Coronavirus Help & Information

We recognise that the current situation surrounding COVID-19 will be a cause of major concern to everyone but we want to re assure you that we are here to help if you should need us. 

To help, please see below some useful links, online resources, guidance and information that may be useful.  


Guidance on Corona Virus

Difficulties paying HMRC

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Insurance Support

Financial Guidance for SME’s

ACAS Employer and Employee Advice

  

 

Your Wellbeing

During this time of lockdown and social distancing, with the vast majority of people at home, it’s never been more important to look after your mental wellbeing as well as your health.

For some people, being at home during the day will be normal, particularly for those that are retired or looking after children. However, for a lot of people, this will be quite a change from the usual day-to-day life. Once the novelty of being at home has worn off, you may find yourself wondering how to keep some sense of normality.

Here are some top tips to help you keep busy, keep well and manage your mental health.

 

Have a routine

A lot of people find having a routine important. From getting up at the same time each day, following the same morning routine as much as possible, but what about after that? Whether you live alone or with others, why not set a plan for the week?

 

What activities you’ll be doing consistently every day? e.g. your daily form of exercise

Plan different activities for different days

Make a list of jobs you need to do around the house – some people find ticking things off a list gives them a sense of achievement

Having a sort out – if you’re not working from home, this is a great time to catch up on those jobs you’ve meaning to do for a while. Organising cupboards, cleaning the oven, sorting the garage, organising paperwork and bills – the list is endless

Have a digital clear out. If you’ve got hundreds of emails sat in your inbox, why not spend some time organising or deleting emails you don’t need.

Sorting your finances – whether you’ve got an insurance renewal coming up, need to speak to your mortgage company about a payment holiday or just filing paperwork, now is a great time to sort these jobs. Remember that phone lines are likely to be very busy at the moment, particularly for mortgage companies, so be patient.

Cleaning – just keeping on top of the chores will help, but if you love a bit of cleaning get your dusters and Dettol out and give the house a deep clean.



Find ways to relax or be creative

Whether you’ve now got a full household, or you’re used to being out and about, finding some activities to keep your occupied or relaxed at home will really help maintain a sense of well being

 

Arts and Crafts – many people find they need a creative outlet so think about activities you might enjoy. This could be painting, drawing, upcycling old furniture, knitting, crocheting and much more. You can order supplies online.

DIY – if you enjoy a spot of decorating or you’ve got a list of odd jobs to do around the house, now is a great time to get on top of the DIY

Playing music – for those of you that are musically inclined, picking up an instrument, singing or listening to music will be a great way to get creative or relax

Mindfulness and meditation – taking time out to relax and shut off from everything that’s going on can be really helpful. If you’ve got children at home, it can be difficult to find time for yourself, but even if it’s ten minutes when the kids are all in bed, it can be beneficial. There’s lots of mindfulness apps out there.

Yoga is a great way to exercise gently and focus on your breathing. Many people find it reduces stress and anxiety as well as feeling more grounded

Gardening – if you love tending to plants, now is a great time to start seeding plants ready for the summer. You could even think about growing your own veg. You don’t need to head out to the local garden centre or DIY store, you can buy seeds, compost etc online

Create a list of movies or boxsets – maybe you’ve never seen Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, now might be a great time to make a list and tick off all of the TV shows and movies you’ve been wanting to watch, but previously, not had the time to do so.

 

Stay connected

For some, not being able to see friends or family could become quite lonely, so it’s important to stay connected. And with all the tech we’re surrounded with, doing so with video calls through Facetime or What’s app or zoom is a doddle.

 

Make a bucket list

One idea that has been trending on social media is creating your very own bucket list for when life returns to normal and we’re no longer in lockdown or social distancing. Think about all the things you currently miss doing, what are the things you want to do as soon as you’re able to?

Maybe it’s visiting all the friends and family you’ve not seen and giving them a much-needed hug, maybe a visit to the beach, going to the pub for dinner, going for a walk without having to cross the road. Whatever it is, write them on a small piece of paper, fold them up and stick them in a jar or container. Then when life returns to normal, pick one out and go and do it. This will give you something positive to focus on.

 

Keeping your mind active

Remember to keep your brain active and challenged by setting aside time for reading, doing puzzles or watching films. There are lots of free brain training apps for smart phones. You could learn a new skill or language. What about setting up your own blog? Writing about your experiences during this period of isolation could be quite cathartic and entertaining for others, particularly if you keep it light and positive.

 

Managing your media intake

Whilst it can be useful to keep a watchful eye on the news, for some people it can trigger anxiety and be very overwhelming. Take a look at the MIND website they have some great advice with news and information. You can find out more here.

To keep informed, use reputable sources such as the BBC or the Government websites.

 

Top Tips For Working At Home

For many people, working from home is part of their working life, but for others, it will be the first time they’ve needed to do it. It can be a big culture shock from being surrounded by people and talking to someone right next to you to total isolation in a matter of a week. It takes some getting used but after a few weeks it starts to get easier and you can then work from pretty much anywhere, so here are a few tips to help you be more efficient and maintain your wellbeing, without feeling too isolated.

 

Having the right kit

Hopefully if you’re working from home, you’ve got the right tools for the job. For most this will include a web-enabled laptop, with access to your work’s intranet and files, however most people can do what they need to via email. If you need to speak to people and have a mobile phone, start using video calls. This will help you to not feel like you’re on your own, and if you’re on the phone, try to use your headphones or a headset to avoid neckache.

 

Flexibility versus discipline

Sticking to a routine really helps. Get up at the same time, as if you were going to leave for work, even showering and dressing for the day helps. Then get to your desk, table, kitchen work top at the same time, this will give you a feeling of continuity, the only thing that you need to be mindful of is not working over, sometimes when working at home you can work longer hours, so be strict with your start and finish times.

