While talks about a coronavirus vaccine signal light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t expect the pandemic to disappear overnight. COVID will remain a source of concern for businesses and their employees in 2021.
And as if 2021 wasn’t going to be challenging enough, UK businesses need to consider how trade deals will affect processes. Unlike the pandemic, Brexit remains an uncertain risk with unknown consequences. The European Parliament isn’t expected to ratify a deal before 28 December. How can companies best prepare to navigate the uncertainty of 2021?
Don’t ignore mental health needs
According to the ONS, almost 7 in 10 adults in the UK fear that COVID is having a negative effect on their life. From anxiety to mental fatigue, the pandemic has taken its toll on employees’ mental health. As we are in the middle of the second lockdown period, companies need to plan long-term for the impact of COVID. There’s a burnout syndrome that is linked to the pandemic. Exhausting, stress, and loss of productivity can be immediate results. But in the long term, employees may choose to leave to focus on their mental health.
Similarly, Brexit anxiety and EU grief are likely to affect teams when the transition period ends. For a lot of Britons, losing the EU identity can be a painful and anxiety-driven experience.
Plan for remote business
As mentioned, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to disappear overnight. Medical experts predict COVID will dramatically change our lives until the end of 2021, which means that remote working arrangements make sense. Hiring remote talents, however, can offer international opportunities for companies that can employ staff overseas. Hiring internationally-based talent removes immigration and right to work concerns. However, companies need to be au fait about local employment regulations and expectations, both in terms of rights and wages.
Additionally, remote opportunities may be affected by Brexit. For companies that export goods using international shipping services, it becomes essential to understand how to organise transport from UK warehouses to EU and US customers. Reaching out to shipping experts to discuss their Brexit preparations can make a great deal of difference. In the event of a no-deal, unprepared transport services will face documentation and tariffs challenges.
Expand to reach new areas
Whether the UL reaches a Brexit deal or not, there are already new trade agreements. The UK-Japan deal ensures that nearly all exports to Nipponese territory will be tariff-free. The deal is expected to boost UK GDP by only 0.07% and take effect on 1 January 2021. Similar in most terms to the EU-Japan trade agreement, the deal ensures the UK can secure a trade relationship with Japan.
Japan, Brexit, and COVID are some of the life-changing challenges that UK businesses need to face in 2021. However, the pandemic has distracted companies, resulting in the impossibility to prepare for future risks. According to surveys, less than 15% of businesses feel ready for what Brexit will bring. While the pandemic is partially to blame, the inability to secure information and an early deal by the UK government is damaging companies. With years to prepare for Brexit, it’s alarming to realise that nobody is ready for it.
With only a handful of months before the Japan deal, we can safely assume that British companies are not equipped to benefit from it yet. The question remains: how businesses will navigate 2021 is a mystery.