Covid-19 – where next for business?

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Tony Wentworth, a partner at Jacksons Law Firm and a member of its Covid19 management committee, looks at some of the issues facing the firm and businesses in general as they move into the “new normal”.

On July 4th the most wide sweeping relaxation measures yet to the Covid19 restrictions came into effect. To me, it began to feel as though the world was returning to some degree of normality, albeit the now cliched “new normal”.

The pubs reopened (although, personally, I resisted the temptation to join in the initial stampede) and I have had my hair cut !

The relaxation of restrictions for sectors such as retail, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers has been widely publicised.

But what of the non-high street businesses, particularly those which are office based, where large numbers of people, would ordinarily work in close proximity to one another?

There has been very little in the way of government guidance for the operators of these businesses.

They are still working under the dictum “if you can work from home, then work from home”.

At some point workers in those businesses will need to start integrating back into the office environment. Many have already started to do so.

The following are some of the issues which have been at the forefront of the decision making and planning by the Jacksons Covid19 Management Committee.

Preparing Premises

We have given a great deal of thought to the suitability of our office space for the post Covid19 world. Like any business preparing itself to welcome staff back, we have undertaken a detailed health & safety risk assessment of our premises. We are fortunate that one of the services that we offer to our clients is specialist health & safety advice. Mark Stouph of Jacksons Health & Safety has undertaken an audit of our premises and the measures that we have taken in compliance with Mark’s recommendations, include:

• Reconfiguring workstations so that they are now either a minimum of 2 metres apart or physically barriered from one another.
• Fitting out meeting rooms so that meetings can take place on a socially distanced basis.
• Implementing rules for the use of shared facilities and equipment such as toilets, the kitchen and photocopiers.
• Implementing a regular and thorough cleaning and sanitisation regime.

Our offices are now been reconfigured in such a way that they are capable of being operated at full, pre-covid, capacity whilst being fully compliant with all of the social distancing requirements.

Management of cash flow

Cashflow is going to be crucial to all business over the forthcoming months. Unfortunately, some businesses have already failed. We have not yet, in all likelihood, reached the bottom of the curve in terms of the effect of Covid19 on business solvency. Many businesses are currently being propped up by the Government furlough scheme. As that support is withdrawn then, unless those businesses have been able to push their turnover back towards pre-Covid19 levels, they will become more and more financially stretched. Even if your business is coping, your customers may not be, and it is therefore essential to keep tight control of debt collection. Again, at Jacksons, we are fortunate that, as a provider of a debt recovery service to our clients, we are ideally placed to manage our own debt ledger efficiently. We will continue to be vigilant in the manner I which we go about doing that and we will, of course be on hand to the same assistance to our clients

Taking benefit from what we’ve learned

There are many things that we have learned from the Covid19 experience from which we will take long term benefit.

If the phrase of the year is “the new normal” then the words of the year must be “Zoom” and “Teams”. Prior to March 23rd 2020, Zoom and Microsoft Teams did not come onto my radar. Now “virtual” meetings are the daily routine. Not only have they been a solution to the problem of not being unable to hold meetings, they are, in many respects, more efficient than the old style around the table meeting (it’s incredible that, such has been the pace of change, pre March 2020 its now “old style”!). This is partly because they dispense the element of travel which is, in terms of working efficiency, is dead time and partly because these “virtual” meetings tend to be more focused and more succinct. That is not to say that there will not be situations where, once we are able to do so, a personal face to face meeting would be preferable, but online “virtual” meetings are definitely here to stay and will play a significant part in our business communication going forward.

We have also learned how superbly adaptable and flexible are staff can be in terms of how, when and where they work. Whilst we still envisage that our business will, fundamentally, continue to be office based, we now know that that is not the only option and that there are, when circumstances necessitate it, alternative and effective ways and means of doing things differently.

Contacts

Author – Tony Wentworth – twentworth@jacksons-law.com
Health & Safety Advice – Mark Stouph – mstouph@jacksons-law.com
Debt Collection Advice – Toby Joel – tjoel@jacksons-law.com