The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions of people across the world, and few businesses will emerge on the other side completely unscathed. Indeed, the current crisis has tested establishments like no other event in recent history, forcing many to change the way they operate. For some, the ongoing crisis has created an impenetrable roadblock: measures designed to slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic and keep people safe have effectively shuttered non-essential businesses. 

Small, local independents have naturally taken the greatest hit. Without huge financial cash reserves to fall back on, the drastic drop in demand for certain goods and services means that many of our favourite small enterprises face the very real prospect of having to close their doors for good. 

However, the crisis has also inspired another kind of change – namely, the drive to extend a helping hand and support those in need. Even in the face of adversity, everyone from independent business owners to CEOs of multinational corporations have risen up to the challenge. Many have launched tactical new initiatives, not only so they can stay afloat, but also to give back to their communities. 

Below are just a few examples of how businesses can help rally their employees to support their local high streets. 

Help Your Community by Helping Your Staff 

The transition to remote working has been a difficult one; not only for employees themselves, who have had to adjust their working habits, but also for local businesses who have experienced a drop in – if not the complete absence of – footfall within their premises. 

For the time being at least, it appears that remote working is here to stay. In the weeks and months ahead, many UK employees will continue to work from their respective homes. 

To support staff at this difficult time, some companies have offered small bonuses that will enable them to source the equipment they need to ensure they can work comfortably outside of the office. This offer comes with just one condition attached: once an employee has everything they need, the remaining budget should be used to support local businesses where possible. Rather than shopping for essentials in supermarkets, employees are encouraged to make the choice to put their money towards their local greengrocers and independents. In one fell swoop, companies can support both their employees and their community. 

As an alternative, why not send your employees a small pick-me-up to lift their spirits in these troubling times? Whether it’s from your local bookshop, bakery, or any other high street independent, a care package can go a long way in spreading kindness. Indeed, with non-existent footfall in bricks and mortar stores, these small businesses are relying heavily on online orders to keep them going. 

Start Planning for a Company Social 

While it is difficult to gauge when we will be able to return to normality, there will come a point when we can go back to our favourite local cafés, pubs, comedy clubs and theatres. However, to give small venues like these a fighting chance to rebound once this is all over, we must reassure them that they will be greeted by loyal customers once they reopen. 

We also cannot forget the millions of employees who have been stuck in their homes for months on end, and who will be eagerly waiting to reconnect with their colleagues. Company events will boom as people emerge from the crisis and seek out the physical interactions that they have missed. 

So why not put the two together? Many businesses are offering discounted tickets to events that will be held once life resumes, as well as gift cards for future purchases. Instead of throwing a company get-together at a large bar chain, why not purchase tickets to an event at a small, local venue? By paying upfront, this gives them a lifeline to reopen with full force upon lockdown being lifted. 

Reach Out 

One of the best ways to support your local businesses, however, is by reaching out directly and seeing how you can help. You’ll likely find that the simplest actions are the ones that have the biggest impact. For instance, for those that are struggling to pivot their business model and attract customers online, something as easy as offering them exposure on your social media platforms can help them reach new audiences. 

Many larger businesses will have the reach and presence to be able to shout about the great things that startups in their community are doing. Why not use your social media platforms to give a shout out to your employees’ favourite spots? A daily post about a local business will shed a light on their valiant efforts during this difficult time, and help employees feel more engaged with their community. 

If you want to go further and have experience in the area, perhaps your business could even offer direct advice on impactful marketing strategies that they could utilise whilst the lockdown prevails? Consider your employees’ strengths, and see how they can be matched with local businesses in your area that could do with some guidance.

It doesn’t cost much to be kind, and helping small businesses that have been crippled by this crisis is in everyone’s benefit. Indeed, these are the businesses that make up the economic and social fabric of our society. It’s great to see so many businesses already playing their part in their survival, and in our own ways, we can build symbiotic relationships that will help the whole business community prosper. 

Liza Kinnear

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