Support employees, help business in tough times

We could all probably use a little bit of extra support right now.

My heart and mind are with those who are dealing with uncertain futures during this unprecedented time. My thoughts are with those fighting COVID-19, with the medical staff working around the clock, with the families who are dealing with new challenges, and with the employees who have been laid off.

At least for now, it is no longer business as usual for so many families, communities and companies around the world. I hope everyone reading this is doing what they can to keep themselves and others healthy and safe.

I’ve been reflecting on what all of this means for optometry practices. Every day, optometrists work on the frontlines of health and safety. And every day, their work is supported by wonderful associates, opticians, managers and support staff.

But over the past couple of weeks, another urgent health and safety issue has presented itself, and I know that a number of practices have decided to close their doors as a result. Those that are open may likely be struggling to fill their schedules under the circumstances.

For many small businesses, this is a daunting time. No business owner wants to lay off their team. No entrepreneur wants to close shop for an indefinite period of time.

For an independent business, this is scary.

While acknowledging that every case is unique, and understanding that tough decisions may need to be made in the weeks ahead , I’ve put together some ideas for how optometry practices can make use of any downtime, and support their employees.

Now is the time to recall

In Canada, workers have been encouraged to work from home if possible. With the right set-up, your recaller can work from anywhere. Many patients are also likely at home for the time being, and may be more accessible than normal.

If it follows the proper health and safety guidelines currently recommended, and follows all government rules, there may be individuals who could come into your practice if they are overdue for an eye exam and are comfortable doing so. Otherwise, now is the time to book future appointments so that when this crisis is over, you have planned business coming in.

Tackle that never-ending to-do list

If your practice is closed or very slow, now is the time to get to those business improvement tasks you can never quite make time for.

Have you been meaning to unpack inventory or update your display? Could you stand to clean up and update your patient database? Is your space due for an update?

Again, provided you can abide by all government and health rules and best practices, now is the time to cross off the tasks you never have time for when your practice is busy.

Access support for employees

The federal government is offering payroll support to small businesses facing a downturn. I encourage business owners to access the support that is available so that you can support employees as much as possible.

Not every practice may be in a position to keep staff employed if they have to close their doors. This is what contingency plans are in place for. If layoffs are inevitable, I’ve seen some businesses step up to offer some form of financial support to help their staff get by.

I feel for the practice owners who are worried about their business. I worry for the employees who may lose work as a result.

Now can be a good time to get to very important and future revenue-generating business tasks. Doing so can also give staff an opportunity to continue working during the current economic slowdown.

Most importantly, I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe.