of unease; everything is very much up in the air. The biggest question many will have – from a business standpoint – is how do we carry on as normal? How do we continue to deliver a service under such challenging circumstances? And the wider question becomes how can I, as a business, continue to provide social value?
You may think your social value initiatives are out of the window – after all, what can you do in such a bizarre situation? In the pursuit of an answer, let’s take the time to break down each element of social value and what you can do to continue to help.
Being a pillar of the community
You may already be working on your social impact. In this time of struggle, many communities are pulling together and helping those most in need. We should all be doing what we can to help our fellow man, both on a personal and a professional level.
Offering a helping hand
While you are working from home for the foreseeable future, keep an eye on your neighbours and relatives, especially those in high-risk categories. This includes people age 70 and over and anyone with a pre-existing condition.
Be mindful of government advice and practice sensible social distancing. You don’t have to meet people face to face, rather, you can talk through doors or windows. And, if you are safe about it, you could also volunteer to pick up essential supplies for them, as with the current panic, it is a tough and risky task for many people.
Taking care of tenants
It is sure to be a hard time for people financially, with many soon facing situations where they can’t pay their rent. Thankfully, housing associations have already promised tenants won’t be evicted during this crisis. But it still begs the question: can you also help in other ways?
You could offer to drop off supplies for your tenants or collect essential items for them. With the situation changing daily, your help may become mandatory, but consider doing what you can now to get ahead of any government advice.
Looking after your staff
The COVID pandemic is going to be a rough patch for everyone. The upset to daily life will have even the most secure in their jobs worried. Then, on top of that, people will be concerned about their and their families health.
Even though they might be far away, check up on them daily. Make sure they feel okay and let them know you care about their wellbeing. Offer them options in their work; can you support their workload, help them manage it better? Do they need a break? Now is the time to look out for their mental health and be the support they require.
Keeping the economy thriving
There is no doubt COVID-19 will have drastic effects on the economy. The government has announced a £330 billion fund to help protect businesses and left the door open for further funding. How your business reacts will shape your economic impact and there are steps you can take in aid of your social value.
Prevent staff redundancies
This will be the toughest choice for many and the following suggestion might be controversial, but it is worth saying: don’t lay off staff until absolutely necessary. In these early days of our nationwide response, many people have already lost their jobs as businesses prepare for the worst.
It won’t be feasible for everyone, but if you can avoid letting staff go, that would be the best for the economy. Assess your finances, question how your business could adapt to the situation, and think about how you will put your employees first. Remember, it’s still early days and once the dust settles, your business may become even more productive than it has been before, with employees going the extra mile to ensure their employer remains afloat and incomes protected.
There will be some of you out there who can readily adapt to the chaos. You might be familiar with working from home and have the technology in place to still communicate effectively. But it won’t be the case for everyone.
If you have the knowledge, offer it out to other businesses. Get your message out there about how your inbox or phone is always open to people who want advice, free-of-charge. If you can help them operate as normal, we can mitigate the damage.
With people’s jobs in the air, many will be looking for something new and secure. If your operations won’t be affected, now might be the time to think about your staff requirements. If you have any space for people, consider opening the doors to applicants.
In the event you can’t afford a new employee, instead think about offering opportunities to apprentices or simply training people in a new skill. If schools are closed indefinitely in the future, you could offer a work experience programme. It keeps people busy and their minds off the current problems.
Caring for the planet
In this whirlwind development, we can’t forget about our obligation to the environment. Just because most of us are confined to our homes doesn’t mean we can’t still consider our environmental impact.
The not-so-daily commute
One side effect of people working from home – one which you shouldn’t forget to include in your reporting – is the lowering of emissions from commuting. With fewer people in the office, it means fewer cars on the road. And that means less air pollution.
Stories have emerged from China of lower air pollution levels following their lockdown. Images from NASA also show the same trend in Europe, which might continue to improve as various countries put their own restrictions into effect. It might be worth assessing how much you and your staff have contributed – or more aptly haven’t contributed.
Cleaning up your neighbourhood
Under the Prime Minister’s advice, it is recommended you avoid any unnecessary social contact. One thing he did permit was leaving the house for exercise, as long as you practice sensible social distancing. You could use this opportunity to do some good in your surrounding communities.
Local parks, beaches, and nature spots will inevitably have some rubbish floating around. Getting out there and picking up litter is a great way to use any free time to your advantage. You may not feel comfortable asking your staff to take part, as you might want to avoid putting them in harm’s way, but it could still be something worth bringing up.
These are just some ideas that may not have crossed your mind during these last few days. But the likelihood is we will be dealing with the outbreak for months to come, so now may be the perfect time to assess how you approach social value.
And, at the end of the day, now is the time for community. Now is when we need unity and to stand together. If you can do something for the good of society, you should try. Not for your business, but for everyone. Together, we can make it through this.
At Impact, we are taking the situation seriously. Our staff are working from home as we recognise our responsibility to keep not just ourselves safe, but everyone around us. We are making ourselves available to you and can offer you any advice you seek on any of the above issues, or if you just want to talk about how you can work from home most effectively. Feel free to email or call us on 0161 532 4752.