Despite the good news that the vaccine is being delivered, Covid-19 will be with us for some time yet. Given this, small business owners need systems in place so that they can operate safely, and cope with a situation that will continue to change at short notice.
It is particularly important for startups and small businesses – where resources are stretched – to have effective processes and systems. They will be able to lighten the burden and give you the confidence that you will be able to do the right things at the right time.
To achieve this, the ideal approach is to create a Covid Safety Toolkit; a package of tools to help you keep track of the changes, ever-increasing regulation and the actions you need to take to comply.
For example, at Thomson Screening we have developed a toolkit to help business owners and managers work through what is required and the actions they need to take. It provides a checklist, training and sample documentation.
Although creating a toolkit may sound overwhelming, the good news is that none of these activities is new. You’ll be familiar with them and your task is to apply them for the Covid-19 situation.
What do we mean by a Toolkit?
In a small business you will have individual processes, stand-alone documents, lists and logbooks to cope with Covid-19.
To make sure you continue without feeling overburden, you need to pull everything together. This is rather like a jigsaw. When the pieces are scattered it can feel overwhelming. Put them together and you know that you have everything you need, and in the right order.
For example, you may have honed the wording for clear messages for customers which are on your website. The same wording can also be used on posters on walls, in staff handbooks and in compliance documents. Our experience of Covid-19 has shown us how quickly changes have to be made.
As all areas of your business can be impacted it is possible to miss updating in one place or find you still have out of date information included in a document somewhere. This is where a toolkit shows its value. It will help you ensure that you get everything that needs updating updated seamlessly.
You can create your own toolkit or buy it in for your business and ensure everything you need is in one place.
What should a Toolkit contain?
- Governance framework
- Risk management – both individual and group risk assessments
- Action plans
- Communications plans
- Review and update plan
This list contains very broad terms so let ‘s look at what they mean in practical terms for your small business.
Overall this is about being clear about where the buck stops. Who is in charge and has overall responsibility, and who is responsible for the oversight of all your business’s Covid related activity? By now everyone in your team and your key contacts will know this but it is important to make sure that this is documented in your Covid Policy.
In managing risks related to Covid you will have adapted your work routines and made other changes in your business possibly with a formal risk assessment. It is worth making sure that you have everything clearly documented. You don’t need anything complicated. What matters most is clarity so a simple Excel spreadsheet may work perfectly for you.
The key is to have what you need at your fingertips so that you can do a quick check and be confident you’ll know how to make any necessary changes in response to new national or local guidelines.
In addition, you may also need to assess or reassess an individual employee’s risk. For example, if someone has unfortunately had Covid-19 recently, or perhaps lives with a vulnerable family member will need a different kind of support to an employee who has not contracted the virus.
Our general understanding of risks relating to specific groups such as young people has of course, improved over recent months and continues to improve. Having a central document will help you to fine-tune your risk groups at regular intervals, quickly and efficiently.
Clearly the actions plans you put in place flow from your risk assessment changes., No change means that no action is needed. If there has been a specific change in risk, then you’ll need to change or introduce and activity to mitigate that risk.
It is a good idea to do this each area of your business in turn. Make sure you include every building or physical space. With a systematic modular approach you will be able make the changes more quickly and you’ll also be able to ensure that you haven’t missed anything out.
Communication during Covid continues to need care and attention from business owners. Here are the key points to consider:
- Understand your audience and their needs
- Listen actively so you can communicate appropriately
- Be clear about what you want to say (and say it simply)
- Use appropriate channel(s) for you audience(s)
- Ensure timely your communication.
It is vital to only use trusted sources of information. There is still plenty of confusing and out of date information circulating. So, make the government websites your first port of call;
LIST OF WEBSITES FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION
- Finding your local Health Protection Team: https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team
- Moderate and high-risk factors: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-COVID-19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/
To keep all your communications consistent and to save you time it is best to use templates as much as possible. Make sure that everyone in your team, who is involved in comms of any kind, knows what your Covid messaging this and how to include it in their area of work. This will include the person who edits your website, updates your social media, writes marketing materials etc.
Review and update
I have no magic wand for you – it is simply a case of regular checking and checking again so that you are always up to date with the current regulations, and what you and your team are required to do. Remember also, that you need to have evidence that you are carrying out your duties as an employer.
Tools to help you
There are some familiar tips that are essential for you Covid-19 related activities:
- In electronic communications (newsletters, websites, chats, etc.) use direct links to the relevant government websites. (see above)
- Used shared file systems (for example, One Drive, Google Drive, or Dropbox) for templates and drafts
- Maintain a log of where these templates are kept and where they are used, to make sure you don’t miss one of them
- Having everything in one place will pay dividends many times over when you suddenly need to change something.
As Covid has been with us for some time and looks set to be with us well into 2021 we need to guard against Covid-fatigue. This is a key reason why having a Toolkit is essential for your small business. As a business owner you have more than enough on your plate so let the Toolkit give you the reassurance that you have everything covered, reduce your stress levels, and make your life a little easier.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Marta Kalas, co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager software platform that enables testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out.
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