As some states lift restrictions on business operations, small companies in various industries are preparing to reopen their doors.
However, it’s not business as usual.
Coronavirus Reopening Checklist
In order to provide a safe and productive work environment, employers may need to take several additional steps before they get up and running again.
Vicki Salemi, Career Expert at Monster.com shared some tips with Small Business Trends about important steps businesses should take as they prepare to emerge. So, we’ve created this handy coronavirus reopening checklist for any small business owner to use.
Prepare a Timeline
In most states, restrictions are being lifted in phases based on specific regions and types of business operations. Although the specifics are subject to change, it’s important for businesses to set goals and dates for reopening specific parts of their business so they can better stay on track. This also allows you to give employees and customers an idea of when you will reopen.
Create a Communications Plan
Many small business employees are waiting for information about their return to work from managers or supervisors. If you don’t already have one, create a specific chain of command or open communication channels to get messages out to your entire team. Then as you create a timeline and plan, let employees know exactly what changes may be in place once they return to work. Your plan should include things like office logistics, meeting policies, and elevator and break room usage, since you’ll likely still need to have some social distancing policies in place. Some businesses may also stagger when employees return or continue offering telework options for high risk team members or those who do not feel safe coming back into the office right away.
Invest in Protective Gear
Physical safety is the number one priority for many workplaces around the country right now. So if you don’t already have a supply, you may need to invest in a stock of personal protective gear like face masks and gloves to distribute to employees. In fact, some states have required that employers supply masks or other gear to their teams if they require them to come into work. Ordering these items ahead of time can help you ensure safety once it’s time to reopen.
Set Up Sanitizing Stations
Regular hand washing and sanitizing is also paramount for slowing the spread of coronavirus. Businesses that want to maintain a clean environment and help employees feel safe and comfortable may set up extra sanitizer stations or hand washing areas throughout their office or facility.
Develop a Cleaning Policy
If there are some shared areas in your workplace, regular disinfecting may also be necessary or beneficial to stop the spread of germs. And your regular professional cleaning schedule may not be enough. So you may want to create a schedule or policies about disinfecting specific items. For example, you could leave disinfecting cleaner near the phone in the conference room and require each employee to clean it after they use it. Or you might create a rotating schedule for team members to disinfect door handles and elevator buttons each day.
Support Employees Emotionally
This time hasn’t just been hard on people’s physical health. Many employees are likely struggling emotionally as well. And some of that may come up as they prepare to head back to work or adjust to another major change in their schedule. As an employer, you can support your team by clearly letting them know how they can discuss issues with you or other members of your team. For example, you might set up a meeting where people can openly discuss issues or open up virtual office hours with yourself or specific supervisors. Simply letting people know that it’s normal to feel a bit uneasy during this time may help to lessen their anxiety about returning to work.
Bolster Your Online Presence
Even with some businesses reopening, face-to-face interactions aren’t going to be what they used to. So businesses that relied on this type of communication for sales and marketing will need to continue adjusting their strategies. Even before you return to the office full time, small business owners should focus on creating a more robust online presence so customers and clients can easily do business with you even while social distancing. Putting more focus on your social media customer service or adding a live chat feature to your website may be worthwhile initiatives during this time.
Set Clear Boundaries
Working from home has caused a lot of employees to keep strange working hours and blend their office and home lives. As teams shift back into an office environment, some workers may keep a few of those habits going, like responding to emails in the middle of the night or scheduling conference calls at dinner time. To maintain sanity and create a more healthy business environment, companies may want to create policies surrounding working hours or at least discourage unhealthy habits.
Start a Virtual Mentorship Program
With employees returning to work on a staggered basis and only interacting with one another behind masks or physical barriers, it’s normal for people to feel disconnected from their colleagues. This can ultimately lead to burnout or cause people to feel disconnected from their work. If you want to encourage more interaction in a safe way, you might create a virtual mentorship program or set up collaboration opportunities for people to work together online or over the phone. This may also be beneficial for teams that will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
Even if you have a solid plan in place for returning your team to work, things can change in an instant. Don’t get too attached to a specific timeline or idea in case there’s a health or policy related change that impacts your company. Creating a few contingency plans and keeping the lines of communication open across your organization can help you stay nimble and quickly adapt to unexpected challenges throughout this crisis.
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