The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for small businesses. Nevertheless, it has forced many companies to get creative about how they offer goods and services. Small business owners and entrepreneurs have had to work smarter and harder to ensure their companies thrive, and to make changes in the midst of the pandemic in order to stay afloat. Some changes were already underway for many businesses, but COVID-19 forced a quicker transition. Others were almost inconceivable before the pandemic.
Some pivots that small businesses made in the past year have worked so well that they may be here to stay. Here are the small business adaptations that may survive beyond the pandemic.
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Which COVID health and safety measures might businesses decide to keep?
The spotlight has been on health and safety for virtually every business during the pandemic. Companies have scrutinized the safety of their teams and their customers. In some cases, they made adjustments to correct problems, and they ramped up cleaning, sanitizing, and their touchless services.
Some of the more stringent requirements, such as having several hand sanitizing stations in a physical retail store, may diminish as time passes. However, the general focus on sanitizing common areas is likely here to stay.
Many businesses are also rethinking how their employees respond if they are sick. Instead of encouraging an environment where staff show up for work even when they are clearly ill, companies are now encouraging employees to stay home for the sake of health and safety. Using sick time properly and taking advantage of opportunities to work from home may both be adaptations that companies will keep long-term.
Will there still be widespread retail and restaurant takeout and curbside pickup options?
Restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, and a whole host of other businesses found ways to offer products and services for consumers to “take and go.”
Restaurants that never provided takeout, for example, relied on those sales almost exclusively to stay afloat. COVID-19 has forced many businesses to offer previously unthinkable services. The same can be said about curbside pickup. Some food venues asked their staff to deliver food to the curb rather than the table to preserve their jobs.
Shifting the focus to drive-through services and contactless pickup instills customer confidence, even as businesses reopen their doors to the public. Nation’s Restaurant News notes that a survey conducted in May 2020 found that 43% of restaurant customers preferred drive-through to other options during COVID-19. Takeout and curbside pickup were preferred by roughly 33% of those surveyed. Third party delivery was the least popular.
What virtual services, communications, and events will remain post-COVID?
Businesses and nonprofits have been unable to hold their traditional events for the past year. Instead, they looked for other ways to drive business and connect with potential customers. General marketing has changed to focus more on virtual communication.
Service industries, such as health care, counseling, legal services, and consulting, have increased virtual services for clients. Even exercise classes and health coaching can be delivered through video conferencing. While these methods are helpful for social distancing, they also allow businesses to broaden their reach to new clients.
While virtual communication has presented some challenges, it has provided a much-needed means to stay in touch with employees and customers. As companies reopen, it would not be surprising if the corner yoga studio, for instance, has bothe in-person and virtual classes.
What does this mean for our reliance on digital technology?
The increased use of technology during COVID-19 has been astounding. According to the New York Times, even as early as April 2020, internet usage had skyrocketed. Today, some businesses have changed to function almost exclusively online. Video conferencing services have been invaluable to stay connected to employees, clients, suppliers, and others.
By some accounts, the remote working movement was fast-tracked because of COVID-19. The change is decreasing demand for office space, which can reduce overhead for some businesses.
Although many companies will want staff to come back to work in person, it would not be surprising to see hybrid working arrangements. Now that many small businesses have been forced to put the infrastructure in place, remote work is likely to remain an option.
Rocket Lawyer Helps Small Business Owners Work Confidently
COVID-19 has presented a lot of legal challenges for small businesses—from changing terms on leases to dealing with employment law issues. Rocket Lawyer has your back with COVID-specific legal information and assistance in the COVID Legal Center. If you have a legal question specific to your business, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.