Lockdown resilience - tips for personal and professional wellbeing during lockdown.

Les Roberts, Senior Content Manager at Bionic
By Les Roberts, Senior Content Manager

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of our lives, but business owners have been hit particularly hard by the lockdown, which has forced the closure of businesses of all sizes.

To make matters worse, many have found their business insurance doesn’t provide the cover they need, while the government schemes designed to ease the financial strain haven’t quite worked out as planned.

Even if you’re not a business owner, uncertainty around job security and spending every waking hour between the same four walls will have taken its toll. 

With no definitive end to the lockdown in sight, here are some ideas to help keep you going throughout the remaining weeks or months.

How to keep your business running during lockdown

If you’ve been able to keep your business running through lockdown, there’s a good chance you’ve had to change the way you operate, at least to a certain degree.

Some businesses owners have started up a delivery service or taken their operation online, while others have had to set up a remote workforce from scratch.

At Bionic, we appreciate that no two businesses are the same – what works for one might not necessarily work for another – but here are some ideas all business owners can consider to keep things ticking over during the rest of the lockdown.

Cut your overheads

With cash flow a problem for many businesses now is as good a time as any to take a look at your finances to see where you can cut back on spending. If staff wages are a concern, the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme could mean that jobs or pay cuts might not be necessary. As things stand, the scheme will pay 80% of your furloughed employee's wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, but the government has suggested this funding will be cut back in the coming months.

If any staff have taken time off to self-isolate or because they’ve shown symptoms of Covid-19, the government’s Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will cover the cost of their sick pay for up to two weeks.

With wages and sick pay covered, it’s time to look at other ways to cut your overheads. If you can get a repayment holiday on any business loans, mortgages or rent, this could give you a bit of breathing space. But one of the quickest and simplest ways to cut your outgoings and save money is to switch your business essentials.

Switching business energy, business insurance and business connectivity with Bionic could also help to cut your business costs. Speak to our tech-enabled team to see how much you could save.

* To find out more, check out 'How our service works'.

Streamline your service

If you’ve managed to keep things running through lockdown, there’s obviously still a demand for the products or services you offer. To help save money and man-hours, you should take stock of which products and services are in the greatest demand and concentrate on those, even if it means temporarily removing those that currently seem less popular.

Cha Bar – a  case study on streamlining your service

Long before I became content manager at Bionic, I ran a small tea shop in West Kirby, Wirral. Overall, it was a success, but some tough decisions had to be made along the way. Here's how I experienced first-hand how streamlining your service can really help...

"I started up my own business in 2009 and we ran into difficulties early on – it seems opening a tea shop in a seaside town just after a huge economic crash and just before one of the coldest winters on record wasn’t the best idea. Very few people were coming through the door and stock was going to waste each day.

"We had to turn things around quickly, which meant streamlining our service. We worked out that those who were coming through the door were largely buying from our breakfast menu, so we simply scrapped everything else from the menu even changing our opening hours to fit in with the early morning commute. Swift and decisive action meant our business recovered and went on to be a success."

Keep on top of cash flow

Staying on top of cash flow is key to keeping your business running, especially when times are tough.

If your business is struggling with cash flow, the government’s Bounce Bank Loan Scheme (BBLS) offers small business loans of up to £50,000, with no repayments to be made for the first year, during which time the government will also cover the interest repayments. Applications are now open, and you’ll need to get in touch with your business bank provider to find out more.

If you run a larger business or need more than the £50,000 offered by BBLS, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) offer loans of between £5 million and £50 million, depending upon your annual turnover.

The government has also announced grants for nurseries, businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector and those that are eligible for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief (RRR).

For more information on all of the above, check out the Bionic Coronavirus Business Finance Guide.

Get your message out there

Advertising budgets can be the first to be cut when money is tight, but you can still make the most of the free advertising opportunities offered by social media. Even if you’ve never used social media before, now could be as good a time as any to dive in.

Use your social channels to keep your customers up to speed with where you’re up to, including any changes to your service and opening hours, and post images and video updates whenever possible to encourage engagement with your customers.

It’s also worth utilising the tools offered by Google My Business to help with your local search engine listings.

How to work from home

The government instructions are that anyone who can work from home should work from home. If your business is in this position, it’s important to make sure staff can work from home as effectively as they can from the office.

This means kitting them out with all the hardware and software they need to do their job, such as a laptop with video conferencing capabilities, along with reliable business broadband and a secure VPN connection.

