In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many businesses across the United States to close their doors. Now, as measures gradually relax, business owners must start looking towards the future and think about what’s next and how they will adapt moving forward. If you are looking to reopen your business, we’re here to help. Here are 6 guidelines that will ensure your business has a proper and safe reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Follow and Monitor Official Guidelines
Due to the volatile nature of COVID-19, the most important thing to do is to follow the requirements and guidelines issued by the federal and state governments. Employers should also conduct additional research on officially recommended and mandated actions from the CDC and WHO when making any decisions to reopen your business. Doing so demonstrates that corporate policy is aligned with official recommendations, creating a legal safeguard against any potential lawsuits.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a state-by-state reopening guidance, detailing the reopening plans for all states. For California, all businesses planning to reopen must:
- Perform a risk assessment and create a site-specific protection plan
- Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as how to screen themselves for symptoms and when to stay home
- Set up individual control measures and screening
- Have disinfection protocols in place
- Establish social distancing guidelines
2. Research Your Local Conditions
Beyond state and federal guidelines, you should also carefully consider your local conditions as you determine the safest and most responsible way to reopen for your employees and customers. Ask yourself: How widespread is the illness in your area? What are other businesses in your community doing? What are the concerns voiced by your customers? Knowing this information will guide you as you establish a tailored site-specific reopening plan.
3. Provide Clear Guidelines For Customers And Employees
Many laid off or furloughed employees are still uncomfortable about the idea of returning to work, and customers are no different. As such, clearly communicating the measures you are implementing for a safe reopening to your employees and customers can go a long way in helping them feel safer in your business — and protecting your business from any potential liabilities regarding employee safety in the future.
When it comes to your employees, you’ll need policies in place that promote a safe work environment. For instance, some preventative measures include enforcing temperature checks when employees arrive at work, face coverings, or staggered work schedules for employees returning the workplace. If your business can operate remotely, we recommend you enforce a clear remote work policy.
Many customers continue to be wary about being in an enclosed space with other individuals. As a result, businesses must actively communicate their new policies to reassure their customers and mitigate any concerns they have. Let your customers know that you are amping up your hygiene efforts, requiring masks, or limiting your capacity. Doing so will help them feel safer in your business and ultimately, encourage them to return.
4. Adjust Your Operations to Prevent Transmission
Reopening doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to operate your business a usual. Instead, you’ll need to make some changes to build a safe environment for you, your employees, and your customers. Since physical distancing between people is one of the best ways to keep COVID-19 from spreading, you should take steps to promote social distancing within your business. Some social distancing measures include:
- Limit the number of people allowed in your establishment.
- Reorganize your layout to create more space (i.e. moving tables farther apart, spacing out work stations).
- Construct one-way traffic patterns to prevent both employees and customers from passing each other in tight areas.
- Install social distancing signage to remind everyone.
- Install plexiglass guards at locations with frequent face-to-face interactions, such as checkout counters and neighboring office desks, to provide a barrier.
5. Prioritize Hygiene
Businesses planning on reopening must intensify their hygiene efforts to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in the workplace as well as potential liabilities. All hygiene efforts should follow public health guidelines such as:
- Frequently sanitizing surfaces, including credit card readers, door handles, elevator buttons, and counters;
- Setting up touchless hand sanitizing stations throughout the business;
- Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality; and
- Maintaining adequate supplies in the workplace, such as tissues, soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and disinfecting wipes.
6. Keep Your Online Information Updated
With so many businesses temporarily closed, customers are leaning more on Google and Yelp to check which businesses are open and their hours of operation. Therefore, keeping your Google My Business or Yelp listing accurate will support your reopening efforts. For example, restaurants can use Google My Business and Yelp to let people know whether they are open for dine-in or are only offering delivery or carryout options.
Business owners should also leverage their company’s website and social media pages to effectively communicate their reopening plans to customers. Having a dedicated COVID-19 page on your site where you post up-to-date information on your business will work to guide customers in search of reliable and accurate information.
Looking for a more comprehensive reopening plan? In collaboration with Group50, we created a Reopening Your Business – Playbook, detailing the steps you should take to reopen your business safe and properly. It also contains resources such as a sample employee handbook ‘addendum’ and “Welcome Back” letter you can use for your employees. To download our Reopening Your Business – Playbook, please fill out the form below.
If you need assistance with reopening your business, please contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.
Reopening Your Business – Playbook
DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.
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