COVID-19 Office Safety: Guide to Safe Reopening for Workplaces
What will your business do when the shutdown opens-up?
Hopefully, you’ve already given that question some thought. If not, you’ve come to the right place.
Depending on where you’re located and what industry your business is in, you may be looking at a green light to resume operations within a matter of days or a matter of weeks or even months. Whenever it happens, you’ll need to be ready.
Here you’ll find out how you can prepare your business to reopen safely, regardless of when that time comes.
COVID-19 reopening plans
In late April 2020, roughly two months after the White House took its first real step to counteract the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration released a set of guidelines known as the Opening Up America Again plan.
Although the three-phase reopening plan doesn’t specify the date by which states should begin reopening, it does give a list of ‘proposed state gating criteria’ that the White House recommends states to meet before they start to lift restrictive health protocol.
In other words, actual reopening timelines will vary state-by-state. Indeed, the 18-page Opening Up America Again plan very clearly reads, “State and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances.” And we already see that happening.
For example, Georgia recently began allowing virtually all businesses to reopen, California has a four-phase reopening plan but no timeline to go with it, and New Jersey appears to still be struggling to come up with a solid plan to get the state back up-and-running.
Then there’s Maine, where Governor Janet Mills has issued a timeline that went into action on May 1st and is scheduled to last at least through the month of August. But, Governor Mills’ month-by-month plan remains subject to change as more info comes out and developments are made.
Here’s a list briefly summarizing COVID-19 *reopening plans and statuses state-by-state:
Stay-at-home order is lifted; businesses can reopen if in accordance with sanitization and social distancing rules
Most businesses allowed to reopen since April 24 with restrictions on capacity and social distancing
Retail businesses allowed to reopen starting May 8 with social distancing restrictions in place; restaurants allowed to offer dine-in service starting May 11 also with social distancing in place
Gyms permitted to reopen since May 4; hair salons and barbershops to reopen starting May 6; restaurants to be granted permission to reopen with restrictions starting May 11
Stay-at-home order remains in place indefinitely; a handful of beaches and retailers permitted to reopen with restrictions in place starting May 4
The public is encouraged to remain at home until May 27; retail business permitted to reopen with social distancing protocol starting May 1; non-essential office closures lifted starting May 4
Mandatory closures in place until May 20; tentative plans to reopen certain industries including outdoor restaurants, hair and nail salons, and non-essential retailers, starting May 20; youth summer camps permitted to reopen with restrictions starting June 29
Mandatory stay-at-home protocol in place until May 15, subject to extension; plans to maintain certain sanitization protocol in place even after the state reopens, including social distancing, face covering, and limits on large gatherings
Most of the state will reopen select businesses starting May 4; heavily-populated counties to remain in lockdown; restaurants permitted to reopen May 4 with social distancing and sanitization protocol remaining in place
One of the earliest to start reopening, started easing restrictions April 24; virtually all businesses permitted to reopen, with certain restrictions remaining
Many businesses permitted to reopen starting May 7 with social distancing and sanitization restrictions to remain; visiting beaches is permitted for activity, but not for lounging; restrictions on group sizes for subsistence and commercial fishing lifted
Restaurants permitted to provide takeaway service only; a handful of other businesses are permitted to reopen with strict social distancing orders still active; bars, gyms, and theaters ordered to stay shut
Certain retailers permitted to reopen with social distancing and sanitization protocol in place; most retailers, manufacturing, hair salons, and offices can reopen starting May 29, subject to extension
Retailers and other commercial businesses permitted to reopen at 50% capacity starting May 4; restaurants and bars permitted to reopen at 50% capacity starting May 11
Starting May 1 roughly 80% of the state’s counties are permitted to reopen retailers, restaurants, gyms, and malls at 50% capacity
Starting May 4 restaurants and most retailers may reopen assuming they adhere to social distancing and sanitization protocol
Certain non-essential businesses including construction, manufacturing, and other professional services permitted to operate at 50% capacity starting May 11; retailers to reopen May 20; restaurants to remain closed at least until June
Starting May 8 certain retailers can offer curbside service; May 15 stay-at-home order will be lifted; most businesses including restaurants to remain under heavy restrictions or entirely closed until further notice
Certain businesses including barbershops permitted to reopen starting May 1; most social distancing and sanitization guidelines to remain in place for the foreseeable future
A reopening plan exists but has not started due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases
One of the stricter states, keeping statewide shutdowns extended at least until May 18
A stay-at-home order remains in place, but many businesses permitted to reopen as long as they maintain social distancing and sanitization restrictions in place
Retailers permitted to offer curbside and delivery services starting May 4
Starting May 4 restaurants permitted to reopen at 50% capacity and with social distancing and sanitization protocol in place; starting May 11 stay-at-home order will be lifted
Stay-at-home order lifted starting May 3; all businesses permitted to reopen starting May 4 with social distancing restrictions maintained; retailers to keep capacity below 25%
