You’re not alone – COVID challenges

Building a company from scratch is a challenge in its own right. So when COVID-19 hit the global stage it threw up a whole extra raft of issues.

The stats

Having worked in a startup myself, the collaborative effort involved is vital. It’s much more than sharing ideas, solving problems, and making plans. It’s the energy and strength that you get from your colleagues. Lockdown isn’t ideal at a time where new ventures will want to be as responsive as possible, which is reflected in the findings of a new report, “How 4 in 5 SMEs are overcoming the work from home challenge during COVID-19”.

The poll of 1,000 workers, carried out by business telecoms provider Onecom, found that since the lockdown, a massive 86% of the SMEs reported that they had to overcome significant communications, team management, or technology challenges just to maintain ‘business as usual’. So if you’re having trouble then you’re definitely not alone.

The report found that by far the most common problem was facilitating group calls or finding relevant communications platforms for home working. Half of the respondents reported that as an issue. The other issues that filled the top 5 were: managing employees remotely 27%, home-based interruptions 25%, taking and receiving calls 24%, and responding to and receiving emails 23%.

Possibly of more interest to startups was the fact that communication issues due to lack of face-to-face time, motivating employees remotely, and managing team priorities were reported by 22%, 21%, and 16% respectively.

Advice for getting back on track

The report also included some handy tips for how to address these problems, for those who are still struggling with the new ‘normal’. After all, even if restrictions are being lifted there is no guarantee that there won’t need to further lockdowns in the future.

  • Establish the necessary communications channels – consider instant messaging applications to add a real-time level of interaction above and beyond email. And with body language and tone of voice making up 93% of all communication, a video conferencing platform is vital.
  • Review communications procedures and expectations – the study showed that 31% of SME workers have experienced more communication errors since the lockdown. So consider company-wide all-hands virtual meetings, along with regular one-to-one and team video calls.
  • Provide new technology for home working – perform an audit to figure out what new requirements you might need. From new hardware, such as laptops, and software, such as Trello or Microsoft Teams, to ensuring fast and secure broadband.
  • Design productivity friendly workspaces – things like temperature, lighting, noise, and distractions can impact concentration and productivity in big ways. So prepare for what might be a lengthy period of working from home by creating a dedicated space that you can treat as office space.
  • Consider everyone’s social wellbeing and health – for example, those who are parents will have to manage the whole work/home-life balance in a new way. Particularly with children being home-schooled. Also think about replacing any activity that would provide social bonding in the workplace with a virtual version.

It’s clear that the effects from COVID-19 have been a body-blow to the UK economy. Many businesses, both small and large, are struggling in the current economic climate, but with a bit of care and attention startups can address these new challenges and hopefully build themselves some resilience for any such situations that may happen in the future.