While communicating with clients and offering help and advice regarding events postponements and cancellations due is a key focus for most event agencies and suppliers during the coronavirus outbreak, it is crucial to make sure you are preparing your own business to get through this crisis and keeping staff informed.
How to manage internal challenges was one of the key areas discussed at micebook’s emergency leaders’ event in London last week. Here are some of the key take-aways:
*One simple thing that every business can do now is to do a trial work from home day of all staff to make sure your systems are up to handling remote working for everyone. That way you can make sure you are prepared for the worst-case scenarios such as if government does enforce office closures and make everyone to work at home, or if someone in your office is diagnosed and people need to self-isolate.
*Businesses also need to test that their systems are really robust to make sure they are protected with people working from home as there will be an increase in cyber-crime. As we encourage our teams to work from home – we need to ensure our IT security is strong so that needs to be in the business contingency planning.
*The biggest challenge is going to be retaining staff over the next few months. Some redundancies may unfortunately be inevitable, but here’s some of the things that agencies can do and are doing to reduce overheads and protect staff:
-Reduce staff to a four-day week
-Ask employees to take a salary sacrifice
-Cancel bonuses until business picks up again
-Delay or freeze recruitment plans
-Not take on a new recruit to save current team members
-Get people in the events team to upskill in digital rather than taking on a new digital person
-Get staff to take their annual holiday allowance before the end of August as you’ll need everyone available for the last few months of the year to deliver all the events that have been postponed if things are back to normal by then.
-Get staff to catch up on admin and all the jobs that never get done while events are being cancelled
*Most importantly – during these challenging times, make sure you are open and honest with your teams and keep them in the loop on how the business is doing and what steps are being made to protect the business and why.
*Freelancers – they will be much needed in busier times ahead, but how do we manage freelancers in the meantime? There is no right or wrong answer in terms of doing the right thing according to one agency head – be open and honest and try to help them through it as best you can. If work is postponed, try and commit to give them the project when it does happen. Can you move them onto different projects in the meantime?
*How much this crisis affects your business will depends on when your financial year-end is. One agency said they had extended their year end from March to June because they have had a really strong year, it means they can afford to take the hit in this current financial year and start again in July when hopefully things will begin to improve.
*Look at the budget announcement and see what benefits the government is putting in place to help protect businesses in travel and tourism sector.
*Duty of care to staff – what can we ask of staff in terms of travelling? Monitor the latest FCO advice on where the main risk areas are. Most agencies still have staff travelling out on events currently. If staff are concerned about travelling, you can’t force them to travel and need to be flexible and find someone else to go or if necessary, go yourself.
*It’s all very well to say that the show must go on, but all of us in the events industry live with people who are not. People could live with someone elderly or with underlying health issues, so we need to be mindful of that.
*Agency leaders need to be more hands-on and get more involved at an operational level, so they are prepared to step in to deliver projects if needed.
*Crisis management specialist Tranquilico has shared the following Coronavirus Protocol advice for staff:
-Staff must call in sick and/or remove themselves from the office self-isolate and ensure they prevent any spread of infection by using tissues and sanitising hand gel if they display any cold or flu like symptoms whilst at work. (In particular a fever or persistent cough). They should remain off work for an initial 7-day period. Statutory sick pay will be paid for this from day one.
-Staff will also get 14 days statutory sick pay from the first day off work if they are subsequently diagnosed with Covid 19
-All staff must enforce strict hand washing protocols and ensure everyone uses hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day, especially after eating, smoking, going outside etc.
-We will make tissues available and promote Catch It, Bin it, Kill it when sneezing to both visitors and staff
-We must ensure all equipment and public facilities in the office are cleaned and sanitised regularly. We need to prevent the spread of infection via good sanitisation procedures. (Door knobs, handrails, hard surfaces, high traffic areas, touch screens, tea/coffee making facilities etc).
-Advise any visitor who calls in wanting to re-arrange their appointment with us due to worry of Covid 19 that we are taking all necessary precautions to minimise the risk and have comprehensive Coronavirus Protocols in place.
-COMMUNICATION is Key – we will make these plans visible to both our staff and visitors so that everyone is aware of the action we are taking