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Focused on you
Welcome to this week’s handbook for managing through the COVID-19 crisis. 

There’s an important conversation we have to have, and that’s one about how this crisis is affecting the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and managers. We know stress levels are high, sleepless nights are common, and the very uncertain nature of this situation means anxieties may be more pronounced. 

This week Stephanie spoke with two business owners who’ve shared their own mental health journeys, and looked at new research that shows business owners are not alone in feeling like they are carrying the weight of this pandemic on their shoulders. And through a new partnership with SmartCompany, MYOB and Smiling Mind share some expert advice and resources for those looking for support. 

Here are five things to check off your list this week:
Keep reading below for all the latest information about returning to office-based work, advice from our experts, and insights into how other entrepreneurs are managing through the crisis.

Please get in touch If there are specific questions you’d like answered, or experiences you’d like to share with the SmartCompany community.

Stay safe,

Eloise Keating
SmartCompany editor

Healthy mind, healthy business

Linktree co-founder Alex Zaccaria is no stranger to the stresses of startup life, and the effect that can have on both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Now, as COVID-19 creates an intense environment for us all, he’s here to remind you that to take care of yourself is to take care of your business.

Find out how this founder is coping.

For Sheryl Thai, founder of Cupcake Central and co-founder and chief of the League of Extraordinary Women, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a personal journey of fear, grief, vulnerability and resilience.

The League is a community designed to connect women in business, largely through events and networking. And like most events-based businesses, it was badly affected by the virus.

“The first few weeks were really tough. I remember being really down,” Thai says.

“I felt like I was being swallowed up by negative press, and I couldn’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

But, this story has a happy ending.

It may not come as a huge surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic chaos it has caused, is affecting the mental wellbeing of small business owners and startup founders.

According to research from MYOB, two thirds have seen an impact on their mental health, with 64% reporting feeling increased levels of stress, and 62% saying they’re feeling more anxiety than usual.

Find out more.

If you’re suffering from sleepless nights and cluttered thoughts — you’re not the only one. In this sponsored article, Smiling Mind founder Jane Martino and MYOB chief employee experience officer Helen Lea share mindfulness tips for small business owners.

Read more.

Back to the office

For many businesses there’s no turning back the clock on the future of work, as everyone from Big Tech to small e-commerce firms participate in a big natural remote-working experiment.

How are Aussie founders feeling about their offices and staff working from home? 

We asked, they answered.

While the details are still being ironed out, your office isn’t going to look or operate the same for a while.

COSBOA chief Peter Strong says the federal government needs to ensure OH&S regulations related to coronavirus are simple to understand and affordable to implement.

Read more

Employment lawyer Erin Kidd breaks down the nitty-gritty in the Fair Work Commission’s considerations around workers returning to the office.

There’s a laundry list of requirements business owners need to be across, particularly if your business is receiving JobKeeper payments.

Keep reading.

As Australian employers and employees contemplate returning to office-based work, some unexpected personal items are in demand: bar fridges and label makers.

Find out why

Quick links
Queensland government unveils $100 million in small business COVID-19 grants
Could hibernating businesses become “zombie firms”? Industry braces for spike in September insolvencies
COVID-19: A state-by-state guide to hospitality restrictions
When should I pay JobKeeper wages? ATO clarifies deadlines amid payroll confusion
Billions in lost revenue, 10,000 jobs lost: How COVID-19 will undermine Australia’s research capacity
Disrupting the disruptors: How restaurants and startups are flipping the table on meal platforms, and why UberEats should be worried
Hiring and onboarding

While some firms are hunkering down to ride out the pandemic, others are ramping up. But what does hiring and onboarding new recruits look like when so many people are working remotely, and social distancing means throwing the typical job interview out the window?

We asked startups and human resources managers to find out.

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way businesses hire staff, and there’s no going back. But there are no shortage of challenges to negotiate in a world where even an introductory handshake is now out of bounds.

Find out what that might mean for you.


