With the Government announcing 2,988 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday - the highest figure since May 22– there are concerns of a second wave of coronavirus and the implications this may have on businesses.
Daily confirmed cases began edging up again in July - after falling significantly from their April peak - as lockdown restrictions imposed in March were eased, although a number of local lockdowns have since been enforced.
The Government's current estimate for the reproductive or R number across the whole of the UK is between 0.9 and 1.1. If the R number is below 1, then the number of people contracting the disease will fall; if it is above one, the number will grow.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that the UK “must do everything in our power” to stop a second surge of people going into hospital with the coronavirus, which he said was starting to happen in Europe. Mr Hancock also said he feared a rise in infections in healthy people would creep into vulnerable groups if allowed to continue, saying it was a pattern seen in the US where cases are out of control again.
Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Europe chief, has said he wouldn't be surprised if hospital admissions surged this November to levels seen during the worst days of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, other experts are rubbishing these predications, labelling them as “alarmist” while still urging people to be vigilant.
While the experts help newspaper create headlines on whether or not a second wave is coming to the UK, we do urge business to err on the side of caution.
An alarming 39% of the businesses we contacted during lockdown were either closed or struggling to continue to operate (see our previous article Help your business ‘stay open’ for enquiries during lockdown.) While I appreciate that some businesses cannot continue in any capacity in a lockdown scenario, there were others that could have effectively utilised staff working from home if they had the right technology in place.
And with no guarantee of the furlough scheme being extended after October 31 in the face of another wave, businesses will want to put their staff to work if they are paying them once again.
During the first lockdown, we were inundated with requests from businesses needing to divert their calls to mobile devices and to update welcome messages and automated attendants, or to enquire about remote working communications solutions to keep them up and running. If a second wave occurs, our checklist below should help you prepare so you can keep your business open even when your staff are working at home.
Check your phone is diverted properly
Make sure your business telephone numbers are diverted to mobile or home phones. By keeping a list of the primary and secondary diverts you can ensure all your calls are answered by a nominated member of staff.
Upgrade your phone system to enable flexible working
If you have an older phone system, it will not have the flexibility to incorporate remote workers. To be blunt, it will be an ageing piece of hardware that links to desk-based handsets that are all located on site. This model does not fit with the way we work now. We appreciate that businesses will be carefully guarding their profit margins, but a modern phone system does not require a capital investment and the monthly subscription often equates to exiting line rental, call and support costs. Meanwhile, you will have a phone system than can easily accommodate remote workers to keep you open for business.
Enable video/audio conferencing for staff and customers
During the first lockdown, businesses had to adapt quickly and either enabled or invested in video and audio conferencing, plus other unified communications tools which keep all staff connected and means you can continue to ‘meet’ new or existing customers.
Boost connectivity to your data
When everyone worked at the office, business data and IT systems were usually held on servers in the same building and were accessed via the local area network. Remote workers use virtual private networks to access this data now and your office-based internet connectivity bandwidth may not be sufficient to support multiple staff members all logging onto your servers at the same time. You can boost your office bandwidth or relocate your servers to a data centre where the bandwidth will support remote working access.
Provide staff with mobile data SIMs
With people working from home, providing staff with mobile data SIMs gives them connectivity dedicated to your business rather sharing bandwidth with other people in the house.
Enable security on business devices
Security is key if your staff are working from home on a business or personal device. By enabling cloud security tools, you can extend your network perimeter and protect remote workers.
The above checklist is a whistle-stop tour of the options you may need to consider ahead of a potential second wave...which we all hope does not occur. You may find our more detailed Business guide to the ‘new normal’ helpful too, as even if a second wave does not transpire, you may be considering a long-term remote working strategy. Please do not hesitate to contact me if we can help you with any of the above.