After years of digital nomads praising the benefits of working remotely, it’s the novel Coronavirus which has stopped nomads from wandering that’s made work-from-home the new normal.

For small business owners, it’s a particularly large adjustment. You need to transition your personal routine to a work from home situation at the same time as reassuring your clients, supporting your employees, and nurturing your business through an economic slowdown. 

The good news is that with the right tools and some useful advice, shifting to work remotely is well within your reach. 

You might even discover the benefits of this new method of work. After all, it cuts regular expenses like office overheads and travel costs, and adds work-life flexibility that employees appreciate, making your business more appealing to top talent. 74% of employees say that working remotely makes them more loyal to their company. 

What’s more, working from home encourages you to stop thinking local and start thinking global. Since you’re stuck at home, you have to reach out to customers online, and that means that you can reach anywhere around the world. It could be your opportunity to scale your business. 

Here are some ways to make lemonade out of the Corona lemons that you’ve been given. 

1.    Move your business online 

“Corona time” shouldn’t put your business on hold. Instead, move your business online so that you can continue working and expand your client base beyond areas to which you can easily travel. 

vcita, a small business management platform, offers useful tools like a Zoom integration to invite clients to book online sessions through your website. The vcita Zoom tool automatically creates a unique meeting URL, records the information in your calendar, and sends a confirmation email and SMS reminders to your client. Use Zoom to create “client cards” that record important details about customers, helping you remember each individual and improve your personalized service. 

Now is also the time to set up online, all-in-one invoicing, billing, and financial record-keeping, using vcita to simplify and speed up the process. Streamlining your financial records saves time when tax season rolls round, especially since your bookkeeper isn’t in the next room. The platform automatically creates invoices, sends them electronically, and invites clients to pay online. Integrated automatic payment reminders help customers remember when they last paid, how much they owe, and guide them through the process if they’re not used to online payments.

With his fin-tech company Jubilee Ace, Tony Jackson has recently released a successful trading software called AQUA. “Technology has transformed trading. It has opened doors to the masses and has given the necessary tools of the trade to both professionals and non-professionals around the world,” explains Jackson. Especially in times of recession, working with algorithms and bots, such as the firms in-house AQUA software, is seen as incredibly valuable to make the right decisions.

Jackson believes that firms in other niches can see the finance industry as inspiration for dealing with economic hardships. „Changes in the financial markets have always led to changes in technology“ he said. For reference, when the last financial crisis in 2008 hit the world, acquiring stocks or commodities required to circumnavigate several hurdles. Today, anyone with an internet connection can instantly obtain access to all kinds of markets and start trading. Similar transformations are likely to happen in many other industries.

2.    Invest in the right tools and equipment

If you’ve always worked in-office with employees and run a customer-contact service-based business, it’s very likely that you’ll need to get new equipment and cloud-based tools to help you run your business from home.

For example, you might need to get an ergonomic chair for your home office, because you’ll be spending a lot more time sitting at a desk. You may have to buy a desk too. Noise-canceling headphones with a built-in microphone are a must for home-based client calls and video meetings. Many small business owners have to hastily rearrange room usage to make space for a home office, or even empty a large closet (it’s happened more than you think) with a door that closes securely to create somewhere private where you can focus on work. 

The right SaaS tools are also important. You could need project management software such as Asana, Trello, or Monday to streamline task allocation when all your employees are working from home, and cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive to help you securely share documents around the business.

Nikolay Kurayev, CEO at ScienceSoft, an IT consulting and custom software development company, shares advice on organizing effective working from home at an organization. “Building a fully functional digital workplace for each employee is the top priority. At ScienceSoft, we’ve created digital workplaces based on Office 365 and leveraged such collaboration tools as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and Yammer. Microsoft Teams has proved to be the most effective of the three due to its rich capabilities. It combines such features as chatting, screen sharing, and videoconferencing with advanced collaboration and document management features like file sharing, editing, notifications, group discussions, and more.”

3.    Ensure online security for your business

In addition to setting up a proper office-like environment and adapting modern SaaS technology, you’ll also need to secure your network. While you can go about implementing firewalls or tweak with your network settings, the easiest and inexpensive option is to use a VPN. 

As suggested by a Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at VPNRanks, “VPNs are one of the most basic tools any privacy-conscious user can opt for that can deter almost all sorts of root level cyber threats. By simply using a VPN on your home or public networks, you can encrypt all your traffic coming to and from your devices. This can protect you from Man-in-the-Middle attacks or data theft.”

That is why most organizations worldwide now ensure that their employees use a vpn for doing business when working from home.

4.    Support your employees 

Your employees helped you build your business. You’ve shared good times and harder times, but now you have the chance to cement their loyalty as well as that of your customers. The first step is to provide the tools and equipment they need to work from home, already mentioned above, but it doesn’t end there. 

Check in on your employees to see how they’re doing more often than normal, because you don’t have the baseline of seeing them every day. When you have virtual business meetings, allow time for general chat as well, because everyone misses human contact now. 

If you have to lay off employees, do it with as much kindness as possible. Help them file for unemployment benefits and send the relevant forms they’ll need as soon as possible. Do stay in touch with these former employees as well, because once the pandemic passes you’ll want to be able to hire them again. 

Kane Georgiou, CEO of The Money Pig, highlights that moving parts of your business online can not only drastically reduce costs in the long run, but it can also help employees in their personal lives due to increased e-literacy. „A large number of people still lack decent understanding of the internet, which might put them at a serious disadvantage in the coming years,“ he said. Georgiou’s company helps individuals with their finances by providing online-based tools, comparisons, and educational content.

5.    Shift customer relations up a level

During ‘Corona time’ everyone is more stressed, more anxious, and more lonely than usual. Stuck at home, many people are bored and looking for diversions. Now more than ever, they want to hear from you. 

Even if you can’t provide your regular business services, don’t let your customer relations wither away. Send regular email newsletters and post on social media to nurture your connection. Cheer customers up with entertaining anecdotes and funny memes; send updates about how you are doing; and share online resources and useful content that will help them through this period.

PolyGrowth, a PR agency that focuses on companies in new markets, is currently applying new strategies to foster client relationships."Many of our clients are struggling with the economic impact of the corona crisis, which has led to the usefulness of public relations during an economic crisis being increasingly called into question," says Simon Moser, CEO of PolyGrowth.  "In light of the inevitable recession, our goal is not to lose a single client. We take individual budgets and needs into account and are prepared to support our clients temporarily at significantly lower rates", says Simon Moser, CEO of PolyGrowth.

Working from home as a small business owner can bring unexpected benefits

Although working from home takes adjustment, it can be surprisingly good for your business. Using the right tools and strategies to move your business online and streamline administrative tasks, keeping up with your clients and leads, and supporting your employees means that you can use “Corona time” to improve your business. You’ll emerge much stronger, and ready to expand in every direction.