Bionic can help you and your workforce stay connected wherever they are and whatever the circumstances, with the following useful packages. For more information, give our business connectivity team a call on 0800 840 9056.

If employees are using their own equipment, make sure you have a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy in place that covers data protection and cyber security. If they’re using equipment provided by your business, make sure it’s fully insured against damage, loss and theft.

With the tech all sorted, it’s time to consider some practical tips to help you and your employees make the most of working from home.

Make an early start

Working from home means you no longer have the morning commute to get your head set for a day in the office, all of which helps with your flow and motivation throughout the rest of the day.

Set your alarm for the same time as if you were travelling into work, and then use this time to do some exercise - yoga is a great way to gently wake up your mind and body - make breakfast or spend time with family.

If you prefer to get up and at it, you could dive straight into your to-do list – having a few things checked off before you’ve officially clocked on can work wonders for motivation, and making an early start on a project can be key to making progress on it during the rest of the day. 

If you do roll out of the bedsheets and straight into the spreadsheets, make sure you take this time back with a longer lunch or an early finish - just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you should work longer hours or blur the work/life boundaries.

Structure your day

A lack of structure is one of the biggest challenges faced by remote workers, especially when you factor in the number of distractions there are around the home – while it might seem like a good idea to break during the day to do a couple of hours of housework, working late into the evening can blur the lines between work and home life, which can drain you both physically and mentally. 

To keep the boundaries clear, set yourself clear daily targets and set reminders for when one project needs to be finished and another started. Scheduling in a stand up with the rest of your team every morning and evening can also help to define the start and end of your working day.

You also need to be aware of those times when you’re at your most productive and save the more challenging tasks for when you’re at your most motivated.

Stick to your workspace

You might have no choice but to work from the living room while at home, but if you do have the option of another room that’s not associated with ‘down’ time, then try to clear space and set yourself up in there. Having a designated ‘office’ can help you get your head set for a day at work in the morning and switch off in the evening.

Once you’re set up in your workspace, only ever use this during work time and make sure you leave it when taking a break – no more eating lunch at your desk.

Cut down on distractions

While sectioning off a workspace can help with the many distractions around the home, there are plenty of online distractions you need to be wary of, especially social media. To reduce the risk of losing hours to Facebook and Twitter, remove all social media shortcuts from your browser, log out of all your accounts and switch off your smartphone.

It might also help with productivity if you block out times in your calendar to just get stuff done and clear your to-do list - this will show colleagues you’re otherwise engaged and give you a clear run at some of the more demanding tasks or those that need greater concentration.

Take regular breaks

It’s easy to forget to take breaks when you work from home. Once you’ve ironed out the issue of distractions around the home and online, you can really focus on your work, but this can also mean you work right through the day and into the evening without taking a break.

To keep yourself in the best mental state throughout the day, schedule regular break times and take plenty of time away from your workspace to stretch your legs and switch off from work.

Make sure colleagues know to avoid contacting you by blocking out these break times in your calendar. And, if you have children, this could be a great opportunity to spend some more quality time with them. If you let the kids know the times you’ll be free, this might also stop them from distracting you at various, less convenient, points during the day.

How to look after mental health during lockdown

Being stuck between the same four walls can have a hugely negative impact on your mental health, especially when you set it against the backdrop of why we’re all living in lockdown and the uncertainty the pandemic has brought to every aspect of our lives.

Here are some ways to help look after your mental health and that of those around you: 

Stay active and eat well

Exercise is vital for physical and mental wellbeing, but with no reason to leave the house every day, the temptation to sit around and overeat can become overwhelming. 

Make sure you stay active by taking at least an hour out of your day to go on walks and runs or use online fitness and yoga tutorials. And if you do find yourself snacking throughout the day, try to swap out the crips and sweets for healthier snacks like yoghurt and fruit.

Cut your alcohol consumption

The pressure of lockdown can make it feel like there’s no natural release from work, and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life can make drinking earlier in the day a real temptation. 

If you’re noticing an urge to drink during working hours, or feel the need to crack open a bottle at the end of each working day, consider drinking more water during the day and try non-alcoholic alternatives in the evening to limit your consumption.

If you limit drinking alcohol to weekends, this will help you sleep better during the week and be more beneficial to your overall health.

