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In February Boris Johnson laid out the government's COVID exit strategy, the roadmap to freedom. There are four crucial steps and each one is designed to open up lives, businesses and the economy.
At present the UK has just completed the second part of step one. The first took place on 8th March and saw the re-opening of schools and allowing two people to meet outside. Then on Monday 29th March the second half came into effect with the rule of six returning and the allowance of outdoor sports facilities.
These dates serve as yet another historic check point in the fight against COVID. And with the first glimpses of warmer weather in the air, summer is insight and so too is the end goal.
But this is a slow and steady approach with three more steps to go and each one is packed with uncertainty. So, in light of the above how is it possible to stay focused on work continuing with your own plan whilst watching carefully as the next steps are realised?
1. Keep eyes forward
One of the worst things would be to get distracted by what is going on in the news and the world outside of your company. It’s a hard balance to strike. A business owners focus should always be on the tasks at hand, it's employees and the strategy which guides the organisation. But it is also essential to ensure you are aware of how the roadmap will affect your plans. Its time to stop looking back and instead apply what you have learned to create a stable platform for the future.
2. Don't rush to make workplace changes
If your team has been working full time at home or accessing remote locations don't feel forced to make any immediate changes to this policy. If your staff are being productive and are happy leave it alone for the time being or at least wait until more of the steps have been achieved. History has shown that plans no matter how firm they seem can be changed at the last minute. However there is no harm in looking for office opportunities which might suit your teams needs going forward.
3. Conduct a goal review
The recent achievement is a good time to stop and conduct a review of all goals as outlined in your strategy. Use the excitement within the team to gather and think about where your business is headed both in the short and long term. Visualise the light at the end of the tunnel and ask how can your business safeguard against pitfalls. It's often when in difficult situations the best ideas come to the forefront.
4. Check in with your staff
With staff scattered across various locations you may have become lazy in terms of communicating with your employees. Trust has played an important part with staff leaning on their own abilities to keep productive. But the recent changes may have stirred a mix of emotions and it would be ideal to arrange a meeting to discuss how it might impact them. This will put concerns to bed and let them know that you care and have their best interests at heart. Staff perform better if they know they are being listened to.
5. Take financial stock
Businesses have suffered financially and the state of the economy is in need of a restart. The government has provided support to ensure companies can stay afloat by introducing the furlough scheme and other financial packages. But at some point, these will be reversed. Now is the time to delve into your accounts and work out how your finances might be impacted by each step and in the eventuality this money is withdrawn.
6. Customer demand
During the pandemic consumer behaviours adapted. Money saved on train fares, petrol, haircuts and socialising has been ploughed into other areas. Such as DIY, gardening, crafts, hobbies, TV streaming and alternative ways to travel and exercise. Those businesses who were able to capitalise by selling online performed better than those who were ill equipped. But when shops and restaurants begin to open the spending pattern will change again creating both an upstream and downstream. Understanding how this will impact your sales is vital.
7. COVID risk assessments
The government was quick to enforce safety guidelines such as the 2 metre rule, sanitation and hygiene stations, social distancing and the wearing of masks. These are set to continue and it is essential to incorporate any changes to policies and procedures. Most applied a COVID response page to their website citing the rules and including risk assessments. These will require updating to ensure your business is meeting all guidelines and the results communicated to both staff and customers.
8. Planning for step two
So far step one has been completed. The next is due to be activated on 12th April if all continues to go to plan. This will allow larger segments of the economy to reopen. Including non-essential retail, furthering outdoor settings, indoor leisure facilities and self contained holiday accommodation. And whilst this is forecasted as the earliest date possible this may still change. Maintaining a dynamic strategy is crucial offering flexibility to adapt as the steps unfold.
As we enter the next stages of the roadmap it is understandable that businesses will remain sceptical. Following the last twelve months business owners have been forced into reactive mode. Forward planning seemed pointless as the government u turned introducing further lockdowns both upsetting the status quo whilst attempting to keep everyone safe.
However the current roadmap has been developed with cautionary measures. There are 5 week gaps between each step to enable the government to reassess the data and ensure it is safe to move forward. For business owners this doesn't allow much time to plan or change direction which is why it's important to see each step as an individual element.
There are lots of attributes to figure out and progress may feel slow and stilted but instead of fighting it is important to have your own exit strategy planning for all eventualities. Embrace the challenge seeing it as another learning curve in your business journey and a historic period of time.
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