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Thursday 01 October 2020
by Jackie Emson

Preparing your business for a new lockdown

With local COVID-19 restrictions recently introduced in Warrington, we have pulled together a guide to ensure your business is prepared, in the event of further restrictions or lockdowns.

Effective, well-informed leadership is crucial and can enable businesses to plan ahead, respond quickly and minimise the impact of the crisis on their organisation and its people.  

Warrington has a strong business sector which has shown real resilience, innovation and partnership so far to face the challenges of the pandemic so far. By continuing to show these qualities and taking steps now, we can ensure we are well prepared for the challenges ahead. 

GOV.UK provides the most up-to-date official guidance on lockdown measures and local restrictions.  

• Information is also available on the council’s website

• This guide has been taken from the Business Growth website where you can find a range of useful resources, support and advice. 

Key actions for businesses to take now 

1. Review your initial COVID-19 response and update your pandemic plan 

What went well during the March lockdown and what could you have been done differently? 

Understanding the pinch points of your business’ response will allow you to address these in your business continuity plan and be better prepared in the event of a future lockdown. In addition, it will reveal the areas in which you excelled, perhaps by quickly pivoting to a new product or range, embracing digital technology to continue trading, or adapting to lockdown with a new business model or strategy. 

2. Assess the risks in your supply chain 

The lockdown had a considerable impact on supply chains on a global scale, which in many cases halted production entirely or increased lead times. Businesses should review the risks that a new lockdown could pose to their supply chains and take appropriate actions to alleviate the impact. 

In the event of a second wave on an international level, supplies from outside the UK could once again be difficult to source. Business could therefore consider shifting to alternative local suppliers or even explore opportunities to design and develop parts in-house which would minimise risk in the event of a localised lockdown.  

Businesses will also need to establish a plan on how to best manage and communicate with suppliers if another lockdown takes place. For example, if a local lockdown is enforced, and your business is required to close again you may need to freeze or cancel certain orders. It will be important to know your suppliers’ policies to avoid additional costs and ensure you have the cash flow required to continue operating. 

3. Consider and improve your cashflow 

Keeping the cash flowing is always important for a business and even more so during a crisis. Local lockdowns could see businesses facing recurring temporary shutdowns. It is critical you ensure you have the cash reserves required to continue operating.  

You should explore how you can minimise outgoing payments, whilst maximising cash coming into the business.  

4. Understand new customer needs and communicate with your clients

Communicating effectively with your customers will continue to be a key consideration during the pandemic. In the event of a temporary local lockdown, you will need to respond quickly and ensure your clients are aware of any last-minute changes that have had to take place within your operation – such as a change in hours, cancellation of bookings, or a switch to delivery, takeaway or click-and-collect? 

It is also crucial for you to understand how the pandemic has shifted customer values, so you can restructure your marketing approach, adapt your messaging and successfully reach your target market.  

  5. Review and strengthen your systems and IT infrastructure 

When lockdown was enforced in mid-March, most businesses had to shift their workforce to remote working. However, at the time, it was considered a temporary solution.  

If localised lockdowns become the norm, businesses should seek to review and optimise their IT systems to support the long-term sustainability of working remotely.  

Equally important to upgrading your systems will be staff training. Businesses should further invest in training their workforce on using the systems to work more efficiently and to increase cyber-crime awareness. 

Businesses in sectors such as manufacturing can also consider opportunities to automate processes and procedures on the shop floor.  

6. Upskill and cross train the workforce

During the past few months, businesses will have developed a good understanding of which business functions were the most impacted by the pandemic and required additional support. To ensure business continuity, employers should look to cross train the workforce to maximise flexibility and be able to redeploy staff as needed in the event of another lockdown.  

To better understand the skills and experience within your team, businesses can conduct a skills audit to enable leaders to identify skill gaps as well as areas where critical work is reliant on a single person and could pose a risk to the business. 

7. Support staff mental health

If businesses are required to shut once again and employees are called to fully return to remote working this could significantly impact their mental health. That’s why employee mental health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of all conversations relating to planning and preparing for a new lockdown.