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Smooth Transition to the New Normal

Although the recovery rate is increasing, Singapore has been recording a rise in the spread of Covid-19. The number was even double in the recent September.

As of May 2023, 2.4 million cases and 1,722 deaths were reported, which is relatively higher compared to the earlier reported 2.3 million cases and 1721 deaths in the same month.

By changing health care protocols and gradually easing restrictions, the government hopes to create an environment in which we can all live with the virus – an endemic.

So, for the most part, cars are back on the roads, business is opening up, and people are returning to daily commutes on public transport.

One question remains: with the rising numbers, what measures have been put in place to curb the spread while supporting business continuity?

New Changes

As part of the transition, Singapore government announced new changes to its COVID policy. Here are the major changes:

1. Vaccination and Mask-wearing

Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) were lifted on 10 October 2022. Subsequently, Safe Management Measures (SMMs) have stepped down from 13 February 2023, except for mask-wearing. This SMM is not as strict, which is only required for visitors, staff and patients in healthcare and residential care settings. Not compulsory on public transport. The prudent public continue wearing although this has become optional.

Consecutively, all employees are allowed to return their workplaces, regardless of their Covid-19 status. The work-from-home arrangement for employees, who are tested positive for Covid-19 but physically fit to work, are controlled by the employers. Anyone, tested Covid-positive, does not have to inform a statutory body.

2. Border Changes

There have also been changes to Singapore’s border measures. As of 13 February 2023, Singapore has lifted all Covid-19 border requirements. That means there are no more restrictions for travellers regardless of their profile or Covid-19 status.

Tips for Singapore Businesses

These changes are welcome news for business but also raise several concerns, like how to stay safe and achieve sustainable growth in such uncertain times. Thankfully, this post offers several tips on how to do that.

Here’s how you can safely make it through this period of uncertainty.

Consult with your stakeholders

Your employees, customers and other partners will have different opinions on the return to work. Carrying out a stakeholder meeting will help you to gain feedback and understand who they are so you can consult with them as needed.

They will likely hold opposing views. Some will be excited for the return to “normal,” while others will be more apprehensive.

You need to consider all these opinions and factor them into the decisions you make. Empathy mapping can be an excellent tool for understanding stakeholder options.

It can help you balance different needs and develop a balanced approach to reassuring those who are unsure about returning to the workplace.

Seek out new opportunities for growth

Now that restrictions have eased, you should seek out ways to expand your business. Don’t hesitate to create a budget for these opportunities.

Whether it involves integrating a new IT solution into your operations or implementing a new sales strategy, you should invest in resources and knowledge that will help your company grow sustainably.

Embrace flexible work arrangements (FWAs)

The government of Singapore acknowledges the need for work-life balance in promoting business continuity and productivity. As such, it is set to release guidelines on flexible work arrangements in 2024.

But how prepared are you to embrace these changes? You can take this time to review the suggested changes and how they will impact your business.

Identify what your employees need and the needs of your business so you can optimally reap the benefits of the suggested FWAs. It will also help in establishing a smooth transition come 2024.

Go Digital

41% of Singapore SMEs who embraced digitalisation in 2021, reported a rise in their sales revenue. Consequently, 6 in 10 SMEs who were hesitant to adopt digitalisation reported lower revenue in 2020 than in 2019.

Considering the disruption Covid-19 has caused, going digital cannot be a luxury any longer. It should be your priority. The government has launched a program to help with the process, which should make things easier for you.

Joining the SMEs Go Digital program makes you eligible for the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which grants you access to various pre-approved digital solutions.

Going digital will create new opportunities for your business to explore. The government initiative, in particular, offers several benefits that include:

● Smart matching, where the local SME suppliers will get recommendations to possible overseas clients
● Optimised listings on overseas electronic marketplaces
● Quick access to available financing methods
● Access to reliable supply chain partners, like logistics companies that offer last-mile delivery, if you need the service.

Embrace remote and hybrid work arrangements

Covid-19 revealed the possibility of remaining productive during uncertain times. Many businesses were hesitant to adopt remote work arrangements. But as the pandemic proved adamant, they had no choice but to cope.

Embracing remote work not only keeps you moving during uncertain times but also cuts costs. You cannot have all your employees at the office, which means you can save on office space budget.

Besides, embracing remote work means you can tap into the top talent globally, which is also part of helping you to spread your wings and gain more visibility.

Make smart budget choices for your business

Despite the ease in restrictions, many sectors of the economy are yet to recover.  This means it may take a while before you achieve the same level of performance as before the pandemic.

The choices in your financial management during this period will significantly affect your business. Here are some tips on managing your finances:

●  Make a budget and follow it. It’s easier to manage finances when you have a budget and the updated accounts for reference.

They will help you determine where your money is spent and evaluate whether you’re spending too much or too little on crucial business processes.

●  Spread out your expenses. It’s okay to invest in materials, equipment, and training for your employees. However, you shouldn’t attempt to do everything all at once.

Spread out your expenses so that your purchases won’t force you into an uncontrollable debt spiral.

●  Be frugal: This is not to say, you should be extreme, but do your best to reduce costs in all aspects of your business. For example, you should look for ways to negotiate better deals with your suppliers before signing a contract.

Something else to consider is determining the strategies for consuming your finances.

●  Have a cash reserve: Keeping a cash reserve will help you compensate for unexpected events (like new restrictions) without the need to take a corporate or personal loan, even if you have a decent credit score.

Keep your employees safe

 

Ask your employees to get the vaccine if they haven’t done so yet but are eligible

Nearly 90% of Singapore’s eligible population have been fully vaccinated. But if your employees aren’t among this number for some reason, it’s crucial that they take the shot.

The Delta variant that has been spreading through the country is more infectious than the earlier forms of the virus and may cause more severe illness. There’s the threat of new variants, too.

The vaccine will limit the chances that they will catch the virus and prevent serious illness, even if they do.

Even though the government has lifted the social distancing requirements and declared mask-wearing indoors and outdoors as optional, these safety guidelines are essential for your organisation.

Distancing

The end of restrictions means a return to the hustle and bustle of daily life. But that doesn’t mean you should be less vigilant.

Respiratory illnesses like Covid-19 spread through coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Keeping a safe social distance (whenever possible) will keep you safe.

Keep your mask on

Evidence shows that wearing a mask will reduce your risk of exposure to airborne Covid-19 droplets, thereby reducing the chances you will get sick.

A recent study which looked at coronavirus mortality across 198 countries found that those whose cultural norms and government policies encouraged mask-wearing had significantly lower death rates.

Two compelling case reports also suggest that mask-wearing would be a great strategy during the transition.

In one report, a man on a flight from China to Toronto was discovered to be Covid-19 positive. He had a dry cough and wore a mask during the flight, and all 25 people nearest to him tested negative for Covid-19.

In another report, two hair stylists in Missouri were in close proximity to 140 clients while sick with Covid-19. Everyone wore a mask, and none of the clients was tested positive.

You and your employees should wear a mask whenever you are in indoor public spaces. You may want to do the same in outdoor areas with several Covid-19 cases and for business activities that involve close contact with others, who have not been fully vaccinated.

Conclusion

Despite the uncertainty over how things will turn out. There are reasons to be hopeful. Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, so most of us are already protected from severe COVID-related health conditions.

We also have substantial health resources and experience from managing other public health crises. These strengths constitute a resilient healthcare system, so you can rest assured that the situation will improve eventually.

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