How COVID-19 has changed small businesses

Although small businesses are starting to recover from their COVID-19 hit, many concerns still linger

COVID-19 has changed how small businesses operate, from applying for relief such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to updating payroll processes. Payroll—comprised of complex processes including garnishments and unemployment claims, payroll taxes, and classifying workers—doesn’t have to be confusing. By understanding payroll changes, payroll technology, and the ebb and flow of time and attendance, you can improve and simplify your payroll processes. WeWork Business Solutions powered by VensureHR makes professional services simple, so you can revitalize your small business during this time.

Small businesses sustained the biggest economic impact from COVID-19. More than eight months after the U.S. started experiencing widespread closures, one in five small businesses are now closed—19 percent temporarily, and one percent permanently. Eighty-two percent of small business owners report concerns about the aftereffects of the pandemic, and 55 percent believe it will take six months to a year for businesses to return to normal.

Although polls show that small businesses are working toward recovery, there are still some significant concerns for business owners. As small businesses reopen, they may continue to face some common hurdles. Here’s how they are beginning to rebuild, reimagine, and prepare for the future.

Health and safety guidelines

At the onset of the pandemic, small businesses adapted processes and operations to keep up with quickly changing government health and safety guidelines. Some things they have done include:

Isolating teams for health and safety purposes 

Small business owners have had to get creative in order to ensure employees maintain six feet of distance at all times. They have limited the number of individuals allowed in break rooms, restrooms, and other common areas to prevent crowding. Many businesses have implemented daily temperature checks for anyone entering the workplace (to screen for fever and other potential COVID-19 symptoms), provided face masks and hand sanitizer, and ensured common areas are frequently cleaned and stocked with sanitation supplies. 

Accommodating their workforce

Accommodations for employees may include offering flexible work arrangements, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and adjusting job duties to help reduce potential exposure to the virus. Employers should review accommodations on a case-by-case basis to meet employee needs.

Training employees

Businesses with workers who are required to use PPE have trained them on when to use PPE, what is necessary, how to properly use it, how to properly dispose or disinfect PPE, and what PPE protects against, as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which regulates the workplace health and safety of employees. Training also includes reviewing procedures for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as how to report potential cases. Training is conducted during scheduled hours and at no cost to the employee, as required by OSHA.

Related: How the Paycheck Protection Program can assist you

Addressing new forms of stress

Stress affects people in different ways and to different extents—and employers need to be cognizant of that now more than ever. Businesses have developed employee assistance programs, partnered with local service providers, and invested in other useful resources to support employees who may be experiencing higher levels of stress than before.

Business operational efficiencies

Small businesses have also continued to improve their technology, communications, and brand reputation management. To empower teams to make responsible decisions, businesses have developed a healthier, more engaged workplace culture.

IT/technology services

Cybersecurity has been a long-standing issue for businesses even before COVID-19, but it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic due to less oversight and security in remote work. As employees have transitioned to working remotely, employers have created or revamped their remote work policies to ensure all safety protocols are being enforced. 

To help you reinforce cybersecurity protocols, you may consider:

  • Training employees on identifying cyber-attacks, including phishing, scams, and other cybersecurity risks
  • Ensuring employees understand and follow the proper procedures to report and address cybersecurity breaches
  • Reviewing company policies regarding cybersecurity safety best practices, such as continued employee training and education

HR services

As businesses have shifted to remote work environments, remote recruiting and onboarding have become part of the new normal. Virtual recruiting is another trend that has affected business operational efficiencies. From virtual meetings to telecommunications, communication apps and software like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and GoToMeeting are boosting remote processes.

Transparency regarding business decisions and employee-related matters in the face of a crisis is always integral to maintaining open, honest dialogues with employees, clients, and stakeholders. Communication among all relevant parties is imperative to maintain a high-level, organized transparency, as well as improve brand reputation management. Responding to both negative and positive feedback, seeking assistance from third-party service providers, and maintaining consistent, fluent communications are all ways to support healthy communications and brand-reputation management.

Related: The complete guide to understanding payroll

Payroll services

According to National Payroll Week 2019, approximately 93 percent of U.S. employees are participating in direct deposit. However, COVID-19 coerced many businesses into remote work settings, causing the remaining businesses still utilizing paper checks to update their infrastructure—including switching to direct deposit. This simple payroll switch benefits both employer and employee. It can improve efficiency and control for payroll processing, offer cost savings by eliminating bookkeeping fees, and give business owners access to customizable reports. Employees get the benefit of immediate access to their earnings, which can be dispersed across multiple accounts, at their discretion. 

Accurate time and attendance logs are integral to accurate payrolls. Time and attendance software automatically calculate hours worked, accumulated time off, and other time-tracking capabilities that influence payroll funds. Electronic time and attendance software offers real-time correction, scheduling, attendance, and compliance features to tailor to your business needs, as well as secure, mobile access from anywhere.

Reporting capabilities, such as time off, auditing, overtime, and attendance can be useful for budget management. For example, in managing employee overtime, you can pull a report through your payroll software to see which employees are working overtime. This can provide insight into department staffing needs, reallocating budgets, and other internal business efficiencies that may need modification. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, small businesses can rely on WeWork Business Solutions powered by VensureHR to ensure proper business efficiencies are in place to strengthen the success of small businesses. Experts from Vensure and WeWork also discuss more small business recovery best practices in the first episode of the Business Solutions webinar series.

Lizz Morse is a marketing and communications specialist at Vensure Employer Services. She holds a master of psychology from Grand Canyon University and has been published in Attorney at Law Magazine, Real Estate Agent Magazine, and The Good Men Project, among others. Morse has also ghostwritten a number of articles focused on small business administration and operations, appearing in publications such as Thrive Global and Small Biz Daily. 

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