A small business owner shows fabric to her cohorts in a Microsoft Teams meeting. A small business owner shows fabric to her cohorts in a Microsoft Teams meeting.

Helping small and medium-sized businesses during COVID-19

Editor’s note 6/30/2020:
This post has been updated to reflect a change in the availability of the Microsoft 365 Business Basic six-months free offer.

With the COVID-19 outbreak impacting companies across the globe, we’ve all experienced a world of remote everything. Overnight, the outbreak compelled organizations large and small to shut their doors and navigate a whiplash digital transformation while working to keep employees safe, connect with customers, and move work forward. Today, as some organizations begin to reopen and others remain fully remote, small and medium-sized businesses face a unique set of challenges. We get it, and we are working hard to help enable your employees to stay connected and productive, through COVID-19 and beyond.

Here I’m going to share three inspiring stories on how small and medium-sized businesses are navigating this moment. Then I’ll go over some recent offerings designed to help you and your business navigate this unprecedented moment. Finally, I’ll point you to partnerships with American Express and Adobe, created to further support your efforts to keep work moving. Let’s get started.

Learning from customers

Every day, our customers tell us that priority number one is adapting tools that enable remote work and help them roll out changes as quickly as possible. Peter, who owns a winery in Michigan, typically runs his company on-site, with staff in the office. When the pandemic hit, Peter quickly realized that he needed to invest in online collaboration and file-sharing tools like OneDrive for Business. He started using OneDrive to help make sure that “business documents [and] business information are accessible from anywhere, and not to anyone, but to the appropriate people from wherever they need to work.” This has helped him safely stay in business, fulfilling orders remotely until offices can reopen.

Alex, the president of an engineering consulting firm in Toronto, found he also needs to pivot his business in a new direction. “We used to have 80 percent of our meetings with clients in person,” says Alex. “Now it’s 100 percent over the internet.” Secure communications, along with the ability to hold long online meetings that fit clients’ schedules, are particularly important to Alex. We designed new features and capabilities in Microsoft Teams, part of the Microsoft 365 productivity solution, to help companies like Alex continue connect with clients even when they can’t meet in person. You can learn more about Teams here.

As restrictions ease in certain regions, some businesses are reopening softly—but may have a long way to go before they can recover fully. Jackie is a General Manager who works at a restaurant supply distributing company with 17 employees in Massachusetts. She says keeping her staff employed is “critical” for her organization, but also tricky since their business depends on events like parties and weddings. While the team was fully remote, Jackie set up what she calls “virtual offices,” distributing computers to everyone who didn’t already have one that they could take home. Recently, her employees have been able to return to the office in rotation while continuing to communicate with teammates working from home. Meanwhile, Jackie intends on keeping everyone busy. “I literally have them cleaning, organizing, you know, doing a cycle counts, inventory, like pretty much trying to keep everybody employed,” she says.

We are thrilled that our technology can help keep work moving for customers like Peter, Alex, and Jackie. To help more of our small and medium-sized business customers at this time, we have updated some of our offerings to specifically meet their needs.

Benefits for your business

Here’s a quick summary of existing benefits to help small and medium-sized businesses at this time.

  1. Microsoft Teams Free offer: Teams is a part of Microsoft 365. Customers using an email address like Gmail or Outlook can also sign up for the free version of Teams. And a reminder, if you already have Microsoft 365 subscription that includes Teams, you can get started by logging in here.
  2. SMB COVID-19 Resource Center: We created this collection of resources to help small businesses get set up for remote work, enable their employees to work remotely, and weather the storm with advice from fellow business owners on operating through COVID-19. There’s also advice from Microsoft Advertising on ways to attract new customers at this time, including a special offer for search services.

But recovery doesn’t occur in a vacuum. We know that many small and medium-sized business customers are already working with some of our long-standing partners. So we teamed up with them to find additional ways to help you through this time. We’ve joined American Express as part of the Stand for Small campaign, and Adobe’s COVID-19 support efforts.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the heartbeat of economies and cultures everywhere. At Microsoft, we are committed to enabling them to stay open through this challenging moment. Today, I’ve shared stories of how businesses like yours are showing resilience even in the face of great challenge. I’ve also outlined offerings aimed at helping all of our small and medium-sized customers, including offers with partners that you may already be working with. I look forward to sharing more news and updates with you in the days to come. Meanwhile, let’s continue to move forward together.