It’s not possible to predict with certainty what will happen in a post-COVID world, or how this crisis is going to make people behave. But that won’t stop futurists sharing their two bobs’ worth, writes Ian Whitworth. 

So who will emerge from the crisis in a stronger position? 

Here’s three traits of post-COVID winners.

Culture is the thing that happens while you’re busy building your business, says Canva’s co-founder Cameron Adams, but it’s not until something such as COVID-19 hits you begin to see the real culture of an organisation emerge. 

Keep reading to learn how Canva is putting its values into action.

There’s no doubt we are in the midst of a crisis, but there’s always time to do business differently, writes Samuel Pavin. 

Here’s why COVID-19 could be a fertile ground for the launch of new startups.

It has never been more important to connect with, and care for, the people in your team. But leaders must remember that not only are you now leading remote, virtual teams, you are leading remote, virtual teams through a crisis. 

Toby Newstead shares six questions to help you navigate the conversations you need to be having with your teams.

According to Rocket Agency co-founder James Lawrence, there are compelling reasons why your business should consider increasing, not decreasing, your marketing budgets in the current climate. 

History gives us innumerable examples of businesses using recessions to grow market share by increasing marketing spend, while their competitors decrease theirs, writes Lawrence, and there’s unlikely to be a cheaper time to get bang for your marketing buck in the months to come.

Read more to find out why now is the time to take advantage of cheap advertising.

What other entrepreneurs are doing

Brisbane edtech startup GO1 has managed to secure $61 million in Series C funding, as the coronavirus accelerates the move towards online learning.

The pandemic has been a “rollercoaster” for the startup, co-founder Andrew Barnes says, but he’s looking ahead to a ‘new normal’ of digital corporate upskilling.

Keep reading

Nomad Coffee Group chief executive Craig Dickson says the coronavirus crisis has been a lesson in the value of diversification for his business, after he saw a 50% sales spike in his coffee through Aldi supermarkets amid coronavirus panic-buying.

Learn more

While COVID-19 social distancing measures may have brought telehealth into the mainstream, social enterprise startup Umbo has been using it for years, to provide occupational and speech therapy services to kids in rural and regional Australia.

Now, the startup is seeing 1000% uptick in clinicians signing up, and a massive 5800% boost in demand for its service training other practices to go online.

And, according to founder Weh Yeoh, once people realise the benefits of remote healthcare, there’s no going back.

Read on

What we're predicting and watching

There have been a string of reports about the targeting of the JobKeeper program over the past week. The AFR reports investment fund managers and age pensioners are accessing the program, as New Zealand tightens the reins on its own wage subsidy program.

This is speculative, but it’s looking increasingly like pressure is going to continue to mount on the federal government to change the JobKeeper program over the coming months. 

JobKeeper has now risen past Treasury modelling with 6.3 million workers covered, and while the government has stressed it is a demand-driven program, estimated participation was used to estimate the $130 billion price tag, which is now at risk of blowing out.

We’re watching what happens with those 12 McDonald’s restaurants that closed over the weekend after a delivery driver tested positive for coronavirus.

Businesses are re-opening their doors across the country at the moment, and amid ongoing concern from medical experts about a second wave of the infection, the fast-food giant has emerged as somewhat of a case study in what shutting down because of a positive test looks like.

So far it appears workers are copping the short end, with The Guardian reporting hundreds of McDonald’s employees in Melbourne have been placed on unpaid leave for 14 days.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released preliminary sales figures for the retail sector in April, and it looks pretty glum. 

Headline retail turnover fell 17.9% in seasonally adjusted terms, the biggest fall ever published in the retail trade survey, following the largest ever increase in March amid panic buying.

While the market expected a fall in retail sales after coronavirus lockdowns and panic buying in March brought forward supermarket spending, a near 18% fall is a monetary deficit of more than $5 billion.

This is a segment of the economy that was already struggling heading into the pandemic, and the weakest categories, including clothing and footwear (down 50%) and cafes/restaurants (down 30%), suffered most in the latest figures.

Additional resources
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
My Business Health
Department of Health