A Guide to Reopening Your Business During COVID-19
As shelter-in-place orders start to be lifted, you’re probably thinking about reopening your business and wondering how to adapt to the new normal in the time of COVID-19. Take a look at some of the key considerations and challenges you may face as you reopen your business during this (hopefully short) period when COVID-19 still poses a public health threat.
Assessing What You Need to Reopen
Your operational needs may have changed significantly since the COVID-19 crisis began. Many businesses have experienced a severe cut to their revenue streams, while others have had to deal with disruptions in their supply chains. As you prepare to reopen, take a moment to assess what you need to make that happen.
You may need to seek outside funding to make up for the drop in revenue. See if you’re eligible for help from the Paycheck Protection Program (this program expires in early August, but could be extended once again) or an SBA disaster assistance loan. The resources below may lead you to other sources of financial aid.
As you arrange for any bridge financing you need, think about your employees. If you had to furlough any of your staff, consider whether to bring back a few key crew members on a full-time basis or the entire staff on a part-time basis. (And consider what part-time employment might mean to employees currently receiving unemployment.)
Next up are your customers. During normal times, you’d think about how your business can provide solutions for customer needs — and now is no different. However, what your customers need (and what they can afford) may have changed temporarily. You may need to update or reposition your offerings to meet the current needs of your clientele. The faster you can innovate, the more likely you are to retain your customer base.
Ultimately, your reopening depends on several factors, many of which are out of your control. These include your finances (including your capital on hand), the restrictions and potential liabilities of your physical space, the relevance of your products and services during the pandemic, the health of your supply chain, and the restrictions imposed by your state, county, and city.
The Importance of Communication
Maintaining transparency and open communication is key to a successful reopening. Your employees, your vendors, and especially your customers need to know what they can expect as you commence your reopening. Take these steps to keep the lines of communication fully open:
- Keep your employees fully up to speed on your reopening plans, with special attention to any new procedures, scheduling changes, and safety measures you’ll be undertaking.
- Give employees opportunities to ask any and all questions, and make sure to research the answers you don’t already know.
- Review contracts with your vendors and ensure whether they’ll be able to hold up their end of things.
- Reach out to customers via every possible channel, including your website, social media platforms, email blasts, and advertising.
- Create an FAQ for customers that addresses any concerns they might have, including about your company’s health and safety protocols.
Your Business’s Health and Safety Plan for Reopening
A key part of your reopening plan must involve establishing procedures and protocols for health and safety within your physical location. You shouldn’t ask employees to return or open your door to customers without having these protocols in place.
Begin by becoming familiar with the regulations governing your own state, county, and city. If your business has multiple locations, you may be subjected to different sets of regulations. Be aware of the social distancing regulations, any mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and the guidelines that your industry is adhering to.
You may have had no reason in the past to pay attention to certain hygiene practices within your business, other than posting a “Wash your hands” sign in restrooms. During COVID-19, however, you’ll need to establish cleaning and sanitation procedures for your customer spaces, your break room and office spaces, your warehouse spaces, and your restrooms. You may also need to stock up on products such as hand sanitizer for use by customers and employees alike.
Social distancing requirements will be a breeze to implement in some workplaces and seemingly impossible to make work in others (such as movie theaters, for instance). Consider establishing physical barriers between employees and customers, shut down all communal spaces, and establish new physical layouts that keep 6 feet of distance between employees. Staggering work shifts and limiting numbers of employees at work at any given time can also be helpful.
You’ll also need to develop a plan for monitoring employee health. Now is the time to encourage all employees to stay home if they show any symptoms of illness. To make that possible, you may need to revamp your sick leave policy. Generous paid sick leave is often required to keep employees from coming in when they’re sick.
What If an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19?
Since part of your reopening plan involves monitoring employee health, you should be aware right away if one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19. Be prepared to send any employee with symptoms home immediately (including providing transportation if necessary) — or send them straight to a health care provider if appropriate.
You should also close off any area where that employee has been working. Wait 24 hours (or as long as feasible) to actually clean that area, to protect other employees from exposure to respiratory droplets. Do anything you can to increase air circulation (including opening windows and doors) in the meantime. Clean and disinfect all surfaces that the employee may have touched (including any products for sale), while wearing PPE.
You should also inform all other employees of their possible exposure. Ask them to work from home if possible, and to self-quarantine for 14 days. While you’re taking these steps, be mindful of employee privacy. Your employee should be safe to return to work after 10 days, including three days with no fever, and after cessation of all symptoms.
Resources to Help As You Move Forward
Plenty of resources are available to help guide your reopening. These are good places to start:
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers guidelines (uschamber.com/reopeningbusiness) to reopening.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put forward its own guidelines to help
businesses assess their readiness for reopening (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-
ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html) and maintaining a healthy work
- The state of California has gathered all its COVID-related guidelines and resources
for businesses in one place (covid19.ca.gov/business-and-employers/#top).
- Orange County offers a COVID-19 (coronavirus.egovoc.com) hotline and a medical
hotline, as well as access to an up-to-date list of locations for COVID-19 testing centers
- OSHA provides guidelines for physical preparation of workplaces prior to reopening
Remember that these guidelines are subject to change, and that the government may impose stricter regulations in various areas as hotspots of the virus continue to flare up and put people at risk. By focusing on the safety and well-being of your customers and employees, you can retain your customers’ loyalty and start to prepare for the return to normal, which is just around the corner.
As you approach your reopening, turn to Marquee Staffing for peace of mind. We offer return-to-work clearances for your employees to take that chore off your desk. We’ll arrange televisits with medical personnel who can arrange for COVID-19 testing when needed through our partnerships with local clinics. Call us today to see how we can support you as we move forward together through this pandemic.
Claudia Perez, Sr. Vice President of Operations
As the Sr. Vice President of Operations, Claudia oversees day-to-day strategic operations, including spearheading marketing projects, employee training and development programs for Marquee Staffing’s contingent workforce. In partnership with our clients, Claudia is working to ensure a “Safe Return to Work” program is in place while keeping our clients and candidates safety in mind. Partner with Marquee Staffing to learn more about “Safe Return to Work” programs and staffing services.