 

However, in light of Coronavirus, you’ll probably need to be more flexible, particularly if you’ve got kids and other members of your family at home. Try to find a space in the house where you can minimise disruption but be flexible enough to know that you may need to do some work in the evenings when the kids are in bed.

 

Don’t try to overcompensate with communication – many people feel they have to ‘be seen’, but over sending emails is going to take up other people’s time. Be efficient, get things done and share what you’ve been working on.

 

Take regular breaks

When you’re working from home, a routine is important, but make sure it doesn’t become monotonous. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, just like you would at work. Many freelancers that work from home recommend the Pomodoro Technique, whereby you choose a task and break it down into mini, focussed ‘sprints’ in the aim of reducing internal and external disruptions.

 

Lists is another way of compartmentalising your day, the best bit of a list is ticking off a task which gives you a huge sense of achievement. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it does help to focus your mind.

 

If you’re on a long conference call, stand up, walk around. These breaks will help to keep you focussed longer term and avoid burn-out.

 

If you normally have a lunch break – be sure to fit in some exercise; either a walk around the block (following the Government’s guidelines) or a ten-minute burst of activity to keep your energy up in the afternoon.

 

 

Keep in contact

Set up a WhatsApp group for you and your team/colleagues. Check in each morning, make sure you’re all well and ready for the day. It’s also a good way to communicate and update each other, without using email. Keep it upbeat and positive. As we’ve already mentioned, you can use video calling on your phone, but there are other options too – here’s a few you might find useful:

 

Zoom - is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars.

Google Hangouts – with options for both audio and video conferencing, users must have a Gmail account. You can host both of these for up to 25 people.

PowWowNow – offers free audio conferencing for unlimited guests. If you want video or web conferencing they do offer a subscription service. 

Skype – one of the best-known conference-calling solutions where you can host calls for up to 25 people that have skype enabled on their computer.

Severe Disruption at UKs Three Main Container Ports


 

Congestion is causing severe disruptions at the UK's three main container ports. LOFA members are seeing shipping lines not being allowed to return empty containers to the ports because they have exceeded their agreed allocations. Consequently, ports are putting a block on them returning any further containers in an attempt to prevent congestion at the terminals.  In the past shipping, lines have used surrounding off quay container yards for overspill storage but this again is an issue because container yards do not operate the same hours as the ports.

 

Major congestion disruptions and misery at all three ports, Felixstowe, Southampton, and London are being further compounded by the added introduction of COVID 19 measures.

 

Right now, the situation is worsening, this crisis is expected to continue into next year, or until there is a let-up in the current volume levels, which is leading to carrier companies introducing port congestion surcharges.

 

This lack of space and container issues will result in price hikes coming in as early as next week.  This crisis has led to many carriers refusing bookings to the UK and even talks of UK ports being omitted on some vessel rotations. The container capacity issues in the market will inevitably lead to substantial increases in sea freight costs, and the lack of availability will also lead to delays in the delivery of containers to UK destinations. 

 

The situation will become worse before it gets better for logistic providers and UK importers.  It is hoped that the current backlog does not continue into Chinese New Year so that business can recover by the time we reach February 2021 and if not by the time we are all faced with the challenges that Brexit will bring.

 

This is troubling news for LOFA members and the industry as a whole, leisure products start to hit ports as early as December.  The UK appears to be in a particularly difficult position, the congestion and delays which appeared to impact Felixstowe initially have now spread to other ports, resulting in some vessels having to “cut and run’ before discharging containers.  The UK port issues have now led to one or two carriers unofficially communicating their refusal to take bookings to the UK from Asian locations during November. It will therefore follow that their vessels will not be calling at UK ports. 


Of course, the peak season, which has been heightened by six months of global trade being pushed into four this year, cannot be expected to continue indefinitely and is usually driven by Black Friday and Christmas sales. So, at some time, in the not too distant future, there must be some much-needed respite for UK ports and business, that said, with COVID-19 starting to peak once more, the current national lockdown and Brexit on the horizon, the next few months are still likely to be an extremely challenging time for the industry as a whole.





Container Issues continue to escalate at UK ports

Container Issues continue to escalate at UK ports

LOFA reported two weeks ago of the congestion that is causing major problems at UK ports, this crisis is now escalating, and the situation is now being highlighted by the BBC who are reporting on the struggle and financial impact this it's having on UK businesses.


These issues at ports have led to shipping firms quadrupling their freight costs.  These delays, which mainly seem to be worse at Felixstowe, are being caused by a surge in import traffic.  


The owner of the port said that if the chaos continues, these increased shipping prices will have to be passed down the supply chain. It seems that containers are being left on the quayside because haulage companies are unable to book slots to enter the site. 


Retail outlets will suffer because they will be unable to sell what is en-route at the moment in time for Christmas which will mean there will be a knock-on effect for the outdoor leisure industry after the holidays when garden-related products start arriving ready for the S/S Season 2021. 


Hutchinson Ports UK who owns Felixstowe has said that Covid, the imbalance in UK Trade, and Brexit stockpiling have exacerbated the situation and they are working with their customers and stakeholders to try and find a solution for the current situation. 


Another problem that is facing the port is empty containers waiting to be shipped back to Asia, these are causing a backlog at ports across Europe and North America, and to add further fuel to the fire shipping companies have sharply increased freight prices in response to the congestion, some by as much as 300%.  


It is extremely worrying that big shipping lines are drastically reducing UK volumes because so much of the UK goods arrive through our ports.  Ports across the world are battling to manage these surging demands for imports but it seems that Felixstowe is struggling more than most.