• nat sharp

How can businesses adapt during the coronavirus?



Our new normal


It’s funny how life can change so significantly in just a few short weeks. At the start of 2020 would anyone really believe the world could look so different - most public places and gatherings shut, the football season cancelled, flights grounded, shelves bare and the number one essential item for panicked shoppers to be toilet roll!

This is the reality that we all now face, and it's daunting and overwhelming as we all adjust. This new normal is affecting every one of us in many different ways. There is much uncertainty. In my case, my husband and I are getting to grips with homeschooling and entertaining our girls whilst working full time and trying to carry off an air of professionalism with chaos in the background of video calls. But it is becoming widely accepted that this is fine. It is more important that we all muck in and give it a go as millions of families are.

We are finding our rhythm and even some sort of routine and there are some real positives from our captivity. Life is busy, and it's hectic, but the pace has somehow changed. No longer are we racing from one venue to another – in and out of the car from one activity to the next, spending hours a week commuting, constantly rushing, always late. We are eating together, we are playing games together, the girls are using their imaginations to fill their time and in fact, we’re all having to think on our feet and be creative.

Resilience


Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when the kids are arguing and the noise levels are something else. But for us and for many I’ve spoken to there are definitely some very good bits too.

This is because as humans we are resilient, we adapt, and we find new ways of doing things – helped by the technical, highly connected age in which we live. Video conferencing has come into its own and online communities have become a lifeline for many. And for now, the sun is shining and the planet is also recovering. Pollution is down with the smog lifting in our cities and the water in Venice has never been clearer, so it’s not all bad.

This ability to adapt and to change is also being seen in businesses in all different walks of life and it gives me tremendous hope. An article I read recently said this period will give budding entrepreneurs who previously lacked the time and headspace to bring their seedling ideas to fruition may now be afforded that opportunity.

Businesses are thinking outside the box and changing the way they do things. So many are offering new services and developing new ways to reach their customers and potentially appeal to new ones – online ballet classes for kids, virtual fitness classes, farm shops and ice cream factories offering delivery services to support the over-stretched supermarkets, theatres streaming musicals and shows for people to enjoy from their homes, fun virtual Easter activities for kids, hairdressers posting tips to help manage your roots… to name just a few.

Everywhere you look there are examples of businesses pushing boundaries and working differently to keep connected with their customers and adapt to this new temporary world.

What really stands out to me are the inspiring and heart-warming examples of businesses converting their business or changing their focus to help the relief effort. There are so many examples from internationally to locally. And it is humbling and inspiring to witness.

Smashguard Window Films based in Loughborough have stopped production of their usual window films to make medical visors for the NHS in response to the PPE equipment shortage throughout the UK. These are being offered free and they are working day and night to provide 50-60 a day.

The big brands are doing their bit too with Burberry repurposing its Yorkshire trench coat factory to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients. Furthermore, they are using their global supply chain to fast track delivery of over 100K surgical masks for NHS workers and made significant donations to Oxford University to help fund a vaccine.


And BA have redeployed some of their staff to work at the new Nightingale hospital in London – a big ask full of risk but something many have volunteered to do.

Leon, the restaurant chain is the mastermind behind ‘FeedNHS’. What started off as a few branches being kept open to help feed NHS staff and key workers, it has also now brought together other restaurants, food distributors and suppliers to deliver free daily hot meals to critical care staff. FeedNHS aims to deliver 5,600 meals a day to 5 major London hospitals. As Leon ramped up its support of the NHS, the team realised there was another side of the foodservice equation in need of help – food growers and producers. Launched this week, Feed Britain allows us to buy online grocery boxes of fruit, veg, dairy and meals. All profits will be donated to the NHS.

McCarthy & Stone, the biggest builder of retirement properties in the UK, has offered over 300 newly completed apartments in unoccupied developments to house older people recovering from Covid-19 or NHS key workers.

Locally in Kent, we see Salomans Estate becoming a Care Hotel for Hilton Nursing Partners and the NHS.

And let’s also not forget the daily PE sessions with Joe Wicks, a great way to get kids and parents up and moving but also helps provides a bit of the structure and routine so many of us need. This has been a huge hit around the world and raised considerable revenue which has all been donated back to the NHS.

Generation Z are also playing a vital part. I've just seen a brilliant example of true innovation with coronavirustutoring. University students are offering free online tutoring to pre GCSE and A-Level students to ensure those that can’t afford to access private tuition, can still get valuable support.

How businesses behave now, both to their customers and their staff will have a long-lasting impact on how they are perceived. It goes without saying that these examples of corporate philanthropy will reflect well on these brands now and in the future.

Doing our best



This period of time is a huge challenge for all of us, but it will pass. And just as the planet has done, business will regenerate and thrive again. There is no doubt there will be hard times ahead. But we must try to have faith, be flexible and adaptable.

We can all play our part. Let's push boundaries and find new ways of doing things. Whether that’s in our own homes, in our local community or running a business. And who knows what may be possible. Most importantly we must be kind to ourselves and each other and appreciate we are all functioning in a new norm and that we are doing our best.


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