With 29 U.S. states reopening for business, to different degrees, the next question facing some business owners may be: How do I stay open in the post-Covid-19 environment?
The answer depends largely on where your business is located. Many cities and counties have specific guidance for how to reopen safely, including things like having employees fill out a health survey before returning to work. Some states even require health surveys for employees both when they come to work and when they leave, notes Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"You're going to want to pay attention to these things," Bradley says. "Make sure you're following the guidance. Stay up to date." Bradley was speaking at the National Small Business Town Hall, a live webinar and panel conversation hosted by Inc. and the Chamber Friday, May 8. Here are three ways business owners preparing to reopen can position their companies to succeed in the long run.
1. Create a new company culture.
Whether your employees are coming back to a physical location or working remotely, companies should increase their efforts to communicate with workers about their lives outside of work, says Christel Slaughter, CEO of business management consultancy SSA Consultants. She adds that if a president or CEO isn't reaching out, managers or supervisors should be making these calls.
"This is really a test for small businesses, and those that are going to pass the test are going to create better cultures and more loyal employees," she says. "These are the kinds of things that are going to do it."
2. Develop a safety protocol.
Retail businesses that are reopening will need to train their staff on new cleaning practices and other protocols, including taking customer temperatures, while offices will need to rethink where workers sit in relation to one another, advises Julie Werner, a partner at law firm Lowenstein Sandler. Companies that don't outline these new protocols clearly could face official complaints and reputational damage, she adds.
"We've seen the immediate impact that social media can have in ruining a business and its reputation," Werner says. "The more that you can have a dialogue and communicate with your employees about what you're doing--and get their input--I think the less risk there is, both to the individuals and the company as a whole."
3. Make employees feel safe.
Documenting how your business has taken steps to protect the safety of workers can be just as important as implementing those measures, according to Slaughter.
"They really would like to see a certificate," she says. "How many people have been tested? What have we done? Is there a third-party public health organization or laboratory that can provide that? Those are things that are really important."