Business owners everywhere--at least those fortunate enough to survive the shutdown--are looking for the safest way to get back to business.

Brick-and-mortar retailers that have remained open during the pandemic are keeping customers safe by taking precautions such as limiting the number of shoppers allowed in the store, designating aisles for one-way traffic and placing partitions between customers and workers. As other businesses prepare to reopen, most will seek ways to ensure the safety of another crucial group: their employees. 

Monitoring Employees' Health

Keeping sick workers at home is the first line of defense. At Chicago-based Tiesta Tea, which sells its tea both in grocery stores and online, managers take employees' temperatures before they begin their shifts. Healthy employees are given cleaning supplies for sanitizing their individual workstations, which have been separated to give each employee more space. Workers wear gowns, gloves, and masks throughout the day. Co-founders Patrick Tannous and Dan Klein told the staff early on that they should stay home if they have any reason to suspect they've contracted the virus--and that they'll still be paid.

"People need to feel like they're supported," says Klein. "They need to know it's OK to stay home, they're going to get paid, and we're going to make do without them. The last thing anyone wants is people to feel pressure to come to work sick, because that's when we're going to have issues."

Goodbye Doorknobs, and Other Office Adjustments

Indow, a window manufacturer based in Portland, Oregon, has replaced doorknobs with hooks at its facility so workers can open doors with their forearms. The staff also placed colorful stickers next to often-touched areas such as light switches and buttons, to heighten awareness of those places; workers are each assigned shifts when they're responsible for cleaning those surfaces.

Bigger companies have had to implement even more safety precautions. Amazon eliminated standup meetings, moved important information that would normally be delivered in person to bulletin boards, staggered break times, and spread out chairs in its break rooms.

OSHA Guidelines

While there is no company rulebook for a pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued several sets of recommendations for dealing with Covid-19 in recent weeks. Among them:

  • discourage workers from using other workers' phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment;
  • provide workers with tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs with at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels to clean their work surfaces;
  • install high-efficiency air filters and increase ventilation;
  • have a plan for immediately isolating employees or customers who become sick in your workplace;
  • create additional space for customers; for retailers, this might mean adding drive-thrus;
  • replace face-to-face conversations--internally as well as those with customers, clients, and vendors--with phone calls or other forms of communication as much as possible;
  • establish alternating workdays or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time; and
  • discontinue nonessential travel to locations with ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks.