Many businesses throughout Tennessee have been thrown into tumult thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and the resulting economic hardships. As we look forward to the latter half of the year, there are still many unknowns. Consider the following questions:
- What will any of this look like in the fall, when schools traditionally re-open, enabling parents to work outside the home?
- Will businesses fully re-open—or re-close?
- What will the fallout be for each of these potential circumstances?
- If you're the owner of a traditional brick-and-mortar business, does it make sense to wait it out?
- If you can move all your work online, should you?
- And what about employees and their ability to work with family obligations?
There are many unknowns but there are also steps you can take now to rebuild your business after this tumultuous summer.
Getting Help for Your Business
The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance has issued guidance to Tennessee businesses. From barbershops and beauty salons to funeral professionals, all Tennessee businesses are encouraged to check with the department to find out about state and local assistance programs. The site also houses deadlines and requirements for applying for state assistance.
Tennessee Business Relief Program
A program launched by the Tennessee Department of Revenue, the “Tennessee Business Relief Program” will reimburse small businesses for expenditures they've had to make in response to the mandatory closure of businesses across the state. No application is required. The Department of Revenue will determine eligibility on a business-by-business case, based on the information registered through taxes. Businesses began being notified in late June.
Resources for Startups
Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that aims to support tech startups throughout the state, has created a COVID-19 resource website aimed at helping businesses reopen or remain open during the pandemic. These resources are wide-ranging from how to stay in touch with a remote workforce, tips for in-house communication, how to protect your staff from COVID-19 exposure to video conferencing etiquette, and guidance for cleaning and disinfecting work sites.
While some startups or companies familiar with freelancers may start out ahead of the game when it comes to managing a remote workforce, there's likely a learning curve for other businesses. But in these times of a global pandemic, work must be reimagined. Entrepreneur magazine recently suggested tips for managing a remote workforce:
- Understand your needs. Assess your process at work (or your former process at work) to see what your specific needs are.
- Get help from remote services. Use external HR departments, IT support, and marketing to keep your company lean—and remote.
- Centralize your systems. Consider cloud-based services and systems so your employees can access files and connect to your company.
- Set up a communication plan. Do you want daily check-ins? Will those be by phone, email, or video chat? How will documents be shared, approvals routed?
These tips can be very helpful for companies as they set up off-site work on the fly, with little preparation.
Launch Tennessee provides a more comprehensive guide to creating, managing, and succeeding with a remote workforce. From managing productivity and goal-setting to security and IT support, the guide provides concrete examples of successful strategies for the transition to remote business.
Race in the Workplace
Covid-19 hasn't been the only headline this summer. Protests across the country have spurred a continued national discussion on race relations. But should these conversations happen in the workplace? And what if “the workplace” is your home, as part of a remote workforce?
University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School published an article on the subject, discussing the “RACE” framework “for use by middle managers in corporate environments who would like to begin talking about race in the workplace.” The outline of the article is as follows:
R – Reduce anxiety by talking about race anyway.
A – Accept that anything related to race is either going to be visible or invisible.
C – Call on internal and external allies for help.
E – Expect that you may need to provide some “answers,” practical tools, etc.
The article makes the point that, if appropriate, it is the role of managers to start the hard conversations around race. Managers can also lean on other managers or allies to help in their workplace plans for these discussions. They can also rely on publicly available resources and adapt them to their workplace.
These are surely challenging times we are facing, but with the right toolbox, business owners can confront them with confidence and compassion.