Here are our predictions on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect businesses this year — along with what we think companies should focus on to be successful.
The COVID-19 virus has plagued small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) for over 2 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Two things are certain. Companies will have to reopen (if they haven’t already) if they expect to make it into the black over the next year.
Keeping both employees and customers safe from exposure and infection will be weighing heavily on the minds of business owners. No business can survive if customers do not return or employees aren’t healthy. But, aside from the most dominant news stories, there are some positives as COVID could affect SMBs in 2022 in several ways.
So what can we expect for small to midsize businesses, and how can they mitigate employee exposure to a virus that has turned the world on its head?
Technology will bridge the employment gap
Business owners will look to business software that allows them to do more with fewer employees, like self-checkout options for retail customers. Retail chains have introduced self-checkout options to keep customers safe and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. In contrast, online ordering options have increased as more people work from home. Simple, intelligent tech investments can help ease the pain of staffing shortages without sacrificing customer experience.
While big companies are already automating roles to make workers more productive, your company may not want to install self-checkout lanes or order/payment kiosks just yet. However, you could offer incentives for online orders that would go straight to the kitchen or stockroom. Customers are getting used to having orders ready when they arrive so leverage that to reduce the time needed to serve them.
Simple, intelligent tech investments can help ease the pain of staffing shortages without sacrificing customer experience.
Business lending will ease as community banks take the lead
Those who consider community banks, credit unions, and online lenders for business loans can can expect more access to capital in 2022.
Many banks have been reluctant to lend during COVID-19, making it almost impossible for SMBs to grow. However, good news is on the horizon as approval rates will continue to rise as the economy and consumer spending bounce back. It’s been a rough couple of years for business owners who’ve struggled through COVID restrictions, so be ready to invest in your business by considering alternatives to the traditional business bank loan.
Brick-and-mortar will make a comeback
Brick-and-mortar small-business retailers will re-emerge as consumers learn that it’s often faster to go into the store or get curbside pickup than wait days or weeks for deliveries from overburdened shippers and delivery persons. Retailers with an emphasis on customer service — such as coffee shops, pharmacies, offices with mail services, and other businesses with a high volume of daily orders — will be in good shape.
Online shopping won’t end, but online-to-store sales will increase. Shoppers haven’t necessarily haven’t been missing the brick-and-mortar stores, they will come back simply because of convenience and lower delivery costs. To take advantage of this trend, try adding “buy online” or “pick up in-store” options to draw more customers into your e-commerce platform and business.
Hiring shortages and supply chain issues aren’t going anywhere
In 2022, worker retention will be top of mind for business owners who hired new people. Employers who lost employees will have to make changes to attract new hires. The talent pool has never been deeper with the Great Resignation in full effect. Many companies can look forward to a bump in hiring and a general rise in competitive creativity. But that doesn’t mean you should expect worker’s expectations for better pay, benefits, and schedules to disappear. Offer additional benefits, salary, and a higher quality of life than your competition will.
Supply issues have come front and center for businesses, and relief is nowhere in sight. Owners will have to simplify their processes by ordering from different suppliers or streamlining their inventory catalog. The end of the supply chain and hiring challenges aren’t going anywhere soon so be ready for anything, especially change.
Coming back to the office?
Chris D. Landry, owner at Scan Mailboxes sees chaos in 2022. New guidelines and protocols mean longer lines for COVID tests — especially at schools. Companies like his plan to expand, provide health insurance, upgrade their customized platforms, and give back to the community. He also expects employees to return to work more comfortably, as work-appropriate office attire is so old school.
Companies not considering flex options won’t find a full return to the office as easy as they would like.
On the other hand, Kelly McNiff, People & Culture Product Manager at MotoRefi, predicts that companies not considering flex options won’t find a full return to the office as easy as they would like. Employees have gotten used to working for home. With vaccine requirement policies that may not align with state and federal regulations, expect those employees to be upset and companies that aren’t ready for it.
Keep your people safe and your company profitable
While the virus threatens to increase the cost of doing business and reduce revenue over time, certain strategies can help you avoid some of these adverse effects. This is why Zenefits has partnered with Truework to provide some peace of mind to businesses of all sizes so that their employees are healthy and their workplaces remain safe in this time of crisis with their COVID-19 employee management tool which is free for Zenefits users.
Some of these benefits include automated daily employee questionnaires designed by the CDC that can be sent via text or email to confirm the health status of your employees. In addition, employees can choose to upload daily temperatures and test results to their profile securely with data stored on SOC-2 and ISO certified infrastructure. Administrators can be automatically notified if employees experience any COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test, or have recent contact with confirmed cases.
The only way to be successful is to be prepared for anything. With a heightened focus on automation, recruiting, investment, supply chains, and employee and customer safety awareness, your business can turn that red into black in 2022.