Every two years or so, fears of some health risk seem to invade the thinking of consumers everywhere. SARs, ebola and now the current coronavirus outbreak ramp up fears and impact the way people do business.
Wuhan, China, is ground zero for Covid-19 coronavirus, with about 2,770 deaths — mainly in that country. Because China is also a hub of tech production, the impact of the virus has caused stock markets to tumble and impact companies such as Apple. Even Facebook and Google saw drops in their shares as tech in China went on lockdown due to people quarantined inside their homes and unable to make it to work.
No matter how many cases of Covid-19 are in your area, if you are in the tech industry, your company is likely impacted by concerns over the illness. Like many of the diseases before, however, this too shall pass. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to mitigate the damage and keep moving forward with business as usual. For starters, you can mandate for your employees to wear a face mask as they work in the office.
1. Don’t Panic
Concerns over a potential global pandemic sent stock markets plummeting in the last week of February 2020. Tech stocks were once seen as a fairly stable investment, but have had the biggest losses. Industry shares fell 9.3% compared to 7.3% across all market sectors. However, as of the latest reports, the stock market is already rebounding with a 1,300-point gain on March 2.
If you publicly trade shares of your company and your value has fallen, take heart. It may be a temporary panic with people selling, but just as many will start buying again. Take a deep breath and continue business as usual.
2. Plan For Supply Chain Disruption
Most major U.S. tech companies sell products such as computers, video games and mobile devices. China manufactures most of these products. Because of so many quarantined people in Asia, they can’t get to work. Some were visiting family for the Chinese New Year and can’t get back to the big cities to physically make the parts or assemble the products. Apple announced there would be a shortage of iPhones in 2020 due to the virus.
Now is the time to plan for other products to sell, find a local manufacturer or work on upgrading systems rather than worrying about physical products. Once supplies flow again, you’ll likely make up for lost revenue, but have a plan in place that keeps funds flowing through other means.
3. Shift Event Planning
If you’re planning any type of event, create a backup plan now. You may wind up canceling the event if Covid-19 continues spreading. Although unlikely, it is possible people will stop traveling even domestically and avoid crowded spaces.
Keep records of cancelations so you can plan for lower attendance. Talk to the venue about penalties if you wind up having to cancel due to people withdrawing from the event due to health concerns. Take out some insurance to help recoup some of your costs.
4. Expect Lower Sales
Although the United States is a viable market, most tech companies sell a vast number of products in China. New trade deals and the Chinese’s thirst for technology has made it the second-largest economy in the world. People staying at home and not going to the stores hurt tech companies that rely on foreign sales to stay afloat. Plan now for lower sales by looking at new markets you might break into. Ramp up efforts in the U.S. Add an online shopping component so people can still buy even if they don’t visit a physical storefront.
Companies such as Apple have closed some stores in the country for now and reduced hours drastically at others. Shutting down operations when there isn’t business saves the company money, as it doesn’t have to pay salaries when they aren’t making sales. It can easily return to standard hours once fears of the virus pass.
5. Seek Alternative Sources
If most of the parts for your products come from China but are assembled elsewhere, you have more options to continue production. Seek new suppliers in areas not as impacted by Covid-19 coronavirus. Apple is one example of a company looking for different parts companies. Most of the manufacturing in the city of Wuhan was completely shut down, so it was forced to get creative in seeking solutions.
6. Overcome Labor Shortages
Even if you sell a digital product rather than a physical one, you may have some issues to overcome with this health scare. Companies such as Google shut down their offices in China temporarily. There are fewer workers in those areas to oversee various product lines. A company as big as Google has an easier time absorbing such a blow. If your brand is smaller, think about how you’ll overcome any labor issues due to quarantine lockdowns.
7. Protect Your Employees
Come up with plans now for how you’ll protect your employees from contracting the virus should it become rampant in the United States. Put procedures in place for telecommuting options. Inform employees not to come to work if they have certain symptoms or feel under the weather. Off them paid sick leave, so they don’t infect the rest of your staff and you wind up with an entire office out with the illness.
Reduce workdays, offer healthy food options and disinfect your entire office frequently. The more proactive you are, the less likely the virus will spread because of bodies packed into a small space.
8. Cancel Travel Plans
If your employees often travel for sales, conferences or other events, put a moratorium on excursions for the near future. With confirmed deaths in the United States, even domestic travel could expose your workers to the illness and impact your business further.
While you can’t stop living and running your business, you can take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. If any of your employees travel to China or an impacted area, require them to self-quarantine for a few weeks. Let them work from home or give them additional time off.
As with so many health panics of the past, the Covid-19 coronavirus will likely fizzle out with time. However, the impact of it may last for many months. It never hurts to prepare for the worst while expecting the best. Look for opportunities in the scramble to overcome the impact on the tech industry.
While the virus might impact production and travel, will more people stay at home and play games or stream videos? How will they fill those quarantined hours, and how can you fill the gap? With a little planning, your tech company should come out ahead of the game.
Lexie is a freelance web designer and UX strategist. She loves all things design and spending time with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.