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BBB business tip: Reopening in the time of COVID-19

May 22, 2020

Many states across the country are preparing to reopen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision on whether to reopen a business or not is an individual one and, for some, not a reality at this time. 

On the other hand, some are ready, and want to know how to do so safely. Guidelines will vary greatly across states and industries, so check with local representatives for more information on what is allowed. In the meantime, BBB has general tips to consider when prepare to reopen and for those who continue to operate under restrictions.


Reopening

As you take steps to re-open your storefront, first find out if there is any required signage in your state for entrances and exits. Many states are requiring signage at all doors. Plus, having safety signage can help customers and employees feel safer in your establishment.

You’ll also need a plan in place on day one to eliminate unnecessary contact and prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout your establishment. Try the website and official communications channels from your governor or state health department to get industry-specific guidelines and area-specific guidance. 

Areas of consideration could include:

• The availability of space for safe social distancing

• Daily sanitizing of the establishment, as well as regular sanitizing of “high contact” areas such as payment terminals, pens, tables, etc. 

• Indoor face-covering requirements

• Personal Protective Equipment required for your type of establishment. 


General safety tips for all industries

No matter your type of business, you’ll want to enact certain policies to keep yourself, your family, your customers, and your employees, safe. Here are some suggestions:

• Follow CDC guidelines for safe distancing. 

• Reduce general occupancy and gatherings to allow room for customers to spread out.

• Limit the number of people in your business and create safe-distance queues outside (“one out, one in”). 

• Allow employees who can work from home to do so. 

• Maintain touchless and virtual options, such as pick-up and delivery.

• Consider removing “self-service” tools, such as salt and pepper shakers, napkin dispensers, pens, community devices, etc. Control the use of these so you can sanitize properly.

• Have sanitizing wipes, sprays, gels, etc. readily available and in multiple positions throughout your establishment.  

• Start a regular regimen of sanitizing door entrances, handles, light switches, etc.


Building and maintaining trust with customers and employees

Some customers will be hesitant to return to an establishment or use its services, while others will not. Regardless, there are several ways to build and maintain trust among the community throughout this trying time. Examples include:

• Publicize new self-service, virtual, or pick-up options prominently on a website and frequently on social media. 

• Publicize the measures taken to sanitize the facility and keep others safe.

• Now is not the time to slack on digital marketing — emails, social media, conference calls, and digital messages are critical to monitor and advertise during this time. 

• Share pictures or videos of employees in their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

• Post photos of customers in the store, of new safe practices, and of staff operating the business, to remind people you are open — or make posts showing staff conducting phone or video conferences.

• Show customers you care about their safety with sanitizing wipes, sprays, gels, etc. readily available and in multiple positions throughout your establishment. 

It’s also important to remember employees may have a hard time returning to work because of their “new normal.” Some may have health conditions that will make them fear the return to work, or they may be responsible for children whose schools are not open. In general, all employees should feel safe enough to want to return. Here are suggestions on how to help:

• If remote work is an option for some, keep it as an option for the safety of all involved.

• Keep an open mind toward scheduling and accommodations. Daily schedules have radically changed. While some may have more time to be at work, some may have less. 

• If employees are sick, allow them to stay home without pressure to come in.  

• Provide employees with as many safeguards as possible — PPE, sanitizing aids, distancing, etc. 

• Post safety rules in all areas and allow for social distancing. Follow CDC guidelines. 

• Follow new FMLA guidelines for those who may contract COVID-19. 

• Offer support and an open ear for employee concerns. 

• Create a “whistleblower” system where employees can report violations or health concerns without fear of retaliation.


Working virtually

You may not feel comfortable returning to “normal operations” yet or you may be functioning just fine from the comfort of your home. Many will not be able to return to a full-time or “normal” schedule at this time. 

Much of the workforce these days are mobile and or/home-based, so there is no need to feel guilty if you do not feel you can return to the office safely or have your regular company and community gatherings at this time. There are many resources available so you can work — and stay connected — comfortably, efficiently, and safely from a home office. 

To stay connected with your staff and clients, definitely consider the following:

• Conference call, meeting, and webinar software. 

• Also, stay in touch with clients through email platforms. There are many of these platforms available and they make sending robust or regularly scheduled emails a breeze. 


For your word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation needs:

• Look into cloud-based services that offer these tools. Both Microsoft and Google offer cloud-based services for document processing. This will allow you to take your work with you.


Lastly, cybersecurity will be a top concern while working from home.

You’ll want to implement cybersecurity protocols and policies for remote employees and yourself. If you haven't already, installing anti-virus software is a must to keep an organization secure. 

If needed, consult with a local IT company to help implement a business or orient employees’ workspaces to be optimized for home use. Consult a local cybersecurity firm to help with safety and employee training. 


Financial resources for businesses reopening

Check the Small Business Administration (SBA) for information on Disaster Relief Loans to businesses impacted by the pandemic. Check SBA for the most recent information on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Another option for funding is the Main Street Lending Program. Your state may also have resources and grants available. Check with your local SBA, financial institutions, and economic commissions.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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