We find ourselves in the middle of an impossible balancing act; walking a tightrope, hoping to tip-toe our way to the safety of the platform on the other side.
If we thought we had reached the other side during a summer where infections were largely managed, the spike that we’re seeing in many countries across Europe has certainly made the finishing line seem further away.
The sudden increase in infections has caused governments to step back from the advice they were offering just weeks ago, as we return to greater restrictions. This presents great challenges for businesses and individuals, but there are some positives.
While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus, we are learning more and more, and this is giving us better tools to deal with both the virus and its economic consequences. However, while we have better tools to help us navigate the tightrope, it’s important that we don’t lose focus on the task at hand.
Businesses still need to make money while taking every step to protect people, and to do this, they need to continue to take responsibility.
What’s the Situation?
Comparing the testing numbers to the first wave of infections can be a little misleading. During the initial outbreak of the virus, countries weren’t doing nearly the same level of testing as they are now. This means that a fraction of the cases were being identified then compared to now.
In this sense it’s a little bit like comparing apples to oranges, but a helpful number to look at to get a sense of where we are at the moment is the R number - the average number of people one infected person will infect.
If this number is below one, then the number of cases is going to decrease, but the more this number increases above one, the faster the virus is going to spread.
While countries across Europe have largely been able to keep this number below one for the majority of the summer, it’s now creeping well above that vital rate. At present the UK R rate is estimated to be between 1.3 and 1.6, representing a growth rate of 5% to 9% a day. Similar numbers are being projected across the continent, which has forced governments to act.
This has resulted in a new wave of restrictions, with curfews, local lockdowns, restrictions on social gatherings, and a call for the return to work from home putting added pressure on businesses.
Normality is Still a Long Way Off
For some businesses, there will have been a temptation to make minimal investment in COVID-19 protocols and hope for a quick end to the pandemic. While the relatively quiet summer might have lulled companies into this false sense of security, the latest developments will surely be shaking.
With restrictions being tightened once more, those businesses that invested early in things like work from home infrastructure will find they’re in a much better situation the second time around. While we await a vaccine, it appears normality is still a long way off, so minimising investment in COVID protocols and continuing to hope are likely to cost businesses money in the long run.
As governments continue to assess the balance of suppressing the virus against damaging the economy, regulations are likely to be quite fluid, but with the right infrastructure and protocols, businesses will be able to minimise the disruption.
If they haven’t already, then businesses have to see the value in taking extra responsibility for their COVID protocols and putting in place a structure that allows them to continue to function at a high level.
Technology Can Wrestle Back Some of the Control
Many businesses can and have been able to leverage technology to limit the impact of restrictions. Companies have invested in their ability to successfully leverage work from home, and introduced innovative technology such as temperature scanning personnel management systems to keep people safe and business moving.
In a time where it can feel like businesses and individuals have little control over what’s happening to them, this can help to wrestle back some of that control.
With the right measures, restrictions might change how you work, but they’re less likely to damage output on such a large scale. For this reason, investing in the technology that powers your COVID protocols can very quickly earn back its investment.
We know what the major tools the government has to try and stop the virus are - mask wearing, limiting social interactions, encouraging people to work from home, increased testing, track and trace, and as a last resort, complete lockdown. Technology can help limit the impact of all of these restrictions, and now should be the time to make sure you have it in place if you don’t already.
People Still Have to Go to Work
While there’s rightfully a focus on work from home, it’s important to remember that some people are going to have to go to work come what may. Nurses, postmen, delivery drivers, and countless others don’t have the option to work from home, and without them, everything would grind to a halt.
We’ve got to do everything we can to protect these people, and once again, technology can play its part.
No matter where we end up in the balance between suppressing the virus and protecting the economy, there will be people who are still out in the community doing their work. While we may not yet be capable of completely limiting the risk of COVID spread, we can limit the risk to these people and reduce the impact on businesses.
There may be a balance to strike, but wherever we land, businesses need to be investing in the protocols that are going to keep these essential workers safe.
Accepting the Reality
For businesses, it’s imperative to accept the reality we’re presented with. If the first wave wasn’t the time to invest in new protocols, then now has to be.
We’re going to be dealing with this balancing act of suppressing the virus vs protecting the economy for the foreseeable future. This is the unfortunate reality, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can limit the impact of the resulting legislation.
Business finds itself in the middle of the whole balancing act, but as always, it finds a way to navigate difficult times. However, those that truly invest in the process are going to be most successful at doing this.
Balancing the economy with fighting the virus is going to be a running theme and businesses are going to have to deal with rapidly changing legislation and advice. These turbulent times will in all likelihood bring great difficulties to your business, but like with anything, if you’re well prepared, then you can limit the impact of outside forces.
Perhaps with the first wave, waiting things out and hoping for a quick end to the pandemic was a viable approach, but we’ve now seen it wasn’t a successful one. Second time around, companies need to invest in a plan that’s going to give them the best chance of limiting the damaging effects of Coronavirus legislation whilst allowing business to thrive to the greatest extent possible.
Technology can help with this, and at Meridian, we’re dedicated to helping companies of all sizes find the solution that allows them to function during this difficult period. It’s clear that this issue is going to be with us for some time, so now is the time to take those extra steps if you haven’t already.