business

Coronavirus Business Update

 

Polls, Surveys & Studies

Current State of Small Business 

Many (69%) of small businesses that had temporarily closed due to COVID-19 have now reopened, according to the new Chamber of Commerce and MetLife study. However, small business owners are still cautious about the future;  65% are concerned they may have to close again—temporarily or permanently—if there is a second wave of COVID-19.

And even though most small businesses share these concerns, 31% aren’t prepared for a second wave of the coronavirus. For businesses that did not express concerns about a second wave, the number is even higher at 45%.

Jessica Moser, senior vice president, Small and Specialty Business at MetLife, says small businesses need to plan for future uncertainty. Moser shares four key steps you can take to prepare:

  1. Purchase additional supplies or products to prevent a future shortage (32% of small businesses are already doing this)
  2. Increase e-commerce or digital payment options (25% are doing this)
  3. Revisit long-term staffing plans (18% are doing this)
  4. Invest in accounting software (13% are doing this)

There’s a lot more to this report. I’ll be covering it later this month on CO from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

 

Getting Back to Business

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a dramatic shift to digital commerce, driven largely by changing consumer expectations for a safe and touchless payment solution. Visa (NYSE: V) recently released the Visa Back to Business study.

The eight-market study shows 78% of consumers have changed how they pay in order to reduce contact and 67% of SMBs have tried a new approach—whether launching an e-commerce site or changing their point-of-sale (POS) technology—to keep their businesses on track.

“Consumers are putting COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their shopping lists and rewarding businesses that do the same,” says Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales and acquiring, Visa. “Behavior change at the point-of-sale is something that can often take years to develop, yet we are now seeing a faster shift towards digital commerce as consumers need safer, more efficient shopping experiences both on and offline.”

Additional findings:

Consumers Now Expect Digital-First Commerce

  • Safety first means touchless: In each market surveyed, contactless payments have become a driving differentiator: 63% of consumers would switch to a new business that installed contactless payment options, and 46% say using contactless payment methods is among the most important safety measures for stores to follow. In fact, 48% would not shop at a store that only offers payment methods requiring contact with a cashier or a shared device.
  • SMB optimism vs. consumer realities: Despite the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, 75% of SMBs are optimistic about the future. Plus, 71% of global SMB owners say they’ve received support from their local communities, mostly coming from business referrals (33%) and favorable reviews (31%).

However, only 9% of consumers say they shop exclusively at locally-owned businesses, while 15% shop exclusively at larger retailers.

  • New normal means new habits: 78% of consumers have made changes to the way they pay, including shopping online when possible (49%), using contactless payments (48%) and not using cash as much (46%).

A majority (70%) of consumers have used a new shopping or payment method for the first time, including 26% who have used tap to pay for in-store purchases, shopping for groceries or household items online (34%), curbside restaurant pick-up (28%) and buying online then picking up in store (25%).

Small Businesses Take Action, Amidst Real Challenges

  • Long-term outlook and top concerns: Globally, SMB owners estimate at least six to 10 more challenging months before their business is fully operational. Their greatest immediate concerns include revenue declines (52%), attracting new customers (46%) and having to reduce wages or salaries (22%).
  • Pivoting to a digital-first mindset: 28% of SMBs have tried targeted advertising on social media or sold products or services online (27%). Another 20% have adopted contactless payments. One-third report they have accepted less, or stopped accepting, cash since COVID-19. Millennial SMB owners (41%) are significantly more likely to have accepted less or stopped accepting cash, compared to Gen X (31%) and Boomers (21%).
  • On guard against fraud: 53% of SMBs are likely to purchase a fraud management solution to help protect their business due to the shift to digital commerce.

The Visa Back to Business study is the latest in a series of Visa initiatives to provide SMBs with the tools and resources they need to rebuild, or newly build, stronger businesses. More information on the programs and solutions Visa has made available to SMBs – ranging from its commitment to digitally-enable 50 million SMBs around the world and the IFundWomen grant program for U.S-based Black women-owned small businesses – are available on the Visa Small Business Hub and the Visa Small Business COVID-19 relief site.

 

State Of Small Business Report: The Road to Recovery

Alignable’s State of Small Business Report for August shows the state of small business in July.

July impact level

The overall business impact from coronavirus

  • 74% of businesses felt some impact
  • 49% significantly negative impact
  • 12% positive impact

When comparing U.S. and Canadian businesses, Canadian businesses are currently showing better signs of recovery with 40% in Canada vs. 49% in the U.S. reporting significant financial impact.

Reopening status & business closures

The percentage of businesses fully reopened increased 6% to 56%. The number of permanently closed businesses remained constant, while 92% of closed businesses reported that they plan to reopen.

Not surprisingly, less restrictive states saw a higher percentage (59%) of businesses return to fully opened status than states with higher restriction levels (52%).

The outlook for a return to a “new normal” was similar across the board. The majority of business owners project they won’t fully reopen October or later.

At the state level, business owners in the more regulated states were more satisfied with the approach taken by government with a 51% approval rate vs. 46% in the less restrictive states.

Top 3 recovery concerns

  • Reclosures due to rising levels of coronavirus cases (25%)
  • Financial resources running out (23%)
  • Customers being afraid to return (21%)

Customer demand

Customers continues to return to businesses—32% of open businesses said they had returned to pre-COVID-19 levels of business. However, 36% of reopened businesses operated with 50% or less of their pre coronavirus customer levels, and 15% had yet to reopen.

Revenues

Revenue growth lagged customer growth. Overall, revenue improvements in July were mixed—26% of businesses reported a return to pre-COVID-19 levels (up 4%). But 47% said operating revenues were at or below 50% of where they were prior to the crisis.

Hiring & anticipated employee growth

Employee growth stalled in July, but the outlook for August was more positive. The business owners were optimistic for a full recovery by January 2021.

 

COVID-19 Leads to Drop in Revenues and Payrolls

Biz2Credit just announced the results of its new Small Business Financial Health Survey, a study of primary data from small business owners who received funding via the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The study found that year-over-year 2Q revenues of small business owners plummeted 52% from 2Q’19 to 2Q’20, while their payroll expenses dropped 54%.

The Small Business Financial Health Survey examined the effects of the PPP, a small business lending program and the direction of small business performance before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Findings:

  • Average quarterly revenue in 2Q’20 was $193,865, a 52% drop from 2Q’19.
  • Businesses reported a 54% drop in average payroll expenses from $137,126 in 2Q’19 to $62,599 in 2Q’20.
  • 60% of businesses surveyed were closed for some part of 2020 due to COVID-19, and these companies experienced a drop in revenue of 87% compared to 2019. Meanwhile, companies that were not closed saw an average decline of just 13%.
  • The average of number of employees among businesses surveyed dropped from 15 in 2Q’19 to just 8 in 2Q’20.
  • Only 20% of the businesses that had to close because of government mandates were offered a deferred payment option by their landlord or mortgage company.
  • Businesses will need to invest approximately $29,230 in personal protective equipment (PPE) and renovations to deal with COVID-19. That amounts to a 15-point reduction in gross margins on average.
  • The restaurant industry was hit particularly hard. For those that remained open, the average 2Q revenue dropped 72%, although the average check size rose slightly. Additionally, the average number of online or takeout orders was, surprisingly, down 38%.
  • Restaurants will shell out $52,106 on average for PPE. That’s approximately 78% more PPE costs due to COVID-19 than for businesses in other industries.
  • The average cost of recovery (PPE + renovations) is $21,553 for small businesses.

“Until now, there was been no attempt to quantify the effects of coronavirus among the businesses that applied for PPP money,” says Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora. “These figures tell us just how dramatically their fortunes fell from 2019 to 2020.”

Struggles for small businesses continue. Only one in five companies were able to negotiate deferments or discounts on rents with their landlords. Thus, despite having zero revenues in some cases, businesses were expected to pay their rent in full.