Keep an eye out for others

We all need to look after each other during lockdown, so make sure you check in on the health of those who live at home with you, your friends and family and your work colleagues. It may also help to keep in touch with the people you’d normally see regularly during a normal working week, whether by text, call or video call.

Cut down on social media

Endlessly scrolling through your social media feeds isn’t healthy at the best of times, so try to cut back on the amount of time you spend browsing timelines. Social media is also a breeding ground for scaremongering and disinformation, so try not to delve into anything that could increase any feelings of anxiety.

Read books and listen to music

Everyone talks of binging on boxsets, but take a step back from the telly to get stuck into a good book and listen to whatever music relaxes you or makes you happy – maybe using headphones, to preserve the sanity of everyone else who’s in lockdown with you.

Cut down on the news

The endless talk of death and disease on the news can really take its toll on your mental health, even if you don’t realise it. Try to avoid the 24-hour rolling news stations, and maybe only watch or listen to the main afternoon or evening bulletins to keep yourself up to speed.

Keep a sense of perspective

Again, the endless talk of death and disease can be draining, as can the restrictions of lockdown, but try to keep a sense of perspective and remember that all things come to an end, even when there appears to be no end in sight. 

What financial help is available during lockdown?

As mentioned above, the government implemented a number of schemes to help businesses with the financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak and the impact of lockdown, including: 

Government measures to help businesses through the coronavirus crisis 
Bounce back Loans of up to £50,000 for small businesses 
Statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England 
£10,000 grants for all businesses that are eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief 
£25,000 grants for businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure that have a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 
Loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank as part of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 
A new lending facility from the Bank of England to support cash flows for larger businesses  
Help with tax through the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme  
VAT deferrals. No business will pay VAT from now until the end of June. Suspended for the next quarter. 
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - Grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers kept on by companies  
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme - Grants covering up to 80% of a self-employed person's average income over the last three years (including freelancers and sole traders) 
Changes to insolvency laws and the ‘wrongful trading’ rules  
Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) - Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. 

For more details, check out our guide to business finance during the coronavirus lockdown.

If your business finances have been affected by coronavirus, there’s a good chance your personal finances will be feeling the strain too. Here are some tips to help you keep on top of your money during lockdown.

It's also worth noting that employers can now pay up to £6 a week (£26 a month) to cover additional costs for employees who work from home. For previous tax years, the rate is £4 a week (£18 a month). For more information, go to https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home

What if you’re struggling with loan or credit card repayments?

To help people who might be struggling financially during lockdown, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has ordered banks and lenders to put payment freezes in place on loans and credit cards, and make the first £500 of any overdraft facility interest-free.

These measures mean you won’t have to make the minimum repayments for a set amount of time, and although your credit score won’t be affected by the freeze, interest will still be charged, so only take a pay break if you really need to.

And if you think you’re going to miss payments on any loans, credit cards, store cards or even your mortgage, you should let your lenders know as soon as possible so you can work out a payment plan. 

What if you’re struggling with rent or mortgage repayments?

If you can’t keep up with mortgage repayments, lenders are offering repayment holidays of up to three months. This also includes buy-to-let mortgages, so speak to your landlord about this if you live in rented accommodation and are struggling to keep up with your rent.

The government has announced emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the coronavirus crisis.

What if you’re struggling with council tax payments?

Council tax payments are still considered to be a priority debt, which means that any missed payments can land you in financial trouble and lead to debt recovery measures being taken. Although no measures have been put in place to help householders pay or defer council tax, if you’re a low-income household or on Universal Credit, you might be able to get some help towards paying it.

What if you’re struggling to pay your utility bills?

UK Energy suppliers have agreed that no credit or prepayment meters will be cut off during lockdown, but if you’re struggling to pay your gas and electricity bills, you need to speak to your supplier as soon as possible. For more information, check out our guide to energy and the coronavirus lockdown.

UK water companies have also put provisions in place for anyone struggling to pay their bills, so contact your local supplier.

Get impartial financial advice

If you’re worried about growing business or personal debt, it helps to get free, impartial advice from debt charities like MoneyHelper (formerly The Money Advice Service) and Stepchange.

Switch your home and business essentials

If you're feeling the pinch financially, whether at home or at work, switching to a better deal on your essential services can really help cut costs.

Give the tech-enabled team at Bionic a call on 0800 524 4740 to see how much you could save by switching business energy, insurance and broadband, and compare energy deals at UKPower to see how much you could save by switching household energy suppliers.