Are you interested in taking part in an article on how Covid-19 has affected your business since March ?
This article is simply a small feature by way of an example on Down News and how it has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic writes Jim Masson, Down News editor.
If you wish to comment of how your business has performed through the first six months on Covid-19, contact me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a ring on 07855545873.
Down News Through The Covid-19 Pandemic… So Far, So Good.
To be honest, I was running a bit ragged before March and the onset of Convid-19. I was trying to set up a couple of systems in my digital business to improve my turnover and was well caught our by the pandemic like many other small businesses.
I already survived the recession ten years ago and it took a few years to get back on my feet. I thought back then better times were ahead.
The Covid-19 pandemic was certainly a shock to all our systems. It has for most of us greatly affected the way we work and play, and generally get on with our lives… it has made us rethink the concept of work-life balance.
So… what have I been up to during the pandemic ?
In early 2020 I had a new website set up after a few difficult years technically. The new website is settling down well now. Developing the new site was a huge piece of work by my web developer. And it was a massive learning curve for me. I’m not all that techy when it comes to web work, but I get by.
Just before the announcement of the need for ‘social distancing, I posted up a piece on a Friday in early March on social media which caused a torrent or negative reaction saying I was alarmist and clean out of order and should take it down.
In the interest of public health I had said in relation to grandparents hugging their family and grand-children, that “a hug can kill”. This statement were poignant an devastating words for many… and it was proven to be correct.
And I could feel the unprecedented levels of anxiety among my followers on social media. I did feel concerned for them. I did think about un-posting it but I wanted to nudge my followers in an awareness of where the pandemic was really heading.
Twenty years ago I had done a counselling course and I consider myself emotionally intelligent enough to recognise the dynamics of this, and on Monday morning, I first heard of ‘social distancing’ as a concept. So I had made the right choice with this fast moving virus acting in the public interest, but it was not an easy call.
I realised this pandemic was going to be something we had never experienced before. The widespread general anxiety caused a flood of people posting on social media – almost everyone sharing news items… some of which were not helpful or accurate. And the sum total effect of this all was to further raise anxiety levels across the community.
My main focus was on posting information from bone fide agencies such as the Public Health Agency, government departments and arms-length bodies such as Invest NI, posting up accurate information.
Over the months in lockdown, I have witnessed the schools and colleges closing; restaurants, the hospitality and hotel sector closing; theatres and public venues closing… in fact there wasn’t much that was open.
Industries such as agriculture and fishing were starting to show signs of disruption as supply chains jammed up, and of course, panic buying in the shops and empty shelves became an everyday occurance.
We are now looking at the Perfect Storm… Covid-19 and Brexit this winter.
I have seen small businesses struggling, often falling between the cracks when it comes to finding a grant to keep them afloat. I’ve kept up with the constant efforts of the FSB, IoD, Retail NI, and Pubs of Ulster as they struggled to find ways for their businesses to survive the Covid-19 storm.
Organisations I am a member of such as the National Union of Journalists, Federation of Small Businesses, Impress and the Independent Community News Network, and Down Business Connect have all worked hard in different ways to support their members and maintain ‘the new normal’.
It is now September – six months on – and as we head into winter and beyond, many small business are on a knife-edge and I fear will not make it. Many have tried to put on a brave face, but I think for them it will likely end in tears.
I was fortunate to have received a government £10,000 Business Support Grant. It has basically bolstered my business and helped me set up a new office so I can work from home. I still keep on my office at the Down Business Centre for better days ahead. They will come back again… one day.
As I suffer from mild asthma, I thought it would be prudent to minimise the contact I had with people and self-isolate as much as possible.
So, the past six months hasn’t exactly put me in the same league as Robinson Crusoe, but I have self-isolated quite effectively and will continue to do so for as long as necessary until the Covid-19 virus is under control and a safe vaccine is available.
From a business perspective, advertising has been poor for the media generally – printed and digital – which has seen a significant pullback as businesses tighten their belts. There has been a huge drop in advertising revenue and a corresponding drop in counter sales for many newspapers as many people avoid shops for health reasons.
My business revenue dropped like many other media outlets and I just have had to take it on the chin and adapt to the current circumstances.
One thing that has helped me financially is that I am covering less miles in my car so the fuel bills are dramatically halved which is welcomed. I’ve heard people saying that the air quality is better with less cars on the road and planes in the sky. A positive outcome!
Like any media business, I have a network of contacts I have build up over the years and they by and large have been quite loyal to Down News recognising the efforts I have made in promoting their businesses and organisations. I thank them for that loyalty.
But I have seen some organisations make heroic efforts in the face of great adversity working tirelessly for their customers, clients and indeed to keep their workers in a job, especially care agencies and those on the ‘front line’ of the NHS.
Certainly the work at home scheme has been problematic as many people working from home have poor broadband receptions, and poor access to their main work servers etc. Many people many be freed from the issues of open plan office working, and faced with different rigors of working at home.
So, it’s been hard work keeping on top of it all from that point-of-view for many home workers… including myself.
One thing that the lockdown has provided for me is time to think creatively about what I am doing… not always easy when you are working in a silo ! Therefore, after burning up the braincells, I have a couple of interesting initiatives to be launched very shortly which should help drive Down News forward once again.
It has been a tough and strange six months – I have re-engaged myself in writing more of my second novel, trying to play the guitar which I started years ago, and in the next month or two I’ll get out pike fishing into the fresh air again once I get my feet cleared.
I have just done a partial renovation at home too with a new kitchen and dinette and revamped the living room and added a wood burner. It was mayhem for a few weeks.
This work was planned at the start of the year before Covid-19 flared up, and at one stage it looked as though it was never going to happen. And we did fear for businesses going bust and losing our deposits etc. Therefore, I shared the anxiety many business people had on cash flow in their businesses in seeing suppliers pre-paid then failing in their contractual obligations etc.
It will be difficult to get back working again in the relative austerity of my office in Downpatrick away from the comforts of home, but I am bracing myself for that eventuality. I have superfast broadband in my office which is great, a bit faster that the current provider at home.
But will ‘Alexa’ reluctantly let me go back from the comforts of home ?
Many people will find the option of working from home has its advantages, and to be honest, I can see many office-based workers opting to work from home if they have the choice.
The activities I miss with the lockdown and restrictions include missing my banjo class on a Monday night in the Anchor Bar in Killough, having a quiet pint of Guinness in the Old Commercial Bar in Ardglass, and having to go into a shop and have a good sneeze without everyone looking at me in absolute horror !
Life has changed for the better and for the worse. One downside of increased exposure to the computer screen is eye strain. I’m involved in quite a few Zoom and Skype online meetings each week which is an extra overload to my already busy eyes and this does tire me out. So I have to pace myself accordingly. I tend to be a burner of the midnight oil.
Well, that’s me and Covid-19. I hope I don’t catch it, and for that matter I hope no-one reading this catches it too.