Preparing for the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19)

Without question, this crisis is proving stressful for many, but navigating the ever-evolving pandemic landscape does not have to be. Please know that we’re here to help individuals and guide organizations as we all adjust to new ways of working and conducting business, and ultimately, ensure the continued strength of your operations.

We have compiled our top recommendations that business leaders should review as part of continuity planning to minimize the impact and disruption this virus has on businesses.

 

Your valued workforce:

  • Employ a strategy of frequent and clear communication with your workforce. Let them know that their safety and well-being is your top priority.
  • Review benefits provided by healthcare providers and highlight resources available to employees related to managing stress. Consider creating a firm email address for employee questions, as well as a central resource for communications and resources as they are identified.
  • Review your benefit plans with your provider to understand any changes being implemented or offered to assist your organization, including telemedicine benefits that can reduce the spread of illness.
  • Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for best practices around hygiene. Stock up on tissues, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. A safe work environment free from serious hazards is required by OSHA, and this includes pandemics or serious virus and disease outbreaks. You may find resources further down on this page to help communicate with your workforce.
  • Communicate your policies regarding illness in the workplace. Send people home immediately if they are sick.
  • Remind your staff about policies for paid time off (PTO) as well as disability benefits for longer absences. Consider additional PTO or other accommodations for associates that cannot work remotely.
  • Ask your employees to work from home for a day to ensure they are ready to work remotely, including understanding how to log into the network or check they have appropriate connectivity.
  • Communicate resources like teleconferencing, instant messaging and other solutions to assist remote work, if needed.

 

Essential technology:

  • Many IT and security teams are being tasked with the sudden implementation of a remote-worker strategy. It is not only important to ensure you have the technology needed, but also proper cybersecurity solutions in place to protect your business and workforce.
  • Ask your employees to work from home for a day to test your systems. An IT stress test will ensure network connections will accommodate a largely remote workforce.
  • Review communication tools and methods. Many organizations are offering services to help businesses, including cloud-based teleconferencing and project management tools.
  • Remind employees to be diligent about checking file extensions and not clicking on suspicious links. Cyber criminals are disguising themselves as WHO officials, and federal, state and local agencies to steal money or sensitive information. If you’re contacted by a person who appears to be from WHO or other government agencies involved in infectious disease control, verify their authenticity. If you see a scam, report it to the WHO immediately here.

 

Continued operations:

  • Review your disaster recovery and business continuity plans to ensure they include guidance on how to respond to epidemic and pandemic crises. If your organization doesn’t have a plan in place, it’s not too late to create one.
  • Develop a team for crisis-related issues and communications.
  • Communicate your commitment to clients. Let them know their health and safety is your top priority and ensure they are aware of any limited ability to travel to their establishment or the need to work virtually to the extent possible.
  • Consider daily tasks that may go unnoticed when employees work from home, such as mail acceptance and delivery, trash removal, and other on-site activities. Review which tasks need to continue, and which can be postponed in the near term. Proactively assign tasks to individuals and ensure backups are identified in case of illness.
  • Review banking and accounting responsibilities like AP and AR to ensure paper processes are thought through for ways to be mobile and cover for absenteeism. If remote strategies need to be addressed or created, your advisor can help.
  • Review loan covenants and contractual agreements, as well as re-evaluate budgets and cash flows as the situation progresses.
  • Be sure there’s a plan in place to process payroll in a timely manner.
  • Communicate business policies around international and domestic travel. Consider limiting or cancelling internal in-person meetings and external attendance at events and conferences.
  • Suggest employees limit personal travel or communicate policies about notifying you if they travel to impacted areas.
  • Pay attention to the situation and allow for scheduling changes as needed if an employee becomes ill or is nervous about traveling in general.  
  • In the case of a longer shutdown, you might have to consider employee furloughs. This means there might be an increase in unemployment claims resulting from the lack of work. 
  • Identify ways to measure productivity with remote teams. The data will help in the future to understand what worked, what didn’t and why.

 

Business and individual considerations:

  • President Trump has instructed the Treasury Department and IRS to extend the April 15, 2020 deadline for filing federal income tax returns for those affected by coronavirus. The proposed extension is not yet official. We will continue to monitor and communicate as the details unfold. 
  • Given the tax law changes at the end of 2019, which made Roth conversions more appealing in some circumstances, revisit Roth conversions. The tax impact has greatly declined and this may be a great opportunity to enhance tax-free growth when markets recover.
  • The first rule of investing is to buy low and sell high and, in general, quality bond positions are now at record highs. Consider decreasing your bond positions and holding those investments in cash for a period of time. This will provide liquidity for future bond purchases at more historic levels, or for rebalancing the equity portion of your portfolio. 
  • Continue to rebalance to target when the portfolio values drift. This is a time-tested approach to managing risk. With so much volatility, there may be several opportunities to do this.
  • If you currently hold extra cash, you may want to consider staying in cash until we see the volatility decline.    
  • There are most certainly buying opportunities available, but those opportunities will still be available on the recovery side of the market. Buying at the bottom is primarily luck and only identified in hindsight.
  • Where available, recognize capital losses in your stock portfolio. This may also provide an opportunity to restructure the portfolio to clean up some smaller positions and make the portfolio more efficient or lower cost. 
  • Do nothing – as a strategy.  In many cases, doing nothing to the portfolio may be the most appropriate course of action but come to this conclusion strategically, working with your advisors.  The contra argument is also true, and you should not do something to the portfolio just for the sake of doing something. Remain strategic.

 

If you would like to talk through the recommendations above or any areas where Rehmann can assist, please reach out to your advisor or account manager, or contact us at info@rehmann.com.

 

Information related to COVID-19 continues to update and change daily. Please click here to subscribe to our communications to ensure you remain up to date during these uncertain times.

Securities offered through Rehmann Financial Network, LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Rehmann Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor.

Published in COVID-19

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