COVID-19 is having a powerful impact on businesses, particularly those that require employees and their customers to be physically present. Keeping everyone safe and healthy while reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus is critical at this time. Doing so takes money and effort to ensure that your small business can continue to run. Luckily, there are ways to safeguard your business operations and available resources to help keep your business afloat during this difficult time.
Know the Current Laws Regarding Coronavirus
Each state has its own mandates on how a business should operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may need to adapt your business model to work within current rules regarding running your business and other legal matters while still generating income.
According to FindLaw, the current updates that businesses should know regarding COVID-19 include the following:
- There is no Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for coronavirus, but the general duty clause can be tied into the COVID-19 epidemic. The clause says that an employee’s workplace must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that employee health comes first at this time and whatever must be done will not be deemed in noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The “ADA and the Rehabilitation Act does not interfere with employers following advice from the CDC and other public health authorities on appropriate steps to take relating to the workplace.”
- The CDC recommends that businesses should encourage sick or high-risk workers to stay home by working remotely or taking sick leave. It also provides a wealth of advice for small businesses so they can maintain healthy business operations.
Provide Employees and Customers With Safety Procedures and Supplies
Following OSHA and EEOC’s guidance for businesses, all companies should minimize the risk to customers and employees of contracting and/or spreading the coronavirus. Some ways small businesses can minimize the risks include the following:
- Regularly cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces and public areas
- Providing employees with masks and gloves and ensuring they wear them at all times
- Promoting proper handwashing etiquette
- Adding more breaks throughout the day so work areas can be sanitized and so employees can wash their hands
- Encouraging sick employees to stay home
- Requiring all staff to keep a distance of at least six feet from each other and from customers
- Delegating a particular manager or department representative to ensure that all team members are following the safety guidelines
- Adding signage at business entrances informing customers to keep a safe distance
- Limiting the number of customers that can enter a business at the same time
- Updating the company website and social media accounts with more information on how customers can keep safe when visiting the business.
- Sending out a company announcement via email or Messenger to customers with suggestions to visiting customers on safe distancing, limiting the number of people that can enter at the same time, and requiring appointments to visit (if applicable).
- Providing hand wash, disposable masks, and gloves (if applicable) for visiting customers
Differentiate Essential From Non-Essential Workers Within Your Small Business to Encourage Remote Work
The best way to safeguard your staff is by asking them to stay home. If your employees can work remotely, their risk of getting sick from COVID-19 is drastically reduced. Not all businesses can run effectively with a large portion of the staff working from home, but you can perhaps identify a set of tasks that don’t need to be handled onsite. That could reduce the amount of time your employees are at the job location.
Accounting, marketing, web development, and IT personnel may be able to work from home and check-in via teleconferencing. Other team members, such as warehouse workers, sales employees, or cashiers may not be able to telework. If you can’t fully go remote as a small business, you may still be able to reduce the hours needed at the physical location and have select employees do other work while they shelter at home.
For example, your sales team can work four days per week at the business location and do all their reports or follow-ups from home, in addition, your warehouse team can work shorter, rotating shifts to increase social distancing, and managers can take turns supervising more than one department and work from home on days when they’re handling administrative tasks.
Reducing your physical staff’s time on site. Even if the reduction is only by 20%, that can still help you regulate your limited safety-related resources, such as masks and gloves, to your smaller staff and reduce the chance of coronavirus exposure.
Learn More About Managing a Remote Team
Managing remote workers comes with a small learning curve, but it’s worth the investment in time and resources. After, all, telework is the future, as demonstrated by how in 2017, 8 million people in the United States were working from home.
You’ll need to familiarize yourself and your remote team with some tools that make the distance-working process easier:
- Trello: To keep everyone on track of their tasks, to-dos, and deadlines
- Slack: To create a virtual office with real-time group chats for better and faster communication
- GoToMeeting: For virtual video conferences so employees, freelancers, leadership, and management can meet online
- HelloSign: Teams can share and digitally sign documents
- LastPass Enterprise: Securely stores login details and passwords
- GitHub: Project management software that allows for task sharing and collaboration
Work with your HR department and other department heads to formulate a remote work plan containing which tasks can be handled from home and how they should be performed. Implement the new guidelines into your employee handbook and make sure everyone involved is provided with a copy of the update. The new guidelines should include a list of apps and software that are approved for remote work, the work hours employees should be available for contact, and any other guidelines your company finds essential.
Businesses Can Successfully Navigate the COVID-19 Outbreak
The current state of affairs is unprecedented, making it difficult to know exactly how to make money while ensuring your customers and employees are safe. Luckily, there is a wealth of information available to guide you through the process. Refer to the CDC’s guidelines for small businesses on the health-related aspects of COVID-19. Take the time to learn more about remote work and envision how you can implement it in your business. The pandemic should soon pass, but the lessons you learn can serve your small business for years to come.
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