Are businesses prepared for a second wave?

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Date: 13 October 2020

Bakery owners

Many UK businesses, both big and small, are taking a "wait and see" approach to planning for winter lockdowns, according to a new report.

As the UK faces a second wave of COVID-19, Driving for Better Business has investigated how businesses are preparing for the next few months. It has surveyed 150 small business owners and 150 board-level decision-makers in larger firms to see how coronavirus has affected them and what plans they are making to protect their businesses.

The findings show that only a third of all the businesses surveyed have so far put in place any kind of plans to protect their business in the event of a resurgence of the virus. The other two-thirds are evenly split between those that have discussed the need for plans but have not yet created them, and those that are taking a "wait and see" approach.

Rebuilding post COVID-19 is a key concern for small firms, with 51% of SMEs citing this as a big issue compared to 34% of larger companies. Almost two-fifths (38%) of respondents cited the operational costs of running their business as a current concern; again, small firms (46%) are more concerned about this than larger enterprises (30%).

Support for staff is important for all firms but the findings show that while 46% of small firms regard the health and wellbeing of their employees as a key concern right now, just 28% of large enterprises said the same. However, almost twice as many large firms than SMEs had some form of policy in place that included wellbeing and health measures relating to COVID-19.

Other key findings include:

  • 43% of SMEs already had flexible working policies in place prior to the pandemic, compared with just over a third of larger firms;
  • 40% of SMEs have introduced working from home, compared to 28% of large firms;
  • SMEs have been quicker to reactivate furloughed workers, with 32% bringing employees back into work compared with 25% of larger firms.

Simon Turner, campaign manager at Driving for Better Business, said: "Every organisation puts in place a business strategy and a plan to deliver on that strategy. They weave in contingencies that enable the plan to be flexible and to react to changing market conditions. Very few would have entered 2020 with a contingency to deal with the fallout from a global pandemic though.

"One thing that is certain though, is that firms must adjust quickly to the current environment and take every opportunity to minimise operational costs and improve efficiencies in order to give themselves the best chance of survival, and the ability to thrive as soon as conditions allow."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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