3 COVID-19 Reopening Challenges — and Solutions — for Your BusinessJuly 22, 2020
By: Emily Heaslip, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Reopening after COVID-19 comes with new challenges and costs to navigate for small businesses in every state.
Challenge: The added cost of safety