We are all eager to get back to work now that some states and cities are starting to ease restrictions. While getting back to work is important, small business owners need to realize that they are reopening to conditions as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions are being reduced, but they are not being lifted entirely. New cases of infection are still being reported every day, so there is still good reason to be cautious. You need to set policies to reopen while protecting your employees and customers. Along with that, you need to communicate COVID-19 business changes to your staff and your customers.
Set a Communications Policy
Your employees are looking to you and other company leaders for information about what they can expect when you reopen. Develop a plan for releasing this information to your staff. Select the communication channels that will be used and make a plan for how the information will be released. Consider whether you can just inform everyone all at once or if you need to first discuss the matter with team leaders and then have them coordinate with the employees they work with.
Develop a Timeline
Restrictions are being lifted in stages in most states. Make sure you are aware of how your state plans to handle reopening and develop plans that align with the rules for each stage. Some of these guidelines might change as the situation develops, but this will allow you to create a timeline for getting your business up and running.
Make it Easy to Sanitize
As we have all heard, hand washing and sanitation are important for preventing the spread of the virus. If you are going to have people coming back to work, you should make it easy for them to clean their hands and sanitize the items they use. If you can, set up additional hand-washing stations and make sure hand sanitizer is available in the workplace. You could also keep disinfectant products near phones and other items employees may have to use regularly.
New Cleaning Protocols
You probably already have cleaning protocols, but they will need to be reassessed for your reopening. Shared workspaces and break rooms will need special attention. You will also need to think about things like disinfecting door handles and items that are used by more than one employee. You could also look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance on disinfecting your workplace.
Personal Protective Gear
The safety of your employees and customers should be the top priority when you reopen. Obtaining personal protective gear like gloves and face masks could be one measure toward achieving this goal. Make sure to keep these items on hand and instruct your staff on policies for their use.
Push Your Online Presence
Even with your business reopening, face-to-face meetings and personal interactions might not be the best option for every situation. To compensate for some of what might be missing, you should consider putting more resources into your online presence. Make it easier for customers to communicate and do business with your company online. You could also consider video conferencing software as an alternative to in-person meetings.
Be Open and Supportive
Some of your employees may have concerns about coming back to work. The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on everyone, and it is understandable if some people feel additional stress or anxiety about going back to the workplace. Make sure your employees know that you are supportive and that they can come to you to discuss these feelings. For many of them, just being heard and knowing that you understand will be enough.
If you and your employees have been working from home, the lines between work and life may have started to blur. This is understandable under those circumstances, but you need to work to re-establish the boundaries when people come back to the shared workplace. Let your employees know you want them to get their work back on the normal schedule and they should start trying to separate their work life from their home life.
Even with all the attention to plans and policies, you are going to need to maintain a level of flexibility. This is still a fluid situation, so policies and restrictions could change at any time. Be prepared to adapt and try to set contingency plans for different scenarios that may arise.
About the Author
Rae Steinbach writes for Funding Circle.