What Should Your Business Be Doing in Response to the Global COVID-19 Pandemic?
The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus known as COVID-19 has had a profound impact on nearly all businesses worldwide. Businesses are trying to identify and address a variety of internal and external challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19. Although each business faces some unique challenges in responding to the current crisis, the following are general considerations that all businesses should be aware of.
- Implement national, local and internal health guidelines and communicate those guidelines to staff. Communication will be critical to avoiding unnecessary concern by staff. Designate one person, or a small group of people, to handle all internal communications to staff to ensure consistent messaging.
- Take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of employees, including increasing the frequency of deep cleaning and disinfecting common areas. Also make available to staff soaps, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
- If practical, allow employees to work remotely. For additional information regarding working remotely, see this article, Considerations for a Telecommuting Workforce During the COVID-19 Outbreak.
- Postpone or cancel non-essential travel and in-person meetings.
- Stay abreast of employment law developments as things continue to change. Our team continues to publish updates on these matters and they can be found on our resource page here.
- Communicate with vendors early and often to confirm whether they will be able to continue providing services and products, and also to advise them if you anticipate any challenges in receiving or paying for their products or services. Consider discussing and implementing “contingency plans” with vendors in case one party or the other is unable to perform their obligations. This could include sourcing from other vendors or extending payment terms.
- Review contracts with vendors to determine the rights and obligations of the parties that could be impacted by the pandemic. For example, a force majeure clause in a contract may excuse a party’s performance of its obligations under the contract.
- Similar to vendors, communicate with customers early and often to confirm whether they will be able to continue paying for services and products, and also to advise them if you anticipate any challenges in providing products or services. Consider discussing and implementing “contingency plans” with customers in case one party or the other is unable to perform their obligations. This could include sourcing from other vendors or extending payment terms.
- Review contracts with customers to determine the rights and obligations of the parties that could be impacted by the pandemic. Again, a force majeure clause in a contract may excuse a party’s performance of its obligations under the contract.
- Many of your customers are experiencing the same or similar challenges that you are so look for ways that you can help them through this crisis. Don’t look at this as an opportunity to “upsell” your products and services but rather as an opportunity to provide a “value-add” to a valued customer.
- If staff are working remotely, consult with your technology providers to determine whether your current hardware, software and cybersecurity systems are up to date.
- Implement or update existing remote working policies and procedures and communicate those policies to staff.
- For additional technology considerations, see this article, Tips to Promote a Secure Remote Working Environment During COVID-19
- Review your annual budgets and reforecast as needed to help with planning and decision making for the remainder of the year.
- Consider reducing expenses, including eliminating non-essential services and discretionary bonuses. Also, if you are unable to pay obligations to the vendors and creditors, your owners should not be taking dividends/distributions.
- Take advantage of various government programs under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, CARES Act, and other federal and state legislation. For additional information regarding these programs, see these articles, Payroll Tax Relief under the Families First Coronavirus Act, Key Tax Provisions for Businesses and Individuals in the CARES Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) Becomes Law and Other Related Questions, and CARES Act – Paycheck Protection Program – Frequently Asked Questions
Implement or update business succession plans. Have clearly identified successors, or a plan for appointing successors, for key positions in the event a staff member suddenly is unable to continue to provide services.