Coronavirus ideas exchange: Four-day week to avoid layoffs
There has been a society-wide transition to working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Many businesses have had to change their model altogether as the government recommends the avoidance of all but necessary contact with others. Others are now struggling to stay in business.
Our new regular feature the ‘Coronavirus ideas exchange’ is giving businesses in all sectors an opportunity to chronicle the move to working from home – and offer tips on how to limit its impact or even harness new opportunities.
To contribute, fill in the form at the bottom of this article (or at this link).
What has been the biggest change for you and your business?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO of online luggage storage platform Stasher: “Travel is one of the worst-affected areas, so being a start-up in travel is hard. Our priority is to preserve cash and keep costs low while the revenue is drying up, but be ready to restart when people are able to travel again. Bookings have been falling all month, but the UK fell off a cliff after the PM’s announcement [last week]. We’re modelling to make zero revenues in the next two months to be on the safe side.”
Iglika Ghouse, founder and CEO at mobile beauty treatments app USPAAH – Your Spa At Home: “A drop in revenue and customer bookings.”
Krisztina Tardos, founder and CEO of The Merit Club, an online members club for London’s most ambitious women: “The virus has directly impacted our in-person events and how members use their membership benefits.”
John Gourd, CEO of high-tech membership organisation The Cambridge Network: “No face-to-face events, meetings or training and the move to working from home.”
Mark Barlow, CEO at digital adoption solution specialist AppLearn: “We primarily sell to HR, IT and change leaders – and they are all busy people right now! Although we’ve had to switch to remote meetings and accept that our projects with them may not be front of mind, our technology is enabling people to be productive and is proving to be an important tool right now for collaboration.”
Describe a challenge you have faced – and how you overcame it
Wedderburn-Day: “We’re a small team, so to avoid making any layoffs, we’ve all agreed to drop to four-day weeks – this saves 20% of salary costs and avoids us losing anyone, since we’ve worked so hard to assemble this team. As founders, we’re cutting salaries 50% and redirecting our usual business development efforts into managing finances and motivating the team during this period. We can still work on improving the product itself and we need to redirect our usual business development effort into useful groundwork for the future.”
Ghouse: “Both customers and therapists were worried about treatment safety, so we had to determine and put in place new hygiene guidance and communicate it to our stakeholders very early on, to ease off fears.”
Tardos: “We had to react really quickly to not lose members the minute they realised they won’t be able to use the benefits of their membership as a result of social distancing measures. To date everything we did was about in-person connections and experiences, to get them out the house and help them explore new things. However, the core of our membership has always been the community, so we decided to focus and strengthen that and have developed a Virtual Workspace for women who are now confined to working from home to help them combat loneliness while they also continue to feel inspire through our chats, digital meet-ups, webinars, power hour sessions and more. We now have a busy schedule of online activities which will later complement our in-person offerings and provide inspiration and opportunities for women to connect until then.”
Gourd: “No face-to-face training. We’ve moved online for the delivery of this.”
Barlow: “Changing our working methods to remote, while still keeping our company culture alive. We have several initiatives such as a Teams site, a company WhatsApp group, a video-first policy for all meetings. People have responded really well so far to the change and are sharing photos of their home working space, their kids, and dogs which is all helping to keep spirits high. We’ve also upped the number of scrum meetings to make sure people are connected and stay motivated, and have weekly company updates.”
What key tips do you have for others?
Wedderburn-Day: “We use Trello to assign tasks and stay organised, and then Slack is our day-to-day go to for all internal conversations – whether that’s individual messaging to other employees or group channels, from ‘departments’ to ‘celebrations’ to ‘bug reporting’. In times like these, Slack allows us to stay connected in real time. Each team posts every morning what they aim to achieve and at the end of the day give an analysis of how it went. Currently all face to face meetings are cancelled, both internally and externally, meaning that video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts are essential in helping us feel like we are still all together.”
Ghouse: “In such uncertain times, cash is king. You have to assume worst case scenario and put cost cutting measures in place such as cutting marketing spend, any outside contractors etc, to make sure you weather the storm. Perhaps make all staff take a week’s unpaid leave, in order to avoid redundancies. Better everyone suffer a little bit, than some people suffer a lot.”
Tardos: “We connect through Zoom and Slack which has been instrumental in staying on track. Sharing the workflow on Asana means that we all have an understanding of next steps and what’s needed to complete the projects. We have always worked remotely, so this has not changed for us as a result of the virus, but we use Zoom more for sure!”
Gourd: “We have set up a Slack group with multiple channels for different subjects – we made sure one channel is for non-work chat. We have a virtual team meeting every morning and an afternoon ‘coffee meeting’ where work talk is banned. Set cut-off time for emails and work. Ensure that the team’s welfare is first on the agenda at all meetings so that we can support each other.”
Barlow: “We’ve been working hard to create Adopt Remote – a lite version of our software which will be available for free as long as COVID-19 keeps us at home, for businesses who are struggling with the shift to remote working to help them stay productive during this period. Our Bee Productive campaign is all about keeping businesses communicating and collaborating while channelling the unity and defiance of the Manchester worker bee spirit. Pooling our resources and expertise is just one of the many ways we can work together to ensure other organisations have the ability to continue operating and do what they do best.”