Looking back, it almost feels like lockdown was easier for businesses than the current restrictions. You closed your doors, notified your team and headed home until the government gave you the green light to open back up.

But now, with last-minute changes to restrictions and isolation rules, businesses are struggling to survive. With over 40,000 Covid cases per day in states like NSW and VIC, one positive can send staff into isolation and force companies to shut their doors for weeks.

Lockdown’s look different in 2022 

With new variants of Covid spreading like wildfire, businesses face unique challenges that even Australia’s harshest lockdowns couldn’t have predicted. Now industries, such as hospitality and events, are experiencing pain points including:

  • Staff shortages because they are either a close-contact or have tested positive for Covid-19
  • Opening hours depending on how many people are available to work
  • Poor customer service because of not enough hands to help fulfil orders
  • Supply chain issues delaying essential business functions

These are most definitely unprecedented times, and without government support, business owners have to find ways to keep their businesses open. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve worked closely with businesses across various industries to help them find ways to adapt.

In this guide, we’re sharing our top seven tips to help you manage your business in today’s climate and during future challenges that may occur.

Seven Tips for Business Survival in 2022

After gathering feedback working with business in Australia and across the globe, we’ve put together our top tips to help manage business complexities despite new covid variants and their effects on your workforce.

1. Stagger Shift Patterns

Depending on the type of business you operate, learning how to stagger staff rostering patterns will help reduce overlaps and ensure that you have staff on the sidelines should any of your employees have to self-isolate. Of course, you’ll want to apply the same logic to management, so you always have a manager available should something happen.

Image source: rawpixel | Burst

2. Always Be Hiring

One of the biggest challenges that businesses are facing is staff shortages. The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association estimates there are roughly 100,000 vacant jobs. Because staff are in such short supply, many businesses have had to increase their wages.

Staff shortages are due to several factors, including a lack of international students travelling into Australia, extended lockdowns causing more job movement, and Covid related illness forcing staff into isolation for long periods.

To help combat the challenges of being short-staffed and struggling to hire new staff, here are some innovative ways to get people excited to join your business:

  • Offer referral incentives for current employees
  • Build a great culture using team building activities
  • Use your social platforms to let customers know you’re hiring
  • Rethink current roles and replace them with new ones that fulfil the jobs of more than one position in a balanced way
  • Hire staff on a short-term basis to help mitigate shortages at peak hours and busy seasons

3. Improve Site-Based Hygiene & Hygiene Practices

To mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading covid within the workplace, consider improving your site-based hygiene and, if possible, give people the option to work from home until variants start to calm down.

Here are a few ways to improve site-based hygiene without expensive overheads and the cost of hiring new employees.

  • Provide sanitiser for customers and staff. This step has been at play since the start of Covid, and it shouldn’t go amiss despite there being fewer restrictions. Try a sign encouraging sanitiser use as a condition of entry.
  • Set up a sanitisation station. Whether an office, storefront or factor - make sure that your sanitisation station for staff and customers is obvious when they walk in the building.
  • Introduce training staff on distance-based service. A challenge for businesses is a decline in customer service due to various reasons. To help mitigate poor service, empower staff with the proper training for new circumstances.
  • Rapid Antigen Tests for staff. With supply chain issues, access to RAT’s is difficult. To protect your business, its staff and its customers - consider covering the cost so you can control any local infection and make your team feel safer.
  • Encourage sick days. If staff feel unwell or are concerned, incentivise them to take time off. Instead of assuming staff will know when to take time, you’re better off allowing a day off for one person and preventing the whole team from taking off the following week.
  • Consider a vaccine policy. Several industries in Australia have mandated vaccines for their employees to help mitigate the spread of covid. If you’re unsure about this policy, work with local business support organisations to understand your rights and obligations.

Image source: Towfiqu barbhuiya | Pexels

4. Automated Staff Rostering Solutions

One of the biggest challenges of managing during these uncertain times is rostering staff. With changes in demand to last-minute sick leave, it’s hard to stay one step ahead. However, an automated staff rostering solution allows you to spend less time worrying about the schedule.

RosterElf, a complete workforce management software, is an intuitive solution that allows you to easily roster staff and adapt to last-minute changes and shift gaps with the click of a button. The cloud-based software also includes other key features:

  • Staff AvailabilityStaff can quickly change their availability, so your roster is up to date when you’re building the schedule.
  • Shift swapping. Staff can swap shifts without the need for manager approval. This feature is possible by the ‘Perfect Match’ algorithm, which requires specific qualifications to match before staff swap to ensure no scheduling errors.
  • Communication. Management can send instant updates via email and SMS so everyone’s aligned on last-minute changes.
  • Sales reporting. When things change from one day to the next, reporting allows you to look at sales trends to predict demand and the overall staffing needs of your business.

5. Cloud-Based Software & Subscriptions

During lockdowns, we found that businesses were taking the time to update their systems and processes over to cloud-based software. This switch enabled companies to cut costs, remain agile and save time on admin tasks that were taking time away from scalable tasks.

Brands like RosterElf, Xero and Salesforce help redirect the focus on building a business that can quickly adapt to change and continue to deliver the best customer service. This includes payroll, sales, scheduling, staffing issues, financial management and more.

Image source: RosterElf | https://www.rosterelf.com/

6. Manage Stock Like a Pro

At the moment, there are significant supply chain issues across the country across various industries. With an influx in panic buying, grocery shelves are nearly empty, and businesses struggle to keep up.

To help mitigate the risk of further supply chain delays, we recommend taking stock of essential supplies and engage with others in the industry. You may be able to move around your oversupplies or source products from them. As you will have already communicated with distributors, work with industry "co-op-etitors"  to get more efficiency out of the supply chain till things can return to normal.

Finally, try to manage customer expectations by shifting delivery, building systems to keep customers informed, and coming up with creative solutions to keep your customers and employees engaged. Generally if customers are well informed and expectations are managed you can easily take forward orders on short stock and deliver as stock comes availabile.

7. Run Lean

Businesses are going lean in an attempt to mitigate staff shortages. As a result, businesses across several industries - from health care providers to manufacturing and even some retailers - have accepted its methods for driving operational efficiencies and removing waste in all its forms.

Businesses that implement lean processes must look beyond just cost savings and set their sights on creating dynamic business capabilities and strategies that are imperative to remaining stable, scalable, and agile to act on new opportunities in uncertain times.

"Running Thin" is also gaining popularity, a process where you run at a reduced capacity and politely turning excess customers away. This puts less strain on your team, the supply chain, and you whilst subtly reinforcing the value of your offering with greater scarcity. After running at 60%-75% for 3-6 months you can then  work to increase your capacity as the situation stabilises.

What’s Next?

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to how businesses can survive the aftermath of lockdowns and isolation restrictions. However, we hope that this guide assists you in both surviving and thriving in the future.

Contact our team today to learn more about how RosterElf continues to help businesses during these times.

Have any survival tips that you'd like to share? Send them to help@rosterelf.com; I'd love to hear your methods too!

Adam Clune

Head of Marketing and Growth at RosterElf
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