Retailers permitted to reopen starting April 27, restaurants and bars permitted to reopen starting May 4; restrictions on capacity and social distancing must be maintained
Most businesses allowed to resume activity with a 50% limit on capacity starting May 4; bars and movie theaters to remain closed until May 31
Casinos to remain closed, but retailers and restaurants permitted to offer curbside service starting May 1; stay-at-home order in place until the middle of May
29. New Hampshire
Starting May 11 barbershops and salons are permitted to reopen with capacity limit of 10 people; retailers permitted to reopen as well at 50%; restaurants to reopen starting May 18 with social distancing and sanitization protocol in place
30. New Jersey
State and county parks, as well as golf courses, to reopen starting May 2; the state’s public health emergency declaration remains set until the beginning of June and is subject to another extension; for now, most businesses remain under lockdown
31. New Mexico
Starting April 30 non-essential retailers permitted to offer curbside service and daycare services are set to reopen; stay-at-home order has been extended to May 15
32. New York
Being the epicenter of the coronavirus in the USA, New York remains under tight restrictions; certain businesses permitted to reopen starting April 16 if they meet specific criteria
33. North Carolina
A three-phase plan is set to begin the reopening process starting May 8; the first phase will permit retailers to reopen with 50% capacity, daycare will reopen; restaurants and bars will reopen only starting with the second phase, which has no set date
34. North Dakota
Starting May 1 many businesses will be permitted to reopen including restaurants, gyms, barbershops, and so on; social distancing and sanitization restrictions must be maintained
Starting May 4 manufacturers and construction companies are permitted to resume activity; most other businesses including retailers will be permitted to reopen starting May 12 with social distancing and sanitization protocol in place
A three-phase plan to reopen the state went into action on April 24, allowing certain businesses to reopen; starting May 1 restaurants and gyms are permitted to reopen as long as they maintain social distancing and sanitization measures
A statewide stay-at-home order is still in place; no specific timeline exists for reopening
A three-phase reopening plan will commence on May 8; certain outdoor businesses are permitted to resume activity starting May 1 including golf courses and guided fishing trips; the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted from April 30
39. Rhode Island
A stay-at-home order remains in place until May 8, assuming that the rate of new cases doesn’t increase; tentative plans to commence a three-phase reopening plan on May 9
40. South Carolina
Beaches allowed to reopen from April 21; certain retailers permitted to reopen starting April 20 with a 20% limit on capacity; the state’s emergency order is set to expire May 12, subject to extension
41. South Dakota
One of the least restrictive states, South Dakota did not issue a stay-at-home order
The state’s stay-at-home order has been extended to May 30; many businesses have been permitted to reopen including restaurants, retailers, and gyms; close-contact services (salons & barbershops) to resume activity starting May 6
Retailers, restaurants, and malls permitted to reopen on May 1 with a 25% limit on capacity; salons and barbershops permitted to reopen starting May 8; starting May 18 gyms and other non-essential businesses will be permitted to resume activity with a 25% capacity limit
The state has not issued a stay-at-home order but the public is being urged to maintain social distancing and sanitization measures; restaurants may offer dine-in services beginning May 1; gyms and other personal care services may also reopen May 1 with social distancing and sanitization protocol in place
Starting May 4 manufacturers, constructions companies, and suppliers may resume activity with a limit on the number of employees permitted (10); broader reopenings will be postponed until there’s evidence of a consistent drop in new cases
Starting May 14 the 10-person limit on businesses will be lifted; the state’s stay-at-home order is set to expire June 10; restaurants continue to offer takeout and delivery services
Starting May 5 certain businesses with limited contact may resume activity including landscaping and car wash businesses; counties may apply for an exception to state regulations if they have less than 75,000 in the county and can demonstrate no new cases over a three-week period
48. West Virginia
The state’s stay-at-home order lifted starting May 4, but the public is still encouraged to maintain health safety measures; certain health care services permitted to resume activity starting May 7 including dentists, pharmacies, social workers, and so on
Non-essential businesses permitted to reopen as long as they strictly limit contact with customers; state parks opened May 1; the state’s stay-at-home order lasts until May 26
The state did not issue a stay-at-home order; starting May 1 certain personal service businesses like gyms and hair salons are permitted to reopen with social distancing and sanitizations measures in place
*Please note that the statuses listed above are accurate as of May 7, 2020.
It seems that the old saying rings true that the only certainty is uncertainty. In this case, the uncertainty of how and when the U.S. economy will reopen.
But just because the government doesn’t have a solid timeline set up doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to get ready. Quite the contrary! One of the most important things your business should be doing right now is coming up with your own plan of how to get back into action – safely – when coronavirus restrictions do begin to lift.
How to reopen safely after the shutdowns
Eventually, state-mandated restrictions on businesses will begin to lighten-up – but that doesn’t mean your business will be completely out of the woods.
There’s little doubt that people will continue to be careful about where they go and who they interact with, which means you’ll have to ensure that your business is prepared to keep customers feeling safe and comfortable.
