As many cities and states approach their second month of sheltering in place due to COVID-19, business owners across the country have been severely impacted. The federal government passed a $2 trillion aid package in the form of the CARES Act, providing relief for some, but uncertainty remains.
Right now, many business owners are looking ahead to when it will be safe to reduce some of the current restrictions and wondering how they can prepare their business. This is the first in a three part series where we take a look at best practices for reopening and ramping up your business.
Step One: Stay Informed on Restrictions
Stay up-to-date on any restrictions in your area. Search for guidance at the local level from your own county or city, as they may have more restrictive guidelines than the state. Some businesses may be able to open sooner with restrictions, like restaurants doing to-go orders only, or retail businesses doing curbside pickup. Others may have to wait longer, like nail salons or barber shops.
Now is the time to decide how you will implement social distancing protocols to keep your workers and customers safe. This may look like markers on the floor to remind people of the six foot distance, plastic protectors in front of customer-facing workers, limits on customer numbers, or other protective measures. Make sure you have adequate supplies of masks, gloves, cleaners, sanitizers, disposable paper products, and other relevant equipment.
Step Two: Communicate With Your Workers Early and Often
Clear communications can help ease anxiety and maintain confidence within your workforce. Focus on how you can help your team on a personal level. Be open about when you may be reopening, including if you simply don’t know right now.
If you will be operating with a reduced workforce, explain clearly who will be working and what they will be expected to do. Be empathetic to all situations. You may have workers who are desperate to work and you may have workers who are afraid to come in. Try to understand everybody’s perspectives and work with people on an individual basis to figure out what makes sense for their situation.
Once you have decided who will be coming into work, outline all new processes and procedures clearly so your workers know what to expect. Highlight any new responsibilities, like extra cleanings or curbside delivery. Give workers time to learn new processes and provide support as they ramp up.
Step Three: Stay Calm, Stay Flexible
As we all know, things are changing rapidly. Guidelines may be altered with new information, and every business is learning how to adapt to changing conditions. Now more than ever, take the opportunity to learn from other businesses and how they are coping. Stay nimble and flexible in your approach so you can implement new learnings as they come up.
Your workforce will be looking to you to set the tone. If you can stay respectful and calm, this will go a long way towards cultivating positive feelings in the workplace. Your employees may have questions and concerns as you return to business, so give them the space to ask those questions and address those concerns. Your support will be essential as you continue to create a great place to work.