The central business district of Beijing, China. Photo: iStock

The spread of Covid-19 has presented China-based businesses with unprecedented challenges. Businesses are now relying on a scattered workforce and operational downtime, and thwarted supply chains are threatening to bring business to a standstill, while reduced personnel has precipitated new human-resource challenges.

Economy uncertainties and changing consumer shopping behavior also mean reduced cash flow, more expensive campaigns, and increased overhead costs. Every business manager needs to find bold and timely solutions to these challenges, yet few have ever experienced a crisis of this magnitude.

China’s economy is promising to rebound sooner than much of the rest of the world, so those doing business there just have to wait until the movement of people, supply chains, production, and consumer confidence resumes. Most multinational companies in China are now planning on recovery and preparing their arsenal for post-recovery. That is the route every Chinese business needs to take going forward.

So, how do you manage your Chinese business during the pandemic? Here is what you should know.

Managing employees

Communication challenges: One challenge that employers have to contend with is how to communicate with their staff members with clarity. There is too much information out there, most of which is confusing, contradictory, or impractical.

Reliable information is technically absent because even media reports are littered with unreliable perspectives and advice. Without consistent information and overall direction, employees cannot be productive at the workplace. You, the employer, must be the voice of reason and source of hope that your workers rely on.

Keeping employees safe: You must create proactive guidance, operational guidelines and procedures, and financial/emotional support for each of your workers. You have to train your staff members on ways of minimizing exposure to Covid-19 while at the workplace or when they are out dining in canteens.

You must also set up health checks and quarantine areas for everyone who steps into the office and have emergency systems in place for any abnormal situation that may arise. By so doing, you will gain the confidence and trust of your employees. They will feel cared for and safe enough to work optimally.

Other human-resource challenges: During these uncertain times, abiding by Chinese employment law is a huge challenge for employers. Of course, there are positives such as increased government aid and reduced taxes, but companies are finding it hard to navigate the employment laws in regards to leave and terminations.

Employers need the services of global professional employer organizations to navigate the confusing and sometimes contradicting China employment laws. With global PEO services, hiring and firing employees during a crisis, as well as negotiating remuneration, is a little less stressful.

Labor flexibility

Some businesses have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, but firing employees is not an option for them. If you run a restaurant, for example, your employees have nothing to do since the government banned sit-in eateries. Your only way of preventing employee redundancy is to allocate them new and valuable roles. You can, for example, engage them in recovery planning activities. That level of flexibility and creativity can be challenging to achieve.

Supply chain logistics

Chinese manufacturers and suppliers are working tirelessly to keep supply chains up and running. That is how the country has managed to ensure enough supply of materials, especially personal protective equipment for the front-line medical workers (surgical masks, disinfectants, protective suits, and safety goggles).

But not all industries have been as lucky as the medical sector in terms of keeping supply lines open. Most stores are struggling to keep commodity prices as low as possible and at the same time remaining stocked with all the supplies that their clients need.

There is also the challenge of providing fast and safe delivery services in cities that have been locked down. Companies such as Alibaba and JD Logistics have turned to autonomous ground robots in their provision of last-mile delivery.


The Chinese economy has been exposed by Covid-19 as a highly vulnerable market in times of societal and economic disruptions. As a trader in China, you must start strategizing on how to respond to infectious-disease outbreaks even after this one is contained. After all, this virus will not be the last to cause a global pandemic.

Elliot Rhodes

Elliot Rhodes is a financial analyst and instructor, who enjoys using what he has learned from seven years of studying business and money to help others achieve financial stability. He recently co-founded 247 Call, a call-center service provider.