- Posted by admin
- On April 24, 2020
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Coronavirus has forced many businesses to temporarily close their doors or switch to remote work. As states begin to slowly reopen, it’s time to consider how your business will reopen.
Every business will be changed by this pandemic, so things will not simply return to business as usual. While it may not be time to reopen yet, it’s important to use this time to consider how to get back to business and what will be changed.
This global pandemic was unprecedented, so no one knows exactly what the world will look like afterwards. Certain things like health protocols and remote work policies are sure to be changed after this, however, so we’ll look at how to best prepare to reopen your business.
How To Safely Return to Business
- Follow State and CDC Guidelines
- Implement Health and Safety Protocols
- Plan for Employees Return in Advance
- Adapt Your Business Model
- Look for Supportive Resources
- Continue Monitoring and Assessing After Reopening
Follow State and CDC Guidelines
In the last week, many states have begun to roll out plans to gradually reopen businesses and public gatherings. The federal framework for these plans includes three phases, in which states should meet certain guidelines before relaxing social distancing rules and closures.
Research your state’s plan and timeline for reopening, and be sure to follow state and CDC protocols for your business. Different states will likely have different standards and timing, so be sure to follow each applicable state plan if your business is in multiple states. Localities may also have different plans, especially in urban areas with denser populations. Stay up to date on your state, local, and CDC guidelines when planning the schedule for your gradual reopening.
The CDC also offered preliminary questions you should ask before opening your business. They recommend that you should only reopen business if you can say “yes” to the following three questions:
- Are you in a community no longer requiring significant mitigation?
- Will you be able to limit non-essential employees to those from the local geographic area?
- Do you have protective measures for employees at higher risk (e.g. remote work, PPE, minimized contact)?
Consider the best time to reopen in your community and for your business; if you’re successfully operating remotely, err on the side of caution when returning.
Implement Health and Safety Protocols
One of the most important and widespread changes to businesses will be the need for enhanced health and safety protocols. While it may be safe to start gradually returning to public spaces, coronavirus is still a real threat. It is vital that you plan now for the health and safety of your staff as well as customers and clients.
The CDC has offered recommended safety actions that include steps for cleaning and disinfection, social distancing in the workplace, and other steps to improve safety. There are a few important factors to consider when planning your new health and safety protocols:
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces: How frequently will your office be cleaned? What is the cleaning protocol? Will certain high-touch objects like doorknobs receive special cleaning and disinfecting practices?
- PPE: Will you require employees to wear PPE like masks and gloves at work? If so, are you prepared to provide those products?
- Hygiene: Employees should be encouraged to practice good hygiene and increased hand washing. Sick employees should not come to work. Will you begin health checks or temperature checks?
- Social Distancing: Within the office space, will you encourage social distancing? This may include spacing out desks, creating more barriers in open work spaces, closing common areas, restricting meetings or large gatherings, or allowing remote work.
- Travel: State and CDC guidelines will outline rules on non-essential travel that your business and employees should adhere to. Reduce or eliminate non-essential travel for business purposes. If an employee has travelled recently, consider protocols for reintroducing them to the workplace safely.
Plan your health and safety practices in advance so that you are fully prepared to implement them as soon as employees begin returning to work. Be sure to consider all health risks for your specific business and have detailed protocol in place to fall back on. Share these health guidelines with employees so that they feel safe returning, and conduct training if necessary to ensure that all employees understand and comply with these new practices.
Make A Plan for Employees’ Return in Advance
Start planning now for your employees’ return. It is wise to create written policies for employees returning post-COVID-19, detailing the new health and safety guidelines, employee expectations, sick leave policies, and more. These policies can include discipline for breaking health and safety protocols. Again, share all new rules and policies in advance and with transparency so that employees understand what is expected.
Both national and many state plans advocate for a gradual return, so not all employees should come back at once. While planning for employees to return to the office, consider who is most essential and bring that group back first. Consider working only partial hours in the office and the rest remote, limit meetings and shared spaces, or try a staggered schedule in which some employees come to the office some days, and others come on opposite days.
Follow federal, state, and local guidelines, and take into account the best practices for your specific business. Share your plan with employees so that they are on the same page and feel comfortable returning, slowly, to office life. Per national and CDC guidelines, employees at high risk for infection should be given special consideration, like continued remote work or further safety measures.
What if employees don’t want to come back to work?
It is likely that many employers will face employees who are unwilling to return to the workplace. For some, outlining and explaining your health and safety protocols and gradual return policies should assuage some of their fears. During the early transition back to on-site work, you may consider letting employees who are uncomfortable continue to work from home in the interim.
Some employees may prefer to stay home and collect unemployment rather than return to work. For those who are unreasonably refusing to return to work , you are within your rights to terminate their employment if they refuse to work. Be sure to document all interactions with that employee and address health concerns clearly to avoid litigation, if it comes to that.
Other employees may be exceedingly anxious about returning. It’s important to be understanding and address any concerns they may have while also sticking to company policy and CDC guidelines.
We’ve already discussed how to use your Paycheck Protection Loan to rehire employees, but it is also possible that you’ll need to hire brand new employees to fully return to business. Start a plan for hiring now so that you are fully staffed up or at least on your way to a full staff by the time you reopen.
With so many unemployed by coronavirus, there will be plenty of candidates looking for jobs in the coming weeks and months. Do you have a plan for searching for qualified candidates, or for screening those that come in – especially if you receive a large pool of applicants? While it may be hard to consider hiring right now when things are looking uncertain, now is actually a great time to consider how you’ll hire once you’re back to business.
If you need help hiring, TalentFleX Solutions can assist with your staffing project or offer advice. Contact us for help or to discuss your post-virus hiring plan.
Adapt Your Business Model
Aside from the health and safety concerns of reopening your business, there are also plenty of business concerns. Will the pandemic affect your business model in the long run? What do you need to change post-virus to fit into the marketplace and offer value? Is your old business model still viable, or do you need to pivot to react to a changed landscape?
Consider how your business may need to change in a post-pandemic world. If your former products or services are no longer in demand, you may need to change. Consider what you offer, who your clients or customers are, and how you deliver that product; from there, see where changes need to be made.
Look for Supportive Resources
If your business is in need of funding or capital, there are plenty of resources out there if you look. Aside from loans through Congress’ CARES Act, like the Paycheck Protection Loan and other disaster loans from the SBA, there are local grants and niche-specific funding to apply for. Do some research and networking to discover the best support for your business.
Continue Monitoring and Assessing After Reopening
The path to reopening your business will be slow and gradual, but you should monitor and assess every step of the way. Look for pitfalls in your health and safety plan, reinforce rules about social distancing or PPE and hygiene, and stay vigilant about potential threats to your staff’s safety, health, and the health of your business. Set up protocols for informing employees efficiently of any changes.
When you’re creating your plans for returning, you should have contingency plans in case of a COVID positive employee, a spike in cases in your locality, and other potential emergencies or changes to the plan. While it is impossible to create a plan for every possible situation, try to be thorough. Once employees are back in the office, keep monitoring health, safety protocols, and even employee satisfaction with your efforts.
The effects of this pandemic are far from over, but there is hope for a safe return to work in the near future. Always put safety first and start planning today to ensure your business can come back strong post-pandemic.