Reopening Your Small Business Post-COVID
With a large portion of the population now vaccinated, states across the country are beginning to lift restrictions. As a small business owner, you’re likely anxious to get employees back to work and begin to move forward in a post-pandemic world. But what if your employees have hesitations about returning to the office? According to Envoy’s Return to the Workplace Report, 66 percent of respondents say they are concerned about going back into the workplace. Therefore, it’s important for small business owners to adapt to this new world or potentially risk losing valued employees. Here are some tips to help your employees feel safe and make sure your reopening goes smoothly:
Increase your cleaning efforts
Before you reopen, it’s important to have strict cleaning protocols in place to keep employees safe and healthy. Since many employees may be reluctant to return, having a solid plan will help to ease fears. You’ll likely need to revamp your current cleaning process by implementing a more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting schedule. All surfaces, including light switches, doorknobs, handles, shared keyboards, and more, should be thoroughly sanitized. This CDC guide provides useful information on how to properly clean and disinfect your office or facility.
Create a post-pandemic office
Returning to work has many benefits including better collaboration, social inclusion and a separation from home life. But it’s important that your employees are healthy and feeling their best when they are at work. Consider implementing regular wellness checks for your employees, including temperature checks and “wellness questionnaires” to ensure they’re feeling 100 percent. Social distancing should also still be maintained, even for employees who are fully vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that businesses change office layouts to put at least six feet of distance between workstations and close communal spaces, and stagger shifts and breaks. To do this, you may need to reconfigure office space or even redesign your office to keep employees distanced.
Consider a hybrid model
While some employees are eager to get back to work, many prefer to continue working remotely a few days a week. Many businesses are now offering flexible work solutions to help retain valued employees and attract new ones. With this in mind, you’ll want to ensure your business’ flexibility is also reasonable for your employees. Many companies are implementing a hybrid work model, allowing some employees to work remotely while others work on-premises. Businesses may find it most beneficial to keep certain departments working remotely full time while other companies might prefer employees spend part of their time working in the office and part of their time working remotely.
On the flip side, while working remotely does have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. When working in client-facing roles, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. In-person communication fosters strong client relationships and helps to build lasting connections. The same goes for coworkers. Working in an office environment promotes collaboration, allows for shared experiences and builds a sense of camaraderie. It’s important to consider the long-term advantages and disadvantages of remote work options before deciding whether or not they’re right for your business.
Invest in technology
Our post-pandemic future will be a mixture of coming together in person and working apart. New investments in technologies will help transition employees back to work while also providing them with the tools they need to continue working remotely long-term. Small business owners should make investments in technologies that help support remote employees. Tools such as video conferencing, collaboration, cloud storage, project management and a CRM are all important for keeping employees connected and engaged.
Beyond business technology, small business owners must invest in cybersecurity tools and IT infrastructure. According to a recent study by HP Wolf Security, work styles and behaviors are creating new vulnerabilities for companies. In the study, 70 percent of office workers surveyed admit to using their work devices for personal tasks, and almost one third (30 percent) of remote workers surveyed have let someone else use their work device. This can pose a significant threat to businesses, employees and data. Implementing cybersecurity best practices and investing in the right tools and security training will help your employees avoid scams and hacks while working remotely.
Review business strategies and goals
For many small businesses, reopening their office or facility in the post-pandemic world requires a shift in operations and could reshape their business strategy and financials. For example, many business owners have chosen to increase liquidity and focus more on cash flow management in the short-term. However, it’s important to make sure any short-term decisions also match up with long-term goals. This is a good opportunity to consult with your financial advisor, accountant and banker to discuss cash flow options, new opportunities and any potential roadblocks your business could face.
Reopening your office can also cause a change to your business’ risk. If you’ve revamped your office layout or invested in new technology to help implement a hybrid model, you may have either increased or decreased your business’ risk profile. Some businesses have also decided to implement a mandatory vaccine policy to help protect their workforce and keep employees safe. However, when creating new policies and procedures, it’s critical to keep in mind certain risks and how to mitigate them, including what you can and cannot legally ask of your employees. Before reopening your office, speak with your insurance agent and attorney to do a policy check-up and discuss the ever-changing rules.
As restrictions are lifted, we’re all anxious to get back to our “new normal,” and returning to work is high on the list. But the health and safety of your employees is paramount. There's a lot of information out there about reopening post-pandemic, so it’s important to be sure you’re reading reliable and reputable sources. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed a useful guide for small businesses called Ready to Reopen: A Playbook for Your Small Business. As your financial advocate, Sandy Spring Bank is here to answer your financial questions and concerns related to reopening and the investments you may need to make to do so safely.
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