“A lot of small business owners were caught between a rock and a hard place; they had little money coming in, yet they had obligations to pay,” Arora added. “Everyone suffered. After all, many times the landlords themselves do not have deep pockets and rely on their rental income to survive.”

 

Small Business Recovery Prospects

Nearly half of the country’s small businesses were forced to close or limit operations in the spring due to COVID-19, and the majority didn’t have a plan to create alternate revenue or preserve capital, according to the TD Bank Small Business Recovery Survey. TD’s survey polled  small business owners nationwide to find out how they fared during wave one of COVID, their recovery prospects and how they will prepare in case of a second wave of closings.

Key findings

  • 81% of small business owners did not have a disaster or crisis plan prior to pandemic shutdowns. Looking ahead: 69% say they will plan for a future crisis by building stable finance and cash reserves, enhancing business model flexibility and improving budgeting and accounting methods to cut costs.
  • 61% did not implement new financial strategies during the height of the crisis. Looking ahead: 55% say they will seek credit or funding needs in the next year.
  • 75% reported accepting cash and checks, making it the preferred method of collecting payments. Just 28% use some type of POS system. Looking ahead: A huge opportunity remains for small businesses to implement point of sale devices like contactless and cashless payment offerings, which not only provide sanitation benefits that enhance customer confidence, but also provide fast, convenient ways for customers to pay that limit face-to-face interaction.
  • Just 1% stated their business permanently closed as a consequence of COVID disruptions, but there is concern about the future. Looking ahead: There are several challenges for business owners over the next 12 months—health of the national & local economy (69%), getting paid on time (25%), presidential election / regulatory changes (24%) and supply chain disruptions (21%).

Massive Uptick in Consumer Complaints

The number of financial complaints filed in the CFPB’s database is surging according to a new analysis by LendEDU.

The company says, “Massive unemployment and reduced business capacities brought on by the pandemic have triggered a recession and made it tough for everyday people to meet monthly financial obligations like mortgage payments.”

Key findings  

  • Between 3/13/20 and 7/17/20, 140,042 consumer complaints were filed with the CFPB, which is a 44% YOY increase from the same time last year.
  • The 140,042 complaints filed during this 127-day period is also a 38% increase compared to the previous 127-day period ending on 3/12/20.
  • YOY, there was an 84% increase in the number of complaints related to “credit reporting, credit repair services, or other personal consumer reports,” a 77% increase in the number of complaints related to “money transfer, virtual currency, or money service,” a 29% increase in the number of complaints related to “credit card or prepaid card,” and a 41% decrease in the number of complaints related to “student loan.”
  • More specifically, there was a 506% YOY increase in the number of complaints related to a “government benefit card.” Even more specific than that, there was a 1790% YOY increase in the number of complaints related to “problem getting a card or closing an account” when it came to those government benefit cards.
  • There was a 109% YOY increase in credit reporting complaints related to “incorrect information on your report.”

 

How COVID-19 Affected Social Media

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the watershed social justice movement, it is no surprise that consumers have increasingly turned to social media. New data from Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media analytics, engagement and advocacy solutions for business, shows how social media behavior has changed as well as the increased expectations consumers have for brands in this new era.

Key findings

  • As the pandemic continues, consumers turn to social for the experiences they used to get in person: Over the last six months, 62% of consumers have increased their use of social to connect with friends and family and 48% have increased their use for entertainment purposes.
  • Social is a hub for both news and education as consumers navigate a changing landscape: Over the last six months, 55% of consumers spend more time on social to stay up to date on news and 36% for education on timely topics.
  • Consumers will reward brands that share their values on social: When brands are forthcoming about their values on social, 58% are more likely to buy products or services from them if they share similar beliefs.
  • Consumers recognize missteps and take action accordingly: Nearly half of consumers (48%) say brands have recently posted irrelevant or insensitive content amid the current state of the country. And when that happens, 36% of consumers will unfollow the brand on social media.
  • Brands risk losing business if they fail to follow through: As the spotlight focuses on issues of social justice, 55% of consumers expect brands to take a stance that goes beyond corporate statements and monetary donations such as new corporate initiatives, or commitments to specific goals. These expectations are significantly higher among millennials (65%).
  • If brands fail to stay true to their commitments to social issues, they face serious consequences. 42% would start buying from alternative brands and 29% would boycott the brand altogether.

