COVID-19 has changed our landscape. As business owners, we know you were hit particularly hard and will have a long road ahead to make up for lost time. If your business had to close during the outbreak, now is a great opportunity to update your operating guidelines to include COVID-specific preparedness, response and control.
The Purpose of a COVID-Safe Business Plan
Because each moment you’re closed represents both lost dollars and lost customers, a business plan of this nature covers your bases by giving you the best chance of keeping your employees and customers safe and healthy whilst keeping your doors open.
Any guidance will be based on what is currently known about the coronavirus. Because this is a new virus, there’s still so much to learn about its transmissibility, severity, and other characteristics. As such, guidelines are changing often. As the science is updated, so too should your business plan.
As an employer, you are encouraged to coordinate with state and territory health officials to obtain and comply with the latest and most accurate guidelines and formulate appropriate responses. All employers should implement and update, as necessary, a plan that:
- Is specific to your workplace
- Identifies all areas and tasks with potential exposure
- Includes measures to eliminate or reduce such exposure
Talk with your employees about changes you plan to make and seek their input — people buy into plans they had a hand in creating. Collaborate with your employees to effectively communicate this information, understanding this is new to all of us. Be ready to not just answer procedural questions but also to give the “why” behind the plan. When employees understand the why, they’re far more likely to follow instructions.
How to Keep Your Business Thriving
First and foremost, you need to stay open. You don’t have complete control over this because mandatory shutdowns have to be complied with to keep the broader population safe. If you do your part, however, you can contribute to a healthy population, which keeps your business successful.
To decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower its impact in your business, your plan should include activities that maintain a healthy work environment by preventing transmission among employees.
Prevent and Reduce Transmission Among Employees
Monitor state, territory, and local public health communications for new COVID-19 regulations, guidance, and recommendations. The biggest favour you can do your business is to address sick employees.
Mandate that sick employees stay home:
- Employees with symptoms should be aware of the process of alerting a supervisor.
- Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home quarantine are met as defined by their healthcare providers.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify you so you can make the appropriate recommendation.
Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptom and/or temperature screening) of employees before they enter the building. If you decide to conduct these checks, follow these guidelines:
- Conduct them safely and respectfully, maintaining social distancing.
- Understand you may be legally obligated to keep the results of the health check confidential.
- To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, make these health screenings as private as possible.
What to Do if an Employee Is Sick
If one of your employees gets sick, your main goal should be to keep the rest of your workforce healthy and productive. Employees who appear to have symptoms when they arrive or who develop them during their shift should immediately be sent home.
You’ll need to take action once that employee is sent home. This will involve thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting their work area before allowing other employees access to the area. The person cleaning should take every precaution to not come in direct contact with surfaces that may be contaminated.
Inform employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality. You may need those who came in contact to work from home as laid out by your public health officials. Make sure your associates know their health is your number one priority.
Identify Where Employees Could Be Exposed
You’re responsible for keeping the workplace as healthy and safe as possible. We suggest regular assessments to identify potential exposure hazards and eliminate or minimise them. You may need to adjust policies as these hazards present themselves. When elimination isn’t possible, provide your employees with personal protection equipment (PPE).
You may need to educate your employees on how to correctly use PPE. Become the expert on usage guidelines to instil confidence from your employees. If medical-grade respirators aren’t available or appropriate, cloth face coverings may be necessary. These face coverings aren’t considered PPE and will only prevent wearers from spreading it to other people. These face coverings do not replace the need for social distancing.
Educate your employees on best practices for limiting their exposure at work. Post these guidelines in employee areas, away from customers:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitiser of at least 60% alcohol if hand washing isn’t feasible. Key times to clean hands include:
- Before and after shifts
- Before and after breaks
- After blowing the nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the restroom
- Before eating or preparing food
- After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
- Always avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of the elbow.
- Practise routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.
- Avoid using other employees’ desks, offices, or other work equipment when possible. Clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Practise social distancing when possible.
Maintain Healthy Business Operations
This can mean the difference between staying open and generating profit or shutting down again. Remember, your plan is only as strong as the weakest point. Communicate your policies clearly, frequently, and across multiple methods.
While this plan may be strict, your flexibility is key. Assess the essential function of your employees and be prepared to alter your business practices to maintain healthy operation. You may need to suspend some services, coordinate with contract and temporary employees, talk with business partners about response efforts, and ask for input.
Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes. Cross-train employees to perform multiple functions so you can continue to operate even if key employees are absent. You’ll find cross-training will only benefit you now and in the future. You’ll be amazed at how much easier your job becomes!
There Is a Light at the End of the Tunnel
While it may be some time before things feel “normal” again, know that they will. Some of these practices may just become part of business as usual, but they won’t always feel obtrusive or new. Your business can survive this crisis — it just requires forethought and diligence.
Each business has different requirements, and the government provides approved plans for every type of business.
Don’t take your eye off the prize of running a successful business and enjoying all the fruits of your labour. You can have the lifestyle you’ve always imagined, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. We suggest claiming your free growth session so you can find out how close your business is to what you always envisioned.