As we start to come out of lockdown the govt is slowly allowing and encouraging more businesses to go back to work. We have put together a guide to help business understand and prepare to reopen and adapting the working environment to keeping staff safe and health whilst government policies correctly.
There's a lot of information out there about COVID-19, but make sure you focus on the most reputable and reliable sources to find the right guidance for your business. The SME club has a dedicated page with all the links you will need to find the information you require - www.thesme.club/covid
Adapt your working environment
Whether your business is run from an office, shop, restaurant or other there are things that we can all do to prepare for re-opening. Expect social distancing rules to be in place so make sure to look at the following to keep you and your staff safe.
The first is personal hygiene. You must ensure you and your staff are enforcing proper, frequent handwashing. Be sure to stock up on the supplies you will need and look at the facilities you have to ensure this is easy to follow.
Second is the implementing social distancing. We are being asked to keep a two-metre distance from each other. Are desks or workspaces set up to ensure this happens? Do you have to move furniture and re-configure your workplace? Can they still work from home? If your workplace is small, and can only accommodate 50% of the workforce social distancing, can you set up a rotation system for staff so they can work from home one week and the office the following
Do you have a plan in place to enforce any govt regulation such as face mask and can your provide these to your staff.
As a minimum, you may be asked to encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace. Be prepared for this outcome and what it means for staff and their wellbeing.
Bring staff back from furlough
If you have had to furlough employees during the crisis, you may not be able to bring them all back at their full capacity right away. Have you considered how you plan to bring furloughed staff back into the workplace? If schools are not open, how will this affect parents working for you?
Options may include offering limited hours or flexitime to the majority of your pre-pandemic staff, or it might make more sense to have a few key individuals on for their regular hours, while slowly re-expanding your employee base as business picks up again.
Employee health and wellbeing
Returning staff to work does not mean the pandemic is over. Until there is a vaccine, we still need to take careful precautions. It is important that you monitor your employees' health, with a particular focus on COVID-19 symptoms.
You will need to set up a pan for handling a positive case of COVID-19 in your workplace after you reopen. It is also important to consider your staffs mental health and wellbeing and discuss how they will be coming back to the office as many staff could see this situation as stressful especially after being locked down for so long.
Many policies may need to be updated due to the new normal that we will all have to adapt to. For example, your health and safety policy, risk register and HR policies. As a minimum you should discuss and make staff aware of your sick time and paid time off policies to employees and discourage them from coming to work if they feel ill.
Many small business owners are trying to avoid redundancies but this is the time to ensure your policies and practices are up to date and comply with legislation and adhere to best practice.
Communicating regularly with staff and customers has never been more important. Let your staff know how the workspace is being adapted and what to expect when they do come back to work. Keeping them updated on plans will reassure everyone that when you can reopen, you will be operating safety and within the rules.
Whatever your business and your client base you may need to adapt your offering to deliver This may be as simple as changing your messaging, but many businesses may need to reposition or update their core offerings to fill the needs of a new market. Either way, rapidly innovating your products and services to better meet immediate customer needs is a must.
During these difficult times, customers will hopefully understand and expect that your business will be operating differently. It is important to keep them updated and to be transparent. Now more than ever you should be mindful of your customers wants and needs. Ask for their feedback and even survey them to find out what they want, need and expect and then you can adapt accordingly.
Don’t try to operate as before… It is unlikely to just be business as usual but if you manage your staff and customers there is an opportunity to adapt your operations and offer a solution that works in the new normal.