As we line up for a coffee at our local cafe or buy meat from our local butcher, we are becoming more accustomed to social distancing practices within our community.

This is thanks to clear signage we are seeing in our favourite local businesses.

Wilbur Montalban, owner of Descanso, a family-run Filipino cafe in Sydney’s inner west, felt the effects of COVID-19 not just commercially but also on his community.

“As a cafe built on community and camaraderie, not only did the pandemic affect our financials and operations but our social interactions with our community as well,” Mr Montalban says.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Officeworks was determined to provide practical support to their local business community.

“We saw that we had an important role to play to help support local businesses, so they could continue to stay open and operate safely in line with social distancing measures and other government restrictions.” - Sarah Hunter, Officeworks Managing Director.

“Through this initiative Officeworks was able to contribute over $55,000 worth of printing to support more than 1,000 small businesses in over 120 communities across the country.

“Our store teams went out into their local communities and offered their support through free printing services which included everything from social distancing signage, take away menus, shop front posters, floor decals and anything else they may need to continue to trade safely,’’ Ms Hunter says.

“Little things can make a big difference and by reaching out to understand their needs, our team allowed businesses to focus on other important things, while we took care of their printing needs so they could continue to operate safely.’’

“Our finances and manpower were spread thin across the cafe operations. We did not have time and spare budget to put into posters and social distancing floor guides at that time,’’ Mr Montalban says.

“With proper signage and guides in place, our customers became more cautious about their social distancing and that has also helped boost the confidence of those people who were hesitant to come in when the shop is busy as they could see proper social distancing being observed in-store.’’ 

Officeworks team members were key in delivering these services in their local community.

As part of its Print, Copy & Create a Brighter Future initiative, Officeworks team members were encouraged to stay connected and check in with their local business community. In some cases that was in store, but also getting out into the community and hitting the high street.

“I believe it is a great help for small businesses during difficult times,” says Ishan De Alwis from Officeworks Glebe in inner Sydney.

“It’s a very simple but much needed initiative which made us feel that we, as one community, are working together to get through the crisis,’’ Mr Montalban says.

“Being able to support our local community has been a great opportunity. With the times being so uncertain due to COVID-19, being able to provide additional support and sometimes just an ear was a great experience and can continue past these unprecedented times.” Kym Sharpe, Officeworks Launceston in Tasmania.

“Businesses were facing a difficult time. Being able to print decals and signage for social distancing, opening times or menus was one less thing business needed to worry about.’’

Catherine Birrell, owner of Nigel’s Gourmet in Launceston, says the support from Officeworks meant they could continue to operate safely and keep their staff employed.

“We have been able to continue trading and not have to close sites or stand down any staff,’’ she adds.

The support from Officeworks was not simply practical, as Wilbur from Descanso describes, it was a morale booster within the community.

“The local Officeworks team reminded us that as a community, we need to look out for each other, provide whatever support we can give to the local community because that’s the only way we can get through this crisis,’’ he says.

Ms Hunter agrees, saying: “The connections we’ve made through reaching out and lending a hand at a time when small businesses need it the most is just the start. We hope to be able to support businesses across the country get back on their feet as restrictions start to ease and we begin to come out the other side of this pandemic.’’

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott says businesses and the communities in which they operate rely on each other to thrive, create jobs and attract more investment.

To learn more about what business is doing to assist their employees, customers, stakeholders and communities through COVID-19 visit:

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