To reopen your business safely after shutdowns end, follow the steps below which are directly based on guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control:
First and foremost, the CDC recommends that your business assigns a workplace coordinator who will oversee and ensure that all of the steps below are followed. This will ensure that health safety protocols are clear and consistent.
Be flexible with employee attendance
- Give employees the ability to work from home to the extent that it is possible.
- Consider providing employees with an advance on future sick leave if they have a sick family member or children to care for.
- Allow employees to stay home sick without needing to prove that they test positive for COVID-19. Healthcare facilities may be overwhelmed and employees may not be able to obtain such documentation.
Educate employees on health safety protocol
- Whether at work, at home, or outside, employees should practice social distancing and sanitization.
- If an employee or one of their family members is sick, they should stay home.
- Wash hands, use alcohol gel, and disinfect work areas regularly
- Maintain social distancing at the workplace
- Avoid touching your face to the best of your ability
Safeguard essential business functions
- Determine which of your business’s operations are most essential for your surrounding community
- Certain supply chains will be impacted more than others – identify alternative suppliers for critical goods and services
- Increase synchronization by communicating your safety protocol effectively to business partners and other companies that provide your business with services
Keep the workplace healthy for everyone
- Increase ventilation and air filtration in the workplace
- Erect hand sanitization stations at several locations around the workplace
- Post signs that are clearly visible to employees and customers to encourage hand washing and social distancing
- Regularly disinfect all surfaces in the workplace
- Rearrange your employees’ work schedules to keep daily headcount down
- Limit the number of employees and customers allowed at the workplace at a given time
- Keep employees and customers socially distanced
Checklist for COVID-19 Office Safety
Guide to reopening your business after a prolonged closure
After spending months struggling to keep your business operating, it may be the case that your business has lost a bit of its strength. Whether due to staff reductions, loss of customers, or anything else, the coronavirus has likely left a heavy mark on your business’s health.
That’s why it’s crucial to reopen your business carefully and wisely, and not to simply rush in headfirst and hope that everything will quickly return to ‘normal’. That likely won’t happen, and you’ll need to adjust your business to the new reality if you plan to succeed.
Use these 5 steps to reopen your business after coronavirus restrictions are lifted:
1. Take your business online
Even when restrictions are lifted, customers may still be hesitant to return to their pre-crisis shopping habits. One of the best remedies to keep revenues up is to take your business online to the extent that it’s possible for you.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a coding or website design expert to make an online store. With Become Online you can quickly get tailor-matched with the tools and services that your business needs to start operating online. It’s completely free to try and you can even get special discounts if you use reference codes to Become.
Plus you don’t even need to wait for shutdowns to end in order to get started with this step!
2. Boost your business cash flow
Another step that you can take even before restrictions are lifted is to find creative ways to keep cash flowing through your business. There’s a wide variety of strategies you can use, for example, optimizing your supply chain, ensuring that your permanent working capital obligations are being met, collecting unpaid invoices (given the current situation you’ll have to give this one careful consideration), and so on.
It might not be realistic to aim at increasing your cash flow above its pre-pandemic levels, but keeping cash flow positive should be one of your business’s main priorities at this time.
3. Cut your business expenses
Before we go further we want to say it loud and clear: cutting back on your business’s costs doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fire employees.
Given that the current unemployment rate is nearly 20% of the entire U.S. labor force, businesses should be doing all they can to keep their staff on the payroll and find alternative ways to reduce expenses.
One of the sensible ways to cut costs is to eliminate unnecessary utilities or services. That could include everything from employee lunch stipends to music service subscriptions and beyond. Making use of natural light and unplugging appliances throughout the workplace are also eco-friendly ways to save money!
4. Apply for government financial aid
Whether on the federal, state, or local levels, there are plenty of government financial relief programs available for your business to sign up for. While federal programs have more resources to distribute, local programs may offer quicker results.
At the end of the day, there’s usually no harm in applying for aid from several programs at once – including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. If it’s unclear which of those programs is a better fit for your business’s financial situation, take a minute to compare and contrast the PPP and EIDL programs. It’s likely that these programs will continue operating even as health safety restrictions begin to be reduced across the country.
5. Apply for business loans
While the situation is still pretty gloomy, the lending industry will continue to exist and will inevitably return to its former activity levels. When it does, your business may want to replace some of the assets it had to sell off during the crisis – in which case you can turn to commercial vehicle loans or business equipment financing.
Maybe you don’t want to ruin customer relationships and you’re waiting for the economy to get better before you start looking to collect your accounts receivable. When things improve you can use invoice factoring to get fast access to the cash you need to get the ball rolling again.
Whatever the reason is, taking business loans after the crisis passes can be your business’s ticket back to financial health & stability.
This too shall pass
For the past few months, practically all we hear and see on the news is coronavirus related – understandably so! But it’s important to remember that this is all temporary, even if some of the effects will linger on after we make it through the eye of the storm. At some point, the world will begin to return to ‘normal’, and it’s important that all of us stay poised and prepared to get back to business!