“People are increasingly turning to social for the things they can no longer get in person,” says Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social. “And with consumer expectations on the rise, it’s never been more important for brands to demonstrate their values and showcase how they’re contributing to change. People are holding brands to a new standard and are asking them to be stewards of accountability. As we work to adapt to these new expectations, brands must be willing to speak out and answer the call.”

 

Back-to-School: What Merchants Need to Know

Due to the impact of the coronavirus, there’s a lot of uncertainty around this year’s back-to-school experience. Merchants need to be prepared.

Despite uncertainty, spending is on its way up: While parents of K-12 students and college students are also feeling unsure, they’re planning to spend more on back-to-school supplies, according to an online study of college students and K-12 parents, commissioned by PayPal and conducted by Netfluential.

Forty percent of parents and 35% of college students plan to spend more this year than last. First-year college students will spend $732 on average, compared to $444 among K-12 parents.

Online shopping is on the rise—70% of college students are doing more online shopping than before and nearly 75% will be doing their back-to-school shopping online.

Parents and college students are also planning to purchase remote learning equipment, with 63% saying they plan to spend more on remote learning furniture and home goods and 59% indicating spending increase on remote learning and tech. Retailers should keep in mind that online shopping may be the primary (or only) choice for some customers, so it’s up to merchants to help them find what they’re looking for, easily and safely.

The “hot” back-to-school items aren’t what they used to be: Safety is top of mind for back-to-school shoppers this year. Face masks (reusable and disposable), hand sanitizer and gloves are in demand, and 81% of those surveyed plan to spend more on these supplies than they did last year.

Among parents, 59% plan to spend more on tools and tech to make remote learning easier, including headphones, laptops and tablets, arts and crafts materials, monitors, and bookcases and desks, including standing desks.

Flexible payment options are in demand, in part for safety

Along with helping shoppers safely prepare for the school year, merchants should also offer flexibility in how customers can pay.

Uncertainty around COVID-19 is driving more shoppers to seek out flexible options in how they pay for back-to-school items. Safety-conscious parents, for example, want options like contactless payment in store, to limit risk.

Given economic uncertainty, nearly 40% of parents and almost a third of college students are also interested in having the option to pay over time, through an installment plan, or having access to a digital line of credit, like PayPal Credit.

Among parents, over half (55%) said they’d want to use that kind of flexible payment option for clothes, 49% said the same for shoes, and 45% would prefer it for electronics. College students feel similarly, with 51% saying they’d use a digital line of credit or installment plan for clothes, and 43% indicating they’d use it for electronics and school supplies.

The survey shows back-to-school merchants need to be as prepared as possible for the influx of new customer needs, whether it’s flexible payments options, ease of online shopping or safety equipment.

 

Back-to-College Outlook Looks Bleak

The current economic situation in the United States seems dire: Widespread non-essential business closures as a response to COVID-19 have led to skyrocketing unemployment rates. Although job availability has increased since April, the unemployment rate is still above 10% (compared to only 3.5% in February), and states that have previously lifted restrictions are starting to implement restrictions once again as cases continue to rise, leaving many worried about their financial stability.

The good news is that job availability seems to be directly related to businesses’ ability to operate, and government restrictions on operations should ease once the virus is under control. In other words, the inflated unemployment rate and lack of job opportunities should improve over time, but many are worried about when that’ll happen.

Those concerns are most salient for college students, who are preparing to enter into an uncertain job market. Those fears aren’t particularly unfounded considering that those who graduated during the most-recent recession in 2008 are still struggling to catch up even a decade later, according to CNN.

