Many businesses throughout the United States have been forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point, these mandatory shut downs and restrictions will start to ease and businesses will be allowed to reopen. It’s likely that this will be a gradual shift--with some industries allowed to reopen before others--and that there will be rules and new standards for how workplaces operate in a post-coronavirus world. If you are one of the many businesses waiting for the green light to reopen, this is the time to prepare so you are ready to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Things are likely to be different after the mandatory shutdowns and restrictions on businesses are lifted. There may be crowd limits and social distancing practices that continue long after businesses are allowed to reopen. This is the time to think about how you might need to change your business or shift your focus to address the changes that are likely to occur in the wake of COVID-19. Are there other products or services you can offer that would make more sense given the crisis we will be emerging from? Is there a different way to offer your services or get your products to consumers, such as more online or virtual options?
Many businesses came up with ways to stay in operation during COVID-19 business shutdowns. Restaurants stayed open with food pickup and delivery services, yoga studios and gyms kept their client base by offering online sessions, and counselors, healthcare providers, and other consultants continued to offer their services through Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. While these measures were taken in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it may take people awhile to feel comfortable going back to their pre-coronavirus practices. If you have been able to shift and remain in operation despite business closures, think about whether you should continue to offer your services on an alternative basis or even grow this part of your business.
If your business was one of the many that was able to successfully shift employees to remote working, consider whether you can continue to offer this option. For many workers, the importance of having some flexibility with working from home will continue, even after the mandatory business shutdowns have lifted. There will be new challenges like children at home because of school closures or increased care taking needs for other family members that may make it difficult or impossible for people to return to their regular pre-COVID-19 work schedules.
For you, it will be more important than ever to have employees you know and trust. There will be additional stress and uncertainties as you try to get your business up and running again. You don’t need the added pressure of having to train and get new employees up to speed if you can avoid it. To the extent you can be flexible and work to maintain your current employee base, the better off you will be. Allowing some remote working or flexibility with shifts could also help with social distancing by reducing the number of people in your workplace at the same time.
It’s likely there will continue to be rules on social distancing after businesses reopen. There may be restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one space or how close people can be next to each. Think about your business’s work space and changes you may need to make to accommodate these different space needs. Whether it’s the placement of desks in an office, tables in a restaurant, or how customer displays are set up, you should start planning to create better social distancing at your workplace for your employees and customers.
You will also need to take added care regarding cleanliness at your business, particularly any community spaces like a shared kitchen, cafeteria, or conference room. Consider taking additional measures to ensure a clean workplace like installing hand sanitizer dispensers at more highly trafficked places like elevators and doorways or near printers or other shared equipment. Any frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handrails should be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Consider posting signs to remind workers about the importance of handwashing and the proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing. You can also foster a sanitary workplace environment by having things like no-touch garbage cans, easily accessible disinfectants and cleansing wipes, face masks and gloves, and good soap dispensers.