As different states begin exploring reopening plans, business owners must start thinking about the logistics of the “new normal.” There will undoubtedly be stipulations depending on where you live, and how severely the COVID-19 pandemic affected your area. Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity to come back with a re-energized focus on your business.
With a renewed motivation, you’ll put your best foot forward as a business owner. Whether you are reopening after a few months off, learning how to start a business or implementing new health and safety standards, or balancing the expectations of customers with the emotional well-being of your employees, there are plenty of considerations before the much anticipated “open” sign flips from “closed.”
Remain Socially Distant
“Social distancing” has been all the buzz for the past several months. Consequently, many people will adhere to it long after any state or local mandates lift. In the meantime, it would be prudent to begin instituting your own social and physical distancing policies. For instance, many restaurant owners addressed this by offering delivery as their key growth driver. Also, some have constructed plexiglass windows at ordering counters to protect employees and customers. If you aren’t in the service industry, and your business is more of a true office environment, consider spacing people out in designated areas.
Some jobs don’t require employees to be physically present. For those people, consider extending the remote working option to them, but make sure they are set up for success. Allowing certain employees to remain remote helps you with your office overhead. In addition to that, it also gives employees the freedoms they’ve come to expect these past several months. As time passes, having your employees work under the same roof may become increasingly likely, but there’s no need to rush into it.
Returning to the office and greeting customers for the first time in months could be the most anticipated part of reopening. Although that may be true, there’s still something you must handle that’s far less flashy and exciting: your payment system. Exploring alternative payment options, such as Square, may prove beneficial for customers and employees alike due to its hands-off approach.
Opting for contactless small business banking can save you the hassle of dealing with a branch. You will no longer have the distraction of running to and from your local bank branch for deposits, which takes you away from your reopening responsibilities and customer interaction. Furthermore, it will also give you the peace of mind that your business’s finances are organized in a single transaction format. With your finances in alignment, you can address the issues that affect your customers more urgently.
As a business owner, consider loosening some of your business’s rules. It might not be necessary for everyone to work nine to five every day, so contemplate changing your policy. Most business owners find value in flexible schedules. In fact, in a 2018 Statista study, 72% of U.S. employees surveyed indicated work/life balance as “very important.”
Allowing employees to “flex” their time so they don’t have to worry about leaving early to catch their kid’s soccer game or to run a personal errand not only keeps them happy, but it empowers them as well. Over the past several months, your employees have likely grown accustomed to a flexible schedule. They probably have more time to make their children breakfast, go on walks, or spend time outside between meetings. Allowing this flexibility can be the difference between a happy, productive employee and one who merely punches in and out.
If the current situation has taught us anything, it’s that health and safety are of the utmost priority. While promoting a healthy lifestyle is always a good idea, the post-pandemic work environment calls for extra measures. The social distancing factors mentioned above are a great first step, but what about measures you can take proactively to help your employees?
As the business owner, you’re often regarded as the face of the company. Take this opportunity to lead by example: sneeze into your elbow, use hand sanitizer regularly, and practice good general hygiene. Most of these go without saying, but your employees will see the extra precautions you’re taking and likely follow suit. If possible, post signs and posters in high-traffic areas around your shop or office reminding employees and customers alike to wash their hands. Ask them not to come in if they’re feeling sick. Many people will take their health extra cautiously during a reopening of the country and they will appreciate your consideration of their wellbeing.
Phase People Back In
Hopefully, you have staff who can’t wait to return to work. A few months away from co-workers can improve any employee’s outlook, but being smart and cautious about how you phase your staff back in can make a world of difference. Rather than welcoming everyone back at once, plan a phased return. Start by identifying the employees that are essential to have in the building. Once you’ve done that, differentiate them from the employees whose jobs can continue to be done remotely.
After introducing your first group back to the office, you’ll be able to gauge how everyone feels upon returning. From there, you can gradually reintroduce more staff back into your phased reopening plan. If possible, perform temperature checks before employees walk in the door each day. Be sure to communicate with your staff about their concerns with the return policy.
Communication is key in every aspect of business. While you may communicate with your staff daily when you’re in the office, chances are your communication has only increased since being away from each other. Keep your staff informed about procedures, return policies, or state and local mandates that affect them and their routines.
Though returning to the office is imminent, don’t let the progress you’ve made stall out now. Continue sharing your thoughts on topics that are relevant for the workplace. Three out of four employees find communication to be a sign of leadership, while only 1 in 3 feel their leaders communicate effectively. To get everyone involved, announce phased return policies and promote company initiatives or shared goals. While your staff may have come to expect clear communication, continuing this and implementing it into your daily or weekly routine as a business leader will have them feeling involved and motivated upon their return.
Revisit Your Business Plan
During the time away, you likely rethought a few aspects of your business. Between your growth drivers, market opportunities, or your product offerings, all can be included in your revised business plan. If you have an existing business plan, this would be a great time to take it back out and revisit any flaws.
Obviously, none of us expected something as devastating as this pandemic; however, you can now put safety nets in your plan for times when sales suddenly dip. For example, a restaurant can implement systems that allow them to easily transition to a different model. They can focus on delivery or to-go, whereas a business centered around having employees in the office can work remotely.
Returning to the office and gearing up to be back in the swing of your day-to-day operations is exciting. Regardless of whether you’ve been able to operate fully or partially for the past few months, you will want to return safely and responsibly. From keeping your office spaced out, to phasing employees back in the office, as a business owner, you can make a huge impact on the well-being of your staff and the success of your business in the coming months.
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