Current college students luckily have some time for the economy to bounce back before they graduate, but safety precautions on college campuses and the current job market hinder their ability to build relevant experience.

Many students aren’t in the same financial situation they were last year, and many are concerned about changes to curriculum that might impact their education.

To learn more about students’ perceptions and concerns about returning to college, Real Estate Witch surveyed college students about how COVID-19 may affect their future careers, their financial situations, and concerns about returning to campus and college administrators about their plans to address financial, health, and safety concerns voiced by students across the nation.

Personal Finance Insights

  • 46% of college students are moderately or extremely concerned about paying rent during the school year, and 29% of students with rental lease agreements weren’t able to get out of their lease for the school year despite trying.
  • 48% of students are worried about paying for their tuition this year, likely as a result of lost income
  • 36% of students said a parent lost income as a result of COVID-19 and it impacted their ability to pay for college and living expenses.
  • Lost personal and parental income has led to increased debt: 48% of college students are borrowing more as a result of COVID-19, and 33% of students are taking out an additional $10,000 in student debt this year compared to last.
  • College students are 21% more likely to carry credit card debt and 33% more likely to have personal loans to help cover expenses this fall than they were in 2019, per Clever’s Student Debt Survey.

Careers and Jobs Insights

  • 71% of students believe COVID-19 will impact their ability to begin their career after college.
  • Students are struggling to maintain jobs that sustain them during the school year: 1 in 4 students lost their part-time job, and 1 in 5 lost their full-time job this year due to COVID-19.
  • Students are also having trouble finding new jobs to help boost their resume and pay for living expenses: 76% of students looking for jobs for the upcoming school year reported difficulty doing so.
  • Students’ biggest career concerns include missing out on internships (44%), missing out on networking events (41%), losing out on relevant job experience (38%), and fewer relationships with faculty and students that help their network (38%).
  • Compared to students surveyed in May 2019, students in 2020 are 64% less likely to have a part-time job to help cover expenses, and 48% are worried they won’t be able to find a job during the school year.

Education Insights

  • Nearly 90% of students agreed that online courses should cost less than traditional, in-person classes. But less than 3% of colleges surveyed plan to reduce tuition in the fall despite the fact that most are introducing more online and hybrid courses to their catalogs.
  • 39% of students only want to return to school if their college plans to take precautions, and 28% want to take onlyonline classes. In fact, 42% of students have switched to online classes for the fall semester.
  • Students care more about their education than the social aspects of college: Students are most concerned about missing out on in-person education (47%) and the ability to interact with professors (46%).
  • 74% of students believe online classes are more difficult but are less educational (81%) than in-person classes, and 88% believe online classes should be cheaper.

Health Insights

  • 31% of college students are extremely concerned about their health as a result of going back to school in the fall. Only 14% are not concerned at all.
  • Students are taking social distancing seriously: Over 90% of students said they would avoid social gatherings when back at school.
  • 17% of students are not confident at allin their school’s ability to enforce social-distancing measures on campus.
  • Nearly 20% of students aren’t confident in their peers’ willingness to comply with social-distancing safety measures.

There’s a lot more information in the study. Go here to learn more.

 

SMBs Planning to Hire In 2020

Human Capital Management (HCM) company Paycor just released A Paycor Survey: Here’s How Businesses are Managing the New Reality of Work. COVID-19 changed the way nearly everyone works.

Key findings

  • 54% of SMB Leaders surveyed are planning to hire in 2020
  • 47% moved from office to remote work but 40% of SMBs say they will return to the office
  • 30% of furloughed employees and 20% reduced compensation
  • To respond to the crisis, 45% of SMBs are communicating more frequently with employees
  • More than 45% of SMB leaders anticipate healthcare costs and overall costs of benefits will increase in 2020

To access the full report, please click here.

 

COVID-19 and Personal Finances

More than half (53%) of people are currently earning half or less of their pre-pandemic income.  And 31% have lost their entire income since the pandemic started. This according to a survey conducted by FlexJobs, in partnership with Prudential, to assess the impact of COVID-19 on personal finances. Other findings include:

  • 46% say their emergency savings wouldn’t last them more than 3 months and 24%  say their savings would not even last one month. Overall, 62% do not have enough emergency savings to last six months.
  • 44% of respondents report they are currently struggling financially. Only 24% reported the same thing before the pandemic.
  • 21% say they were financially secure before COVID-19, and only 10% say the same thing now.
  • 84% have taken specific steps regarding their finances in the wake of COVID-19, such as withdrawing from retirement savings, using emergency savings, and picking up extra work
  • 30% agreed they had a good plan in place in case they got sick or needed care in the short-term, and even fewer strongly agreed (12%).
  • 24% are currently using remote work to supplement their income
  • If given a choice, 71% would prefer to work remotely full-time once the pandemic is over, and 25% would prefer a combination of remote and office work

 

The Pros and Cons of Reopening Workspaces 

According to report from Clutch, 39% of the U.S. workforce has already returned to work. But the majority are still split on the best approach to reopen offices while preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Key findings

  • Of the 61% of employees that are still working remotely, preferences for when to return to the office vary: 19% want to return as soon as possible; 15% want to return after September 2020; 13% would prefer to wait until 2021, and 15% don’t want to return at all.
  • Despite regional differences, 29% of workers rank mask requirements as the most important precaution their company should implement as employees return to the office.
  • 82% of workers agree their employers should take concrete steps to ensure employee safety in the workplace.
  • 91% of companies are already taking action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their office spaces.

Read the rest of the report to learn more.

 

Credit Concerns

Americans suffering personally from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 economy worry, even when the pandemic crisis wanes and the economy begins to recover, that restoring their credit may take some time and hinder their purchasing power, according to a new report, Combating the Emerging COVID Credit Crisis, from Finicity.

Americans at lower income levels, under $50,000 in annual household income, are particularly fearful, according to the report The data from this group paints a stark picture of financial loss from COVID-19, credit anxiety, and lagging financial literacy.

Most respondents said that participation in future credit markets may require changes that let responsible borrowers better prove their creditworthiness to lenders.

The report proposes that the eventual economic recovery from the COVID recession will hinge on major purchases which require credit for most consumers and if that credit is withheld because of short-term impact from being out of work or at reduced income levels, then broader economic issues may result.

“This health crisis is likely to bring an impending credit crisis along with it, and a key component of economic recovery will be consumers’ ability to secure the loans and credit needed to finance major purchases,” says Steve Smith, CEO and co-founder of Finicity. “Even when this crisis subsides and people return to work at their previous income level, bouncing back from this hit to their credit could still take years.”

The report found that 55% of all respondents have lost their jobs or had their income impacted because of COVID-19. Those job and income losses have put a significant financial strain on those impacted, the report said, and are affecting credit usage. Far more than half (64%) of the impacted said personal economic conditions have made it difficult for them to keep up with bills and payments.

As a result of the COVID-19 financial hardship, 61% of the impacted are now concerned their credit will be negatively affected. And, nearly all (95%) of the impacted are concerned about their ability to rebuild their credit and finance purchases even after the pandemic and recession pass.

Changes in Credit Processes

The large-scale loss of jobs and income in the COVID-19 economy, and the mass anxiety over the impact to credit scores and the lengthy process of rebuilding credit, leaves many consumers looking for changes in the credit review process, including 82% of respondents saying they believe the current credit review process and criteria need to change to make it easier for responsible borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness.

Many consumers want a better understanding of which personal financial data is used in lenders’ credit-decisioning process, and how that data is used. Consumers with the lowest household incomes show the least confidence in their knowledge of their financial data, as only 51% of those with a household income under $50,000 said they know what financial information lenders are using to determine creditworthiness.

