On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a world-wide pandemic with experts advising that it’s not if the virus impacts your life, but rather when and to what extent. As business owners and leaders, it’s important not to panic, while at the same time taking reasonable precautions to ensure any disruptions to your business be as minimal as possible. Below are four areas to focus on while preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

  1. Communicate with your Team

Employees, particularly those who interact with the public, need to feel safe coming to work. It’s important for businesses to communicate with team members so that they have a clear understanding of what the business is doing proactively to keep them safe and minimize any potential exposure.

For example:  

  • Are you providing hand sanitizer, gloves, and/or Clorox wipes at workstations?
  • Are you rescheduling large events, meetings, and unnecessary travel?

Additionally, employers need to address expectations with regards to attendance. Retail, restaurant, and hospitality employees in particular are often faced with a higher fear of job loss should they call out. By providing employees with parameters and guidelines and a clearly defined set of expectations, you can empower your employees to make the best decision.

For example:

  • If you have a fever above 100.4 degrees DO NOT come to work until you have been fever-free and symptom-free from signs of acute respiratory illness for at least 24 hours.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work.
  • Assess work from home options for certain positions and discuss it with your team – what do they need to be able to make this feasible if it becomes necessary?
  1. Communicate with your Customers

During times of turmoil and crisis, it’s important to establish trust and transparency with your customers. By laying out exactly what your policies and procedures are in terms of sanitization efforts, it puts customers at ease with coming to, and purchasing goods and services from your business. This is not the time to ignore the elephant in the room but rather address the universal concerns proactively.

When communicating with customers it’s important to include very specific actions your business is taking. While it may be similar to your typical procedures, customers will appreciate the full transparency.

For example:        

  • We have temporarily removed all beauty samples from our displays.
  • We are sanitizing all counter and door handle surfaces using Clorox wipes hourly.
  • We have stationed hand sanitizer at each of our entrances.
  • Our shopping carts and baskets are being sanitized twice daily using Clorox wipes.
  • Our self-checkout kiosk screens are being sanitized hourly.
  • Staff members wear gloves when handling customer orders.

This information can and should be conveyed to your customers through whichever means possible. If you have an email list* utilize that, otherwise share it on social media platforms and consider posting a sign on your door.

*If you have a list, but lack a distribution method, check out programs like MailChimp which offers economical options for all budget levels.

  1. Prepare for the Uncertain Future

As they say, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” Create a clear contingency plan for worst-case scenarios. Make sure that you and your leadership team have answers to questions including:

  • Understanding your supply-chain; will disruptions in the supply chain on goods from China and other places impact your inventory?
  • Will we be able to fulfill existing contracts or orders?
  • Will you have enough staff should some of your staff become infected? Now may be a good time to look into services such as Snagajob Shifts which can help you fill staffing gaps on-demand.
  • If schools and daycare centers close for a prolonged period, will your staff be able to find childcare in order to work?
  • Evaluate your finances and how much wiggle room you might have in terms of hitting your goals, making payroll, and paying company expenses.
  1. Consult the CDC

This is meant only to serve as a guide to help get you started. It is imperative that you take guidance from the CDC and other local health authorities, first and foremost. Here is a guide for businesses from the CDC.