For most businesses reopening during and after the COVID-19 crisis, a return to regular hours will likely not be a return to business as usual. In fact, meeting the CDC’s social distancing guidelines and other safety precautions will require most businesses to change how they serve their customers.

If your small business shut down part or all of its operations and is beginning plans to reopen, it’s important to remember that it may take substantial time for your customers to feel comfortable visiting your business in person. You may want to continue exploring alternate ways to offer your goods and services.

Of course, if your state is still under a “stay at home” order, now is the time to plan how you’ll need to re-engineer your business practices to keep your customers and workers safe when you do reopen.

Reopening best practices for small business owners

Answering the following questions can help small business owners identify ways to help keep customers and employees safe while reopening their businesses.

  • Can you add online shopping or virtual communication to offer your services or deliver your products to consumers?

  • Are there new products or services you can offer in response to the crisis?

  • What will be important to your customers when you reopen? Will they be reluctant to engage with your business? List all of the potential barriers that your customers may have.

  • Do you need to reconfigure your retail layout to accommodate social distancing?

  • Are there new cleaning or disinfecting procedures that you need to roll out?

  • How can you make the entire customer experience safer and more efficient?

  • What physical accommodations do you need to make so customers can feel more comfortable?

  • Can you offer work-from-home options for employees?

  • Can you stagger shifts to reduce the number of people in your workplace at the same time?

Tips for preparing a workplace for reopening

As states lift restrictions on non-essential businesses, they will likely add new requirements for small businesses that help limit risks to employees and customers. These may include restrictions on how many people can gather in one space or how close people can stand or sit next to one another. You’ll also need to ensure that the workspace is clean and sanitary. Think about the changes you’ll need to make to meet these government standards—both in public and employee-only areas.

Here are some tips for preparing your small business workplace:

  • Develop and post policies for social distancing, cleaning, business travel, and other areas of your business operations that are impacted by coronavirus guidelines

  • Conduct employee temperature checks before allowing them to enter the building and do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider

  • Develop a policy for contact tracing should an employee test positive for COVID-19

  • Allow workers to return to work in phases

  • Consider closing common areas or enforcing strict gathering protocols

  • Minimize nonessential employee travel

  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handrails

  • Flush the plumbing of your building to remove standing water that was left in the pipes over the previous weeks or months. This includes flushing appliances like ice machines, dishwashers, and water coolers while wearing the appropriate protective equipment.

  • Inspect mechanical equipment, such as boilers and hot water systems

  • Change all of the air filters in the building after cleaning them thoroughly; filters can remove leftover germs from the air

  • Post signs to remind workers about proper handwashing and etiquette for coughing and sneezing

  • Consider using no-touch garbage cans

  • Supply disinfectants, cleaning wipes, face masks, gloves, and liquid soap to workers

  • Install hand sanitizer dispensers near elevators, doorways, and shared equipment

Additional resources for small businesses 

Here are additional resources to help plan your business reopening:

State by State Reopening Guidance

Reopening Toolkit for Small Business

OSHA Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

4 Business Owners on How They’re Reopening Their Businesses Post-Coronavirus

Customizable Flyer to Communicate Precautions to Customers

How Will Small Businesses Address Cleanliness and Decontamination in a Post-Coronavirus World

 

If you need financial assistance to accommodate these guidelines, the Small Business Administration offers a variety of loans and programs.

 

 


Thanks for reading our resource posted on May 18, 2020. Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.

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