The speed of the COVID-19 developments is both disconcerting and daunting. 

Many of us are trying to safeguard ourselves while caring for elderly or immuno-compromised family members. Small and local businesses are being hit hard, with a substantial amount facing the disheartening possibility of closing their doors for good. Families are doing all they can to find some sense of normalcy at home. 

More businesses are thinking about their role and responsibility in times of crisis—but with resources in a crunch and concerns over losing customers, prioritising hasn’t been easy.

For many wildly successful businesses, strong corporate social responsibility has become the pillar of their identity and customer base—even during harder times.

It’s a natural, human way to deepen the relationship with modern consumers who care about how businesses use their responsibility for the greater good.

As a business leader, you can tap into one of the most important components of CSR—putting a human face on businesses. But before we dive into how your business can respond to the pandemic, a reminder of why corporate social responsibility is so important.

For one thing, it’s simply the right thing to do. It’s human, it’s responsible, and it shows you care.

But the value of being a good corporate citizen stretches way beyond the satisfaction and pride of providing support to the community or environment. 

By communicating empathy, understanding and support during a fundamental time of need, you can respond to the current dislocation caused by COVID in a way that will be remembered and appreciated by your employees and customers.

4 easy but meaningful ways your business can help

  1. Put your employees first

The comfort and safety of employees should always be a business’s first priority. But with a global health pandemic, it quickly becomes the most fundamental part of a business’s survival.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all fix for improving workspace circumstances, one thing you can control is how much flexibility you give employees to carry out their job.

Most employees are already working from home, so this has to extend further than simply letting employees keep their salaries. It means being flexible about working hours as well as methods and schedules of communication. 

With childcare, eldercare and general disruption to normal daily life, you need to show employees that you’re a people leader, not just a boss.

There’s also a lot of understandable nervousness about the potential spread of the epidemic, so employees are likely more concerned about their families than following strict workplace practices. Loosening the strings in certain areas, like working hours and workload, shows solidarity and empathy.

  1. Reach out to customers

The worst things businesses can do right now is to do nothing. 

We’re all juggling similar challenges. Almost every country has enforced strict stay-at-home sanctions and most of us have been plunged into unfamiliar habits and routines with little preparation. 

There’s no use pretending business as usual—and failing to mention the new circumstances can sit badly with your customers. 

Be transparent about what your business is going through, any new measures you’re taking, and how you’re keeping employees safe. People can empathise deeply with brands during a crisis—all you have to do is communicate with them about it.

  1. Go remote, even if you have to close your physical doors

Every business has the responsibility to make customers more comfortable in doing business with them. 

Although everyone has had to drastically reduce any trips outside the house, there are lots of people who still need the support, products or services from their favourite businesses—perhaps now even more so. 

Before you make the difficult decision to close up, look for ways to continue business while reducing contact. 

If you can help your customers remotely, do so.

Restaurants that are not able to physically serve customers, for example, might create a series of online cooking classes to help people recreate their favourite meals at home. Gyms and yoga studios can offer live streaming sessions that members can attend online. 

The important thing right now isn’t self-promotion, but to find genuine ways to show your customers you care and that there is empathy at the core of your business. It builds trust and loyalty.

  1. Be resourceful—especially if you can’t directly help

If you can’t directly help customers with your services or product, point them in the direction of someone who can. 

Assess the relevance of your business and if it doesn’t fit the needs of the current situation, recognise that so you’re not tempted to force-fit onto customers.

Instead, use your digital and social channels to observe and reach out to your audience to find out what they need. One great example of this was when Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta, US, saw there was a desperate need for hand sanitizer in the local community. Realising they were in a strong position to help, they decided to temporarily move from producing spirits and focused on producing hand sanitizer for emergency workers.

Don’t worry if you can’t help directly with your services or products—you can still bring value to your customers by sharing resources from other businesses. It won’t matter that it didn’t come from you. You’re sending the message that you’re here for your customers and you want to help.

Keeping an open line of communication with customers

Our world has been rattled during these last few weeks—between grappling with new norms of working and trying to stay above water, the need for human brands is essential.

As we all settle into this new norm of WFH and social distancing, we’re reminded (read: hit in the face) that feeling connected and having a sense of belonging extends much farther than an office cubicle.

What’s happening right now is global. It’s a direct, natural result that businesses, communities and employees around the world are taking solace in the immense power of purpose. As a leader, you can get involved in this and make an impact by keeping those lines of communication open with your customers. Small considerations are wildly meaningful, now more than ever. Find out how you can take your team from good to great by booking a consult with us.

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