As we move forward through the COVID 19 crises, some areas are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Governors and mayors are putting plans in place for reopening the economy. If you’ve had to close your business, restarting your business can’t come soon enough. But, it won’t be business as usual. There is still a risk of COVID 19 spreading, and it is critical for the community that we open our companies responsibly. Otherwise, there will be a resurgence in cases and another closing of the economy. So, how do you open your business in a way that is safe for your employees and your customers?
Protecting Your Employees
To give their best service to your customers, your employees need to be safe. Installing CDC guidelines at work seems like a burden, but integrating them into your operations will protect your employees and your business. Trust is critical, and you need to be fully transparent when restarting your business about your processes and why you’re implementing them.
Take the temperature of your employees as they come into work with a contactless thermometer. If anyone has a temperature over 100 degrees, send them home. Integrate this into the routine of showing up to work. Have someone stationed at the entrance of the business taking temperatures. This process will slow down the start of your day, but it will give your employees some peace of mind that their coworkers are healthy.
Employees need to self-monitor throughout the day and communicate if they start to feel symptoms. Then send any employee home if they report any symptoms. You, as an employer, need to create an environment where employees feel comfortable self-reporting. Do not create a stigma around reporting symptoms. Be welcoming and understanding.
Wear a Mask
Masks have become staples of public places. They need to be a staple of your business as well. Have every employee wear a mask. Supply them if you can. Make clear guidelines about when and where employees can take masks off.
Before your employees return to the workplace, redesign your layout to help employees maintain six feet between them. For employees that have remote access, let them continue to work from home. For those who do not, make it clear and visible where they can and can’t be. For example, you may need to caution tape every other work station to make sure employees don’t work too close together. If there is movement in your workplace, then make clear isles for one way traffic, so employees don’t walk past each other within six feet. Redesigning your workplace will be a continual improvement effort. Listen to your employees about what is working and what needs fixing.
Disinfect & Clean the Workplace
The CDC has provided clear guidelines on how to do this properly. It would be best if you worked with your cleaning company to make sure they follow the instructions in a way that works for your business.
Develop Clear Payment Policies
Communicate with your employees what your policies are if they can’t show up to work. By law, you need to provide 14 sick days to your employees if they show symptoms. When do those get used? If they get sent home, do not have it cost them money for that day. If they forfeit pay if they get sent home, then no one will come forward if they feel sick.
Protecting Your Customers
If you are taking the precautions above for your employees, then you finished step one of protecting your customers while restarting your business. If your employees are protected and healthy, then that helps you keep your customers that way. The next step is applying these same guidelines to your customer interactions.
Do all customer interactions need to be in person? Moving as many of them to a virtual or phone interaction will protect both your customers and your employees.
If you are a physical business, make directions clear on how to move in the store. Use tape and signage to help guide your customers to limit interaction with employees and with each other. Make it clear where to wait when in line to check out. Have an employee at the door, keeping track of how many people are inside. You need to limit traffic inside based on the amount of space a person needs to move safely. Make sure the employee wears a mask, and train them on how to explain to customers what to expect once they can go into the building.
Also, consider what parts of your business you can move outside. Are there items that are your clear top sellers? If so, then relocate them to a quick pickup station.
Can you move your ordering online? Even if it is just through email, followed up by a phone call for payment, and a quick pickup. This change can be an easy way for your loyal customers to put in an order for what they know they want and to keep them from having to walk through the store to get it.
Paying Your Bills
All of this planning is great, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t make payroll or pay your vendors. When restarting your business, you need visibility into your cash flow.
Work with your vendors on a fair payment plan. If they want you to pay quicker than usual to help their cash flow, then you should get a discount for that. If they are willing to lengthen your payment terms, then make sure to pay them on those terms so they can count on your cash flow.
Make sure you have your first payroll covered before opening. The reopening process will be slow and painful. Your margins will not be as good as they used to be. As a result, you need to be able to have insight into your ability to cover payroll. Make sure you have enough cash on hand to get through at least the first payroll, if not more, to allow for a slower cash cycle.
Develop a cash flow forecast for the next 8-12 weeks. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it will help you understand cash inflows and outflows while restarting your business when there might be a tough week ahead. This process will also show you how realistic it is to run at your current expense levels. Do you need to reduce wages? Should employees come back to a four day week instead of a five day week? This process will show you how you can open and muddle through the difficult times ahead.
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