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COVID-19: Operating Your Business Out of Lock-down

As we hit week four of the nationwide lock-down, it’s time to start actively thinking about how you will operate your business out of lock-down. We’ve already discussed developing your business continuity plan, so hopefully you’ve already started planning and putting some actions in place to come out of lock-down ready to thrive.

UPDATE (20th April 2020): New Zealand will move out of COVID-19 Alert Level 4 Lock-down and into Alert Level 3 at Midnight on the morning of Tuesday 28th April 2020. Businesses who need to will be able to use the week in the lead up to this to access their premises and prepare them to open. Strict social distancing and contact-less deliveries must be adhered to. It would be prudent to only allow minimal staff on to your premises to enable you to prepare for opening.

Shifting to Alert Level 3

Once cabinet deems that the Level 4 Lock-down has been successful, they will make an informed decision to lower the alert level. At this stage, the decision will be made on the 20th April. A lifting of the most severe restrictions is then expected for later in April.

Many of the specific details as to what level 3 will look like are still being worked on by the government. However, this level 3 will not be the same as the level 3 we spent 48 hours in before the level 4 lock-down began. We can expect more information on this over the coming days so keep an eye on the covid-19.govt.nz and MBIE websites for more information.

The Core Principles of Level 3

The following are the core government guidelines for level 3:

  • People instructed to stay home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement – including to go to work, school if they have to or for local recreation.
  • Physical distancing of two metres outside home (including on public transport), or one metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces.
  • Bubbles must stay within their immediate household bubble, but can expand this to reconnect with close family/whānau, or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people. This extended bubble should remain exclusive.
  • Schools (years 1 to 10) and Early Childhood Education centres can safely open, but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible.
  • People must work from home unless that is not possible.
  • Businesses can open premises, but cannot physically interact with customers.
  • Low risk local recreation activities are allowed.
  • Public venues are closed, e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets.
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures must be maintained.
  • Healthcare services use virtual, non-contact consultations where possible.
  • Inter-regional travel is highly limited, e.g. for essential workers, with limited exemptions for others.
  • People at high risk of severe illness (older people and those with existing medical conditions) are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work.

Key Considerations Before Bringing Your Business Out of Lock-down

The EMA has published some key questions to ask yourself before you bring your business out of lockdown:

  • Are there any risks arising from restarting your business or a business activity that has been shut down during alert level 4?
  • How will you ensure all your workers know how to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you gather information on the wellness of your staff to ensure that they are safe to work?
  • How will you operate your business in a way that keeps workers and others safe from exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you manage an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you evaluate whether your work processes or risk controls are effective?
  • How do these changes impact on the risks of the work that you do?

These questions are a great starting point for working through your plans to bring your business out of lock-down.

What Will Level 3 Look Like for Your Business out of Lock-down?

Now is the time to start planning what your business will look like at level 3. You’ll need to plan for a range of scenarios and be as prepared as you can be for whatever eventuality arises. As with this entire unprecedented situation, there are more unknowns than knowns and the government will change the operating rules as required to ensure public safety and make sure the the health gains we have made over the weeks of lock-down have not been an expensive waste.

Following government guidelines is essential. If you are able to operate safely within the limitations of level 3 outlined above, make sure you have updated your internal policies to reflect the necessary changes. At a minimum, you will need to look at your HR and Health, Safety and Wellness policies and make sure that your staff are fully aware of the new operating requirements.

Social distancing is still essential, even in the workplace. Large gatherings of more than 10 people are also likely to remain banned. These restrictions will likely be key factors when making your plans to reopen. You may need to operate with staggered start times, reduced staff numbers, a one in one out policy or similar measures. Limiting staff movement across areas of your business will also be essential. This all helps to preserve everyone’s ‘bubble’ to as small a number of people as possible.

Contact Tracing in Your Business out of Lock-down

For a fleeting moment before lock-down, we all started hearing about contact tracing. We’re pretty familiar with it now but we don’t have much experience working with it in place. For about 72 hours before we went into lock-down, hospitality businesses were required to keep records of who came into their establishments. This was quite a rushed process and like all things in those early days, it was a bit of a shambles.

The good news is that in this modern age, you have a lot of options when it comes to tracking people. Most of these options though pose some level of hygiene risk and will need to be properly managed in order to reduce this risk and keep track of the necessary data. Here are our top two recommendations:

  1. Pen & paper. A good old school visitors book and a pen. Just make sure to regularly sanitise the pen between visitors, or encourage them to use their own.
  2. Tablet & software. The modern solution to visitor management. Software like SwipedOn is a great way to interact with and track your visitors.

If you are doing click and collect orders only, keep the records of when people collect so you know the details without having to have extra interactions creating a potential point of contamination.

Forecast Your Options for Getting Your Business out of Lock-down

With the severe amount of unknowns, it is essential to run cashflow forecasts for a range of level 3 scenarios.

We recommend or clients use Float Cashflow Forecasting software. We currently have a number of free subscriptions to this software for the period through till 30th June 2020. If you could use the extra insight for your business, reach out to our team and we’ll have a chat about how we can get you set up with a free subscription.

Not all Businesses will be Able to Operate at Alert Level 3

It is really important to keep in mind that not all businesses will be able to operate out of lock-down in level 3. The government has made it clear that any move to level 3 will not be a return to business as usual. For many businesses, compliance will be far too difficult or cost prohibitive for opening to be worthwhile.

Many non-essential retail stores, services, offices and manufacturing businesses which involve close contact between staff or customers will not be able to operate. While not being able to open while other businesses do may be frustrating, you should still look to do as much as possible remotely.

Shifting to Alert Level 2 and Below

Eventually, we’ll drop to Alert Level 2. Slowly business will start to return to a new kind of normal.

At level 2, if you can, keep as many of your staff as possible working from home. It is likely that some staff may want to keep doing this as a new normal. If you can manage this, it is well worth considering and may reduce office overheads.

Keep in Contact with Your Customers

Before and after you get you business out of lock-down, it will be important to communicate with your customers so they know exactly what to expect at every level.

We have already advised all of our clients by email and via social media what our plans are at every level. We will use the same channels to advise of any updates. It is likely you have both an email database and a variety of social media channels to utilise for keeping in contact with your customers. There’s never been a better time to make use of those databases to ensure open communication and the safety of staff and customers is maintained.

The Regular Flu Season is Still Ahead

It is essential to remember that as we head out of ‘Covid-19 season’ we will be heading straight into our regular flu season. The good news is that maintaining many of your COVID-19 protocols for Health, Safety and Wellness will be beneficial for the regular flu season as well.

Getting flu shots for your staff is a tax deductible expense. Yes, really. We aim to get our team all jabbed every year. If you are able to, reach out to your local pharmacy or medical clinic and see if they can set up an in-workplace vaccination clinic. This is a great way to support another local business while also preventing your team from having to go into a place with a lot of other potential sick people.

Start Planning Now for Getting Your Business Out of Lock-down

There is no better time than now to start planning. Map out a few hypothetical scenarios for each alert level. What do you need for each scenario? How many staff? Do you need to order some new supplies now?

Get high-level cashflow projections sorted for each scenario. It may be that in some scenarios, it is more expensive to open than to stay closed. It is essential to know this in advance and avoid expensive mistakes.

There are no Guarantees

There are no guarantees that a move to Alert Level 3 and getting your business out of lock-down will be a permanent thing. Everything hinges on us collectively maintaining successful community management of COVID-19.

Be prepared for us to go back up to Alert Level 4 if the health situation worsens.

Get Access to our Free Business Continuity Resources.

We have developed a comprehensive guide to developing a business continuity plan for your business. This is an essential plan for navigating this current and all future challenges your business may face.

Click here to access the guide.

From the guide, you can access and download our free business continuity plan template. If you need a run-through of the guide and the plan template or if you want a complimentary 30 minute review once you’ve completed it, book in a chat with us here.

Reach out for Support

We’re here to help. Whether for help with your plans, your cashflow or simply for a friendly chat, reach out to the team at MBP. We’re all in this together.

We have a team of business advisors, accountants and HR specialists to help you plan to succeed.

Hardship Support

While many of our clients are not able to trade at all, we have rolled out our hardship assistance program so they never have to worry about our payment deadlines.

We can delay the due date on your invoices by up to 180 days. This means you can access the help and support you need and leave paying us until we’ve helped you back on your feet.

Fully Funded Services

Thanks to generous private funding and the support of our team, we are able to offer a range of our essential business support services free of charge to effected businesses. We’ll have a new page up and running in the coming days to outline the services and application process. In the meantime, reach out to your dedicated MBP Business Partner or simply email [email protected] to start a conversation about how we can help.

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