It’s hard to say at this point whether the building global panic surrounding COVID-19 coronavirus is justified, but one thing is certain: the disease is changing the lives of millions, possibly billions, of people. And as the disease makes it way into the US, it is bound to have a disruptive effect on businesses of all sizes.
Global preparations and precautions are beginning to have a profound impact. The entire nation of Italy is essentially on lockdown, as is New Rochelle, New York, a suburb of New York City. France has banned visitors from retirement homes and rehabilitation hospitals. Google has joined a list of large companies in asking all North American employees to work at home. The NBA, following a player’s positive test, has suspended games altogether.
In Iran, nearly one in 10 members of parliament has tested positive for the virus. Fear of the spread of coronavirus has already led to the cancellation of the massive Mobile World Congress trade show and the South by Southwest festival, along with many trade events, and is now threatening the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
With the disease having recently landed stateside, the US government is preparing to deal with the pandemic. While it’s possible that global efforts to contain and eventually eradicate coronavirus will succeed quickly, the fact is that right now, nobody knows what kind of impact coronavirus will have. Quarantines are in place in the US and could become more common.
While the primary concern regarding coronavirus is obviously the impact it will have on human lives and public health, businesses need to understand and prepare for fallout from the disease. In particular, owners of small businesses need to be ready not just for the extreme situation of a quarantine but also for the more likely scenario that employees might want or need to work from home.
Writing for CPA Practice Advisor, Roman Kepczyk of Right Networks outlined steps accounting firms can take to prepare for the fallout of coronavirus. His advice resonates for small businesses of all kinds: package useful information for easy access by employees, remind employees of healthy habits such as frequently washing hands and, perhaps most critically, giving employees the capability to work from anywhere.
Even without the threat of a global pandemic, enabling employees to work from home, the field or anywhere else is not offering a luxury; it’s providing accommodation for a necessity. But with fears of a creeping illness growing and the government potentially taking measures to curb travel or public gatherings, giving employees access to cloud-based applications and freeing them from the tether of the office might actually save many small businesses. What’s more, it’ll reassure employees that their company is concerned for their health and well being as well as for their productivity and the value they create.
Coronavirus has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty around the world. With governments, scientists and medical professionals working to combat it, there is hope that the impact of the disease will be far less severe than many observers fear. But even if that’s the case, there’s no guarantee that coronavirus will be the last, or most severe, pandemic of its kind. What once was mostly the domain of science fiction is now real, and it could happen again.
Preparation is always preferable to regret. Coronavirus and the panic surrounding it draws into clear focus the advantages, even the necessity, of moving applications into the cloud—and soon, before the situation gets worse.
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