Omicron Response Puts One More Strain on Already-Struggling Small Businesses
As the omicron variant of COVID-19 quickly spreads around the world, it’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who find themselves once again facing an evolving resilience threat without the resources they need.
Historically speaking, SMEs are the most vulnerable – an estimated 25% of them never reopen following a major disaster – but one survey’s results showed 68% don’t have a written recovery plan, with many explaining that it’s not a high priority.
That was, of course, before the pandemic hit, and while many have been able to pivot to telework and online sales and services, the latest omicron variant wave has resulted in staffing issues, higher costs, and a downturn in customers.
Some have taken to over-staffing on their schedules, under the assumption that several employees will not be able to make their shifts while awaiting COVID testing results. But the concern over potential infection has also meant a reduction in customers. As one store owner told ABC News, some groups are more wary than others. “Very, very noticeably, the average age of the people coming in is 20, 30 or 40 years younger than normal. A lot of our old customers, the regulars and the elderly, we’re not seeing them at all. I think they are much more worried.”
In addition to internal staffing problems, supply costs are also rising for organizations who rely on imported goods, as the surge in omicron cases impacts staffing at the supply chain level as well.
For UK businesses, there is the additional wrinkle of navigating supply issues post-Brexit. Recent research showed that since the UK left the European Union 31% of SMEs have experienced supply chain delays, with 22% noting reduced trade and 19% seeing a decrease in cash flow. And among UK SMEs, knowing that the ever-shifting pandemic threat could lead to further lockdowns and disruptions to day-to-day operations – has made COVID-19 a top risk management priority once again.
Ultimately, the omicron variant – and any further variants down the line – is yet another stark reminder for SMEs about the need to create a disaster recovery plan before it’s needed, because it’s incredibly difficult to get one together in the midst of the disaster.