Small businesses and COVID-19: Remote work, lifelines and taking a break

- March 24, 2020 4 MIN READ
remote work

“The world of work is changing” – a statement that has become commonplace in the business sector in recent years. And while it’s usually used to describe a longer-term trend stimulated by the rise of technology and a workforce demanding more control from their career, it’s never been more applicable than it is today, writes Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer at Zoho.

Globally, there are few left who remain unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of individuals and the businesses they work for based not from the office, but from kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and living room couches.

Work from home is now mandatory for many of us, and it can be a testing transition – perhaps none more so than smaller businesses. Many big organisations have vast resources, surplus funds and contingency plans to help them tackle the current situation. Those luxuries are rarely available to small businesses, for whom every sale, every conversation and every day matters. So, if you and your small business team are currently working remotely and trying to develop a productive and collaborative environment, we’ve put together some tips and information to help you.

Broadband is your saviour. Use it

Many internet providers are offering additional broadband and mobile internet services to power Australia’s home offices. A stable broadband connection is the platform for every remote office and is the single biggest reason that working remotely is a very viable way for many businesses to operate. With a stable connection, you can connect with your customers and collaborate with colleagues and employees through video conferencing, instant messaging and countless other shared cloud apps just as if you were working from the same office.

Collaboration is key

Remote communication isn’t always easy, especially for those who haven’t done it often. However, with the right set of integrated apps, businesses can maintain a close, productive environment, no matter where, when and how your team is working. Apps like Zoho Remotely, for example, enable businesses to work remotely by offering a complete suite of web and mobile apps that boost communication, collaboration and productivity through one centralised cloud-based technology. Considering the gravity of the current situation, we are offering Remotely – and the 11 apps it contains – free for everyone, until at least July 2020. To contextualise the need for remote working software, since launching Remotely two weeks ago, we’ve already seen a 500% growth in the daily use of our collaboration apps, 1,000% growth in the number of virtual meetings and over 4,000 new companies, globally, benefiting from the platform.

Seek help

There’s never been a more appropriate time to ask for a little help. Among the struggles, there have been countless beautiful stories of people, businesses and communities coming together to help each through these tough times. On top of Remotely, we’ve recently launched the Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP) to help Zoho customers worldwide weather this global crisis. For up to 20,000 qualified paying customers with 25 employees or less, we’re waiving the cost of every single application they currently use, for up to three months.

Businesses are hurting, and now is the time to forget competition and instead come together to help everyone. Small businesses, in particular, are already facing tremendous pressure on revenue and cash flows. Uncertainty about when things will return to normal is even worse, so every bit of help we, and other companies, can offer to keep these small businesses afloat will go a long way, not just financially but emotionally as well. We are in this together, and contributions from every business help our community get through this pandemic.

Flexible hours and making the most of time

While technology exists to help you work effectively during the current period, there’s a lot to be said of being lenient and flexible with regards to switching off, too. If your team is frustrated by the prospect of a period of working from home, try to make the transition easy for them – flexible hours is a good place to start. A healthy balance between work-life and personal-life is imperative to create not only a productive team but a motivated one. So, find out what works for them, and offer more of it. Whether that’s flexible hours or something else entirely, be adaptable and ascertain ways to not only boost motivation, but demonstrate that your team’s physical and mental health are paramount to you.

You’ll likely have more time without your daily commute, so use these extra hours to your advantage; perhaps by committing to a new work project or clearing your workload? Similarly, the time could be used to complete an online course to learn new skills that can benefit you and your company. Alternatively, just use the time to switch off or pursue a hobby so that, when it’s time to work, your mind is refreshed, stimulated and ready to work.

The current period of remote work is likely going to last, but whether it’s second nature or an alien concept for your small business, don’t be overwhelmed – the transition is more manageable and less daunting than you may fear. We’re all in this together and there’s support and resources out there to help mitigate the risks. So rely on technology to stay close to your colleagues and customers and you might find that those kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and living room couches are more productive and successful business environments than you realised.