Reopening. Relaunching. Restoring. Business in this New Normal

Reopening.Relaunching. Restoring. Business in this New Normal

Many states and localities are announcing plans to reopen businesses to bring our economy back from the brink. While it’s great news that some areas may be ready to rebound, the fear, uncertainty and stress will increase if re-openings are done haphazardly and without care.

It’s important to educate yourself on the requirements and restrictions to relaunch safely. Take these steps outlined by: The steps below were published by Waller Law on April 20, 2020.

  • Be Aware of State and Local Reopening Orders: State governors are responsible for making the final determinations about when and how to begin phased reopening. Local governments are developing reopening protocols too, which may vary widely from both the national and state guidelines.
  • Brush Up on Your Insurance Coverage: It may be helpful for employers to spend some time with their insurance brokers to discuss their policies and ensure they are covered for various COVID-19 related possibilities. If you have employment practices liability insurance, which usually covers claims for non-bodily harm brought by employees, this may cover any claims that allege wrongful termination, failure to provide leave, OSHA violations, or similar violations of employment laws.
  • Avoid ADA Issues: On April 17, 2020, the EEOC issued new guidance on the potential application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upon return to work.
  • Be Mindful of OSHA Obligations: The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure their workplaces are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
  • Revise Employee Policies: Some state and local governments have suggested their reopening orders may require that businesses develop written policies, especially around social distancing, before being allowed to reopen. You may consider revisiting and/or memorializing instructions from your trainings, instructions for requesting leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), protocols for employee screenings, rules for non-essential travel and social distancing, discipline for violating social distancing and similar precautions, and similar policies.
  • Develop Protocols for Bringing Back Employees in Advance: Once the above protections are in place, most wisdom is that reopening should be done gradually, rather than bringing all employees back at once.
  • Address Issues with Employees Who Do Not Want to Return to Work: Even once public health and governmental officials determine it is safe for employees to return to work, employees may still be reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons, address them ahead of time. These situations can probably be handled by talking to the employee, hearing their concerns, and trying to address them, which may be as simple as explaining the protections that have been put in place to keep everyone safe. You should take the steps already outlined to accommodate employees who are at risk due to medical conditions or to assuage the fears of employees with OSHA-type concerns.
  • Stay Vigilant After Reopening: While federal, state, and local orders may lift or loosen in Phases 2 or 3, you should stay vigilant about any potential threats in the workplace after reopening. Health officials recommend establishing protocols for what to do if an employee tests positive, the threat reemerges, or other unexpected events take place. This might include protocols for how to notify employees of concerns, quickly implement work-from-home procedures, and identify which employees would be considered “essential” in case of an emergency.

You need to ensure cleaning; disinfecting processes are transparent and apparent to your customers.  Communicate your plans with your customers and post your procedures in visible places in the business. Make sure staff and employees returning to serve your clientele feel safe and protected, as well. Provide masks, gloves and establish social distancing procedures that will give your team comfort and assurances they will be protected. Here are some best practices;

  • Reminding sick workers to stay at home.
  • Establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another while maintaining a full onsite work week.
  • Providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors (e.g., cough etiquette and care of PPE).
  • Training workers who need to use protective equipment correct usage of these items. Training material should be easy to understand and available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.

Take time to consider what you are doing to ensure vulnerable populations get extra consideration.

Make sure that your reopening is also a positive community event. Find ways to give back and make that relaunch something to celebrate. Perhaps set up a mask donation box and give the donations to a homeless shelter in your community. Ask customers to donate an extra $1 and put it towards a fund to send donuts or flowers to your local hospital staff to thank front-line workers. Offer discounts to nurses, doctors, paramedics, firefighters and police etc., as a thank you for their continued support and selflessness during this crisis.

Many companies would not be able to just open the doors and have customers flood back. Consider that your customers have been used to life without you;  thus, now is the time to power up your marketing machine and increase the digital communication to let your community know you have returned. Run a social media campaign, invest in some digital ads, or send a personalized email to invite your customer’s back and welcome them.

Take steps to make your business safer. Consider…

  • Installing high-efficiency air filters.
  • Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment.
  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
  • Installing a drive-through window for customer service.
  • Installing UV lights to help disinfecting surfaces

Consider other creative ways to help restart your business. Sidewalk sales or displays, outside seating, curbside delivery, contactless check can be a good place to start. 

Whatever you do as you prepare to reopen, relaunch, and restore, be thoughtful, be diligent, and be hopeful for a better tomorrow.  

Portrait, Rory Harrod
About the author, Rory Harrod

“You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great...” - Zig Ziglar, American author, Salesman, and Motivational Speaker

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