“The idea of improving the credit process is not new, but the overall number of people who have been simultaneously affected as a result of COVID-19 shines a light on what borrowers have been facing for many years. There’s clearly a need to evaluate the credit-decisioning process and how consumers can become empowered to take control of their own financial data, and benefit from its use,” says Smith.

“Real-time and reflective data is key to broader inclusion in the traditional financial system, and the emerging open banking model will provide the consumer empowerment needed while giving lenders a more robust picture of creditworthiness for borrowers.”

You can read the full report to learn more.

 

Tools & Resources

 

Help for Getting Back to Work

Zoho Corporation, a global technology company offering an extensive suite of business software applications in the industry, launched BackToWork earlier this month, a comprehensive modular solution enabling businesses and organizations to safely transition back into the workplace. Free for the remainder of 2020, BackToWork, powered by Zoho Creator, is the latest program to be introduced as part of the company’s ongoing relief efforts, which support businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

In March Zoho introduced Remotely, a free suite of 11 business applications that helped companies transition to remote work. Remotely will remain free for businesses through September 1.

Then Zoho unveiled its Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP), which provides Zoho’s small business customers free access to their existing Zoho applications.

In April, Zoho’s Vertical Relief Plan was launched, offering businesses in three hard-hit industries—retail, government & non-profit, and education—custom-built tools and assistance programs to navigate pandemic-related issues.

BackToWork gives businesses a safe and secure way to return to the office.

Raju Vegesna, Chief Evangelist at Zoho” Now that organizations are planning to re-open in some parts of the world, we want to help them resurge through BackToWork, an application enabling companies to maintain end-to-end workplace safety.”

Scalable to companies and organizations of all sizes, BackToWork supports chief operations officers, chief human resources officers, facility heads and their teams in making critical decisions around returning to the workplace—without compromising on the safety and compliance aspects.

The app consists of six modules, housed within one secure, easy-to-navigate solution, including :

  • Employee Wellness Assessment: Track workplace wellness by defining self-assessment, safe entry, and travel policies. Employees can securely and privately submit a wellness questionnaire reporting travel history, recent medical history, and other pertinent possible exposure history.
  • Admin Control Panel: Gain a 360-degree view of workplace data in pre-configured dashboards as well as add and manage your employees, and define roles for tasks such as approvals, emergency contacts, etc.
  • Communications: Materials such as announcements, FAQs, and best practices, policies and safety documents can be shared with employees and managed in the communication module.

Other key features include:

  • The user-friendly application allows you to customize to your specific needs through Zoho Creator.
  • BackToWork is available in five languages (English, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic), with more to come.
  • The application can be easily integrated with top HR platforms like Zoho People and BambooHR.
  • BackToWork is accessible via progressive web app, iOS and Android.

Pricing and availability

BackToWork will be offered free of charge until the end of 2020. Next year, it will cost $2 USD/user/month for all regions.

 

Communications for those Working From Home  

Onepath, a provider of managed technology services for SMBs, launched Cloud PBX, a unified communications service (UCaaS) for companies that need to support remote workers.

Onepath Cloud PBX offers everything a worker needs to do her/his job remotely or from the office, including the ability to receive and transfer calls and manage voicemails as if using an office desk phone, secure document sharing and storage, and video conferencing and screen sharing. Onepath Cloud PBX can be deployed to WFH and office environments in two to three days, is offered in three options: Engage, Accelerate and Optimize. The price starts at $15/user.

“This is all about helping companies adjust to the new normal as far as supporting workers wherever they are,” says Brian Kirsch, SVP at Onepath. “With Cloud PBX, SMBs can get up-and-running quickly with integrated call, fax and collaboration capabilities, with zero hardware requirements, and companies can easily add users and sites without needing to purchase additional infrastructure.”

 

Keep the Cash Flowing

As businesses start to reopen, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many are still experiencing critical cash flow issues. This has made it hard to pay suppliers, since they simply don’t have the cash on hand.

