Just months ago, coronavirus was barely on our radars. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the globe, touching everyone from everyday citizens in Europe and Asia to Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Hollywood actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

As coronavirus appears to be easing in Asia, where the outbreak reportedly began in Wuhan, China, December 2019, it has rapidly spread to at least 141 countries including Italy, where more than 24,747 cases of the virus have been confirmed.

The virus has killed at least 6,440 people worldwide (and counting), forcing entire cities into isolation and crippling the economy, which is taking a negative toll on businesses.

Nike, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Finch, Glossier, Patagonia, Google and Apple are among the largest global companies to temporarily close their doors to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As we enter this new world of uncertainty, executives and business leaders are working towards implementing appropriate measures for the safety of their employees and future of the company.

Follow in Apple’s footsteps

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on 14 March that all retail stores outside of Greater China will be closed until 27 March. He also ensured there are policies in place for personal or family health circumstances created by coronavirus.

“One of those lessons (from the Asia outbreak) is that the most effective way to minimise risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximise social distance,” Tim explained in a statement. “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.

Protect business coronavirus COVID-19

“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. That means team members should work remotely if their job allows, and those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximise interpersonal space.”

Support your clients and staff

The travel industry is also taking a massive hit with increasing travel restrictions. The European Union has banned all non-essential travel into the region for at least 30 days; France is in the midst of a 15-day lockdown, as is Spain and Italy; and international flights into China, South Korea and Japan have been cut or suspended until further notice.

Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky shared on Twitter that the company will support guests through allowing cancellations and refunds, as well as working on methods to support hosts during these testing times.

“We don’t want guests to feel like they have to travel because they cannot get their money back,” Brian announced. “Second, our hosts have acted like heroes during this time. The majority of hosts have chosen to give their guests a partial or full refund at their cost.

“We are working on some bold ideas to support hosts, and we will have news very soon.”

Keys to working in social isolation

As incredibly high numbers of the global population continue to go into lockdown, many are practicing social isolation where people are being encouraged to work from home wherever possible.

Protect business coronavirus COVID-19

Lisa Messenger, founder of The Collective, previously told The CEO Magazine that employers need to set systems and processes for productive remote working.

“Managers and executives have to put into place really strong KPIs and what they expect in terms of output,” Lisa says.

Being creative and having boundaries will also ensure employees can work from anywhere and be successful.

However, for some of the workforce, a flexible working arrangement is not an option, putting them at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Taking protective measures against coronavirus

Avani Hotels & Resorts Group CEO Minor International Dillip Rajakarier released a statement explaining that staff will undergo temperature screening every day to ensure a healthy work environment, while ongoing training has been put in place for optimal preparation to provide information to guests.

Besides extra precautions taking place, including access to sanitisers and temperature readers, the company is “business as usual”.

Protect business coronavirus COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak map accurate as of 13 March 2020.

“Avani Hotels & Resorts is closely monitoring the global situation and is actively taking steps to mitigate the impact and spread of COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel Coronavirus,” Dillip says. “Avani continues to work with local health authorities while strictly adhering to advice from both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Businesses booming from COVID-19 pandemic

Many businesses may be struggling to deal with the pandemic, but it has driven an increased demand for apps and mobile work solutions.

Elegant Media Co-Founder and CEO Anushka Bandara says the IT industry is one of the few winners of coronavirus.

“A key area of strong growth is investment in the upgrade of technology for those going mobile for daily business operations,” he says. “We are up 70% on last year – we are definitely in the midst of a boom and our colleagues across the IT sector are experiencing similar trends.

“The coronavirus is definitely prompting businesses to create online marketplaces for their customers and remote working options for their employees.”

According to the Australian mobile tech company, the easiest way for businesses to mobilise staff during these testing times is through cloud-based solutions and apps.

Developing online sharing arrangements that meet the needs of the company, identifying and implementing suitable security measures, utilising cloud-based capabilities for optimal engagement and enhancing online tools are some of the actions businesses should consider.

“A lot of businesses are suddenly facing the prospect of running their business without anyone in the office,” Anushka says. “Every business should have some sort of tech-based contingency plan. Let the coronavirus serve as a reminder of that.”