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What Challenges do Businesses Face During COVID-19?

David Paul

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COVID-19

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world, businesses across Scotland are seeing big challenges because of the virus, both good and bad.

The world is currently witnessing an unprecedented event. COVID-19 is closing businesses globally, pubs and restaurants are shutting their doors and our emergency services are predicted to be overwhelmed by an influx of sick patients.

As cases worldwide near 750,000, and more than 35,000 deaths are recorded, the fate of the world and the future of British business becomes more uncertain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the difficult decision to tell people to stay at home for the foreseeable future and only venture out if totally necessary.

Companies feeling the impact of the virus are finding it difficult to adapt, and many are struggling to protect workers from losing their jobs. Unprecedented financial measures have also been announced to ensure that businesses and people continue to function.

“Partnership with workers and trades unions is crucial to making the right decisions to protect workers and ensure public safety while also helping businesses to stay open and keep people in employment,” said Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“Employers must allow their staff to follow medical advice to self-isolate or isolate with their households. Workers should never feel pressured to breach that advice.

“Fundamentally, employers should look to maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis, and to make use of Government support to achieve this.

There are fears that the coronavirus outbreak will trigger a repeat of the economic crash suffered in 2008, where banks around the globe defaulted on their debts and sent the world into a financial crisis that required billions in bailouts. Now we may have to bail-out small businesses instead.

“Scotland’s success as an economy is built on a shared endeavour between workers, unions and employers and this approach will help us get through this outbreak,” Hyslop continued.

“It is now more important than ever that Scotland adopts Fair Work principles and practice to get through the COVID-19 health and economic crises and support businesses and their staff to get through this together with co-operation. Many companies are doing this, and I thank them for it.”

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The social lock-down means that million across the country are now working from home. Not only is it difficult to be isolated from your colleagues, it also makes it more difficult to correspond with them too meaning many must adapt.

Michael Cameron Azure architect, data and analytics, spoke of one of the problems he faces being away from the office: “Discovering just how isolating poor connectivity can be. It’s not normally as big a problem as I rent a room in town for when I am nominally working from home but that’s closed, and travel is restricted.

“I can walk up the hill then hotspot from my phone but that is very weather dependent.”

Taking the office to your living space can quite an isolating experience, but in terms of how businesses can be run using remote networking, there are hundreds of tools available to make home-working easy.

Microsoft Teams allows a team to connect remotely and talk, send articles and hold meetings using webcams, while, as Stuart Gilbertson, MD at Consider IT, said, using remote working tools: “VPN tunnels mean staff can work anywhere securely. But also, key is that our phone platform is a cloud service, which means staff can plug their office phone in at home or install a piece of software that lets them make and receive calls as if they’re in the office.

“Clients who weren’t well prepared for this kind of event are those that don’t have workers on laptops, or where those workers don’t have a suitable computer at home to use.”

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But it hasn’t been all bad. Companies such as GiftRound, an online version of an office gift-giving scheme, changed their business model to provide its service to companies during the coronavirus, and Craig Ferguson, CEO of the company, said: “With pretty much everyone working from home we have actually seen an increase in teams using GiftRound to group collect for gifts”.

The company added a £1 fee to every contribution made into a group gifting collection, and every £1 given will be donated in full to a UK charity working to support vulnerable people. The company also introduced a 3% fee to all collections given via bank transfer.

Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) are also changing the ways that they work and doing their part to try and keep people connected. Several providers have agreed to remove the cap on data during the period, and Openreach is still allowing their workers inside the properties of vulnerable or elderly customers to make sure they keep in touch with relatives.

One important thing that companies need to consider during the pandemic is people taking advantage of remote working and business changes. Cybersecurity threats have increased dramatically during the period, with many companies dropping their guard while trying to adapt their systems to the growing pressures.

The World Health Organisation, the company at the forefront of the coronavirus outbreak and are driving the information about COVID-19 around the world, have seen a two-fold increase in attacks on their systems.

In an attempt to try and stem the flow of cyberattacks, more than 400 cybersecurity experts have now joined forces to prevent attacks on hospitals and essential services. Called the COVID-19 CTI League, the group spans 40 countries and includes senior professionals from companies such as Amazon and Microsoft.

Founding member Marc Rogers said the focus would be on defending healthcare organisations as well as communication networks – both of which have become a key target for hackers.

Andy Riley, executive director at Nuspire, commented: “The Covid-19 outbreak represents a ready-made pretext for cybercriminals to socially engineer. It is the perfect time to hold an organisation that is already overtaxed with patient flow and uncertainty to ransom.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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