To solve this issue, Plastiq, the intelligent payment solutions provider, just released Plastiq Accept, which enables businesses to accept credit card payments for free to reduce cash flow burdens and unblock the flow of vital services and supplies.

By enabling businesses to instantly pay any bill with their existing credit cards, Plastiq frees up 30-45 days of crucial cash flow and allows them to reduce costs and protect their cash reserves as they begin reopening.

 

New COVID-19 Resources  

Xero, the global small business platform, is providing small businesses in North America with easy access to resources, information and product offers designed to help them through the challenging economic environment caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Xero’s Behind Small Business and COVID-19 resource page helps small businesses understand what government support they can access and how they can learn new skills, take their business online or manage working remotely.

In addition, Xero is making these resources available on Microsoft’s Small and Medium Business COVID-19 resource center, where customers can easily find educational videos and webinars, get inspiration from the small business community and find tools that will help their businesses.

“At Xero, our purpose is to make life better for small businesses and during these challenging times with COVID-19, our mission is more important than ever,” says Tony Ward, President, Americas at Xero. “Together, Xero and Microsoft are providing small business owners with a variety of resources that offer clear guidance to help businesses maintain continuity and make smart decisions.”

Qualifying Microsoft customers who are new to Xero in the U.S. and Canada, get 50% off a 12-month Xero subscription, enabling business owners to monitor financial performance and plan for the future. Xero customers looking for products and services to enable remote work, simplify IT, and reduce costs can access Microsoft 365 productivity solutions.

For more information on resources and available offers, visit the Xero Behind Small Business and COVID-19 resource page and Microsoft Small and Medium Business COVID-19 resource center.

 

State of Online Recruiting

How important is the ability to work remotely for today’s job seekers in a COVID-19 world? According to iHire’s newly released 2020 State of Online Recruiting Report, just 7.6% of job seekers said they preferred to work in a fully remote environment.

However, candidates are keeping their options open: 42.2% preferred a flexible work arrangement (mix of office/remote work), while 36.9% said they were open to any office environment (remote, in-office, or flexible arrangement), implying that job seekers are eager to get back to work regardless of their office space. Further, a mere 2.5% of respondents said “indication of remote work” was one of the most valuable pieces of information in an employer’s job ad.

 

Customer Satisfaction Early Warning System

Copilot, an automated customer experience platform created for consumer electronics, launched a new CX Trend system for early detection of a drop in customer satisfaction, reflected by major online stores ratings.

Companies using Copilot can collect usage data from their smart products to study consumer behaviors and learn what frustrates users and what retains them. With this data, companies can automatically engage with end-users through meaningful, contextual messages to reduce product returns, improve online ratings, and increase users’ lifetime value.

“Our mission is to help consumer brands shift the focus from transactional experience to ownership experience,” says co-CEO Zvi Frank. “Consumer goods companies, which were traditionally focused on the point of sale are now looking into building a post-sale relationship with their customers. IoT products contain valuable usage information and communication channels (Mobile App, Email, Voice) which open up endless opportunities for building a personalized experience for their customers. By expanding our offering to meet the increased demand for online commerce COVID-19 has brought on, early warning of drop in customer satisfaction as well as the ability to analyze and react become even more critical.”

 

 

Get informed—Read it!

 

Tech and COVIVID-19

This report about How the Tech Industry has Handled COVID-19 from TrustRadius is filled with useful data about cutting costs, layoffs, major operational changes, etc. And there’s information about increased employee productivity at home…and a surprising consensus on how companies have responded to the pandemic.

 

How COVID-19 Affects Our Vacation Plans

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned vacation plans upside down for Americans. Instead of booking flights to travel abroad, travelers are opting for road trips and extended stays at vacation homes and short-term rentals locally within the United States.

To find out how Americans have adjusted their vacation plans during Covid-19, read the report from IPX1031.

 

Check out these articles from Bank of America’s Small Business Community

 

Reopening for business stock photo by Antonio Gravante/Shutterstock