COVID-19 (coronavirus) has been extraordinarily disruptive to businesses. Beginning in March 2020, every state/province in the U.S. & Canada implemented varying levels of advisories or orders on social distancing and business closures. However, the pandemic will not last forever, and businesses need to begin planning their reopening.
Ten Considerations for Resuming Business After Coronavirus
While businesses had little time to prepare for closures, they will have time to plan when and how they will reopen. Here are ten considerations for businesses developing their plan for reopening:
1. When to Reopen
The top consideration on the minds of every business owner is when to resume business activities. The timing will be unique for every business. However, every business will consider similar factors, including:
- Government orders: Businesses will need to comply with any directives issued by local, state, and federal governments.
- Safety: Even when businesses are legally permitted to open, they may choose to remain closed or limit their operations to protect the health of workers and customers.
- Finances: Businesses will feel pressure to reopen from employees who need paychecks, vendors who supply goods and services, and creditors who are owed money.
2. How to Reopen
Businesses may resume work as normal or have some or all employees work remotely. For example, some businesses, such as retail and restaurants, cannot resume with remote workers. Other businesses, such as financial planners or software developers, might operate remotely, at least temporarily.
3. How to Protect Customers
Protecting customers serves three purposes, including:
- Social responsibility: Socially responsible Businesses will avoid harming customers.
- Preventing further outbreaks: Customers who become infected can spread the virus and lead to further outbreaks and stay-at-home orders.
- Business risks: A business that causes renewed outbreaks could suffer negative publicity and legal liability if the business acted negligently.
Reopening may require taking measures to protect customers, such as social distancing, contactless customer service, delivery options, and testing.
4. How to Protect Employees
Protecting employees is not only responsible but saves the business money. Sick employees can cause an outbreak among a business’s staff and can also transmit the virus to customers. Moreover, absenteeism can cause a drop in productivity as other employees must cover for the absent employee.
To reduce the risk of transmission, employers may consider personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and new cleaning routines. Employers may also consider whether to open in phases or use staggered shifts to minimize the number of employees exposed to one another.
5. How to Alter Business Operations
Financial and health considerations may require businesses to change their operations. For example, insufficient demand may require businesses to cut opening hours or close certain days of the week. Likewise, slow sales and low cash flow may require furloughs or layoffs for some employees.
6. How to Fund Reopening
Resuming business operations may require cash to re-hire employees, restock shelves, and turn on utilities. Businesses should consider whether to take on investors, take out loans, or use government programs specifically developed for the pandemic response.
7. Where to Source Goods and Services
Businesses that have interstate or international supply chains may need to either delay reopening until their supply chains can be restored or find a new source of goods or services. The effects of the pandemic have varied across different states and countries. Moreover, different areas are in different stages of the pandemic. As a result, the conditions for reopening will not occur at the same time everywhere.
8. The Business Plan
In considering when and how to reopen, a business must look to its original business plan and whether that plan must be updated. The pandemic may alter how a business delivers its goods or services and whether it even has a market to serve.
For example, travel services may be adversely affected for a long time after the crisis has lessened for other industries. These individuals may need to alter their business plan, add new services for new market realities, or remain shut down until the market for its services can be rebuilt.
9. The Business’s Expectations
A business must consider its goals and expectations for reopening. Widespread unemployment and a drop in consumer spending may result in a general business slowdown. A return to pre-coronavirus levels of business may be unrealistic.
However, for some industries, reopening may release pent up need. For example, a surge in demand for personal services, such as nail and hair salons, might occur once those services can be delivered safely.
10. What if Coronavirus Resurges?
A resurgence in the spread of coronavirus may occur if social distancing and stay-at-home orders end too soon. The 1918 Influenza pandemic occurred in three waves. The second wave contributed to the greatest number of deaths. Without knowing whether coronavirus is different, a business that reopens risks infecting employees and customers and should have a plan to shut down again if needed.
Resuming Business Will Require a Balancing
For all businesses, reopening will balance safety with financial need and the demand for the businesses’ goods and services. The differences will come in the weight of each of those considerations and the business owner’s confidence in the data underlying each one.
Contact us for information on how office productivity solutions can ease your business’s plan to reopen.