With so many mixed messages circulating during the COVID-19 outbreak, here are 3 important points for workers and business owners

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The way Australians are working has changed dramatically during the global coronavirus pandemic. Those who can work remotely are finding the best ways to adjust their lives accordingly, while business owners are working out how to navigate the challenges ahead and adapt to a “new normal”.

The Government has introduced a raft of stimulus funding to help in these tough times, however, it can be difficult to know how these apply to your specific circumstances or other factors you may need to think about. Knowing where to get the right answers is critical.

With so many mixed messages circulating, here are some important points and resources for both workers and business owners.

Check official channels first

When it comes to any new announcements relating to COVID-19, official channels are always the most reliable source. Anything that ends with “.gov.au” is generally a safe bet.

It’s important to keep up to date with the outbreak and the measures in place where you live. From a global perspective, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is providing advice to the public, while state governments will provide localised updates as the situation continues to unfold. These are usually broadcast via television or can be read online via each state’s official website.

When it comes to businesses, The ATO is directing them to their dedicated coronavirus page for the latest information, so this is a good place to start. This is where you can get the details first-hand when it comes to relief and stimulus packages.

Because every business operates differently, it can be difficult to know how blanket changes will affect you directly. Xero’s Business Continuity Hub can help with questions and provide important resources to help businesses during these challenging times. It covers everything from information on COVID-19 government stimulus packages to guidance on working remotely, monitoring cashflow and instructions on how to make a business continuity plan – all of which are absolutely vital to the survival of small businesses.

The site also has a community space for customers to share their own experiences and ask questions, with more useful information to be added by the Xero team moving forward.

On top of this, Xero runs webinars on how to properly access government support for each state, along with a forum where questions can be asked to the wider community. This can be a good place to search for already-resolved queries such as how to pay employees under the JobKeeper scheme.

Mental health is paramount

Whether you’re a business owner or worker, recent changes are hitting hard for just about everyone. It goes without saying that looking after your mental health is incredibly important right now.

The WHO has acknowledged that COVID-19 is generating stress and anxiety, particularly in those with pre-existing mental health conditions.

“Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects,” a review of the psychological impact of quarantine published in the Lancet in February said.

Xero’s Business Continuity Hub has resources for understanding mental health, whether it’s your own or the mental health of your staff if you own a business. Along with useful articles, there are webinars and online courses created in partnership with Beyond Blue that offer a raft of support options and tools that may help during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond.

Among the top tips shared for easing the strain on personal mental health is limiting media consumption. “Choose how often you engage with news and social media about the coronavirus, and be sure to find news sources that are trustworthy and factual,” Beyond Blue recommends. “You could add in some content that makes you laugh and feel comfortable wherever possible.”

Remote working and business continuity planning will be an adjustment

Social distancing has introduced the need for a new way of working for many businesses. Those who are lucky enough to be able to work from home are facing challenging new working conditions, while those running businesses are faced with managing teams remotely.

Much of the advice offered to individuals working from home suggests creating a comfortable space to utilise, maintaining a normal work routine, taking regular breaks and setting clear boundaries. Taking care of your body through healthy eating and exercise is also incredibly important.

Kelly Munroe, Xero’s lead Business Community & Central Discussions Manager, says one way to help break up the tedium of virtual meetings is to do some of them walking. “For many, there’ll be lots more virtual meetings. Plan ahead where you can to try to identify those where you’ll be more of a spectator, or don’t need to have materials,” she said.

“In these, where possible dial in from your phone or tablet, and take a walk around the block while you connect with your teams and get a breath of fresh air. It really does wonders to uplift my mood, before returning back to my dedicated in-home workspace.”

For business owners, how you choose to operate remotely will depend heavily on your specific circumstances, which is why keeping in touch with the wider business community is a good way to make it through to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.

Xero’s Business Continuity Hub offers a number of webinars on how to run a business remotely and the tools needed to do it effectively. Its community forum also allows business owners to ask specific questions and offer feedback to others looking for answers.

Bryan Miles, Chairman & Co-Founder of virtual services company BELAY has run his business of nearly 100 employees and 1,000+ contractors remotely for more than 10 years. One of his top tips for running a team remotely is to set up clear, company-wide guidelines.

When to be online and how to communicate with the wider team is a good place to start. Miles also recommends holding meetings with mandatory video and audio access, which will ensure employees are paying attention in a focused workspace. Xero has a number of recommendations for staying in touch with your peers, from chat apps like Slack through to Zoom and G Suite applications.

For business owners, if you don’t have a written plan for how you intend to cope with disruption to your business, now is the time to put one together. And if you do have a plan in place, it’s worth reviewing it on an ongoing basis as the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop.

Having a business continuity plan isn’t only important for getting through a global pandemic, it can also help keep businesses afloat in events such as natural disasters or cybersecurity attacks. Whatever the circumstances, being proactive instead of reactive during times of uncertainty will make it far easier to keep things running as they normally would. The team at Xero have provided the resources to help you understand what a business continuity plan is, how having one can help your business and employees in times of need and where to get started.

COVID-19 has made an enormous impact on Australia’s economy, making it a tricky time to be working in or running a business. Utilising the right tools can make it a gentler storm to weather, so it’s worth hitting the right resources daily instead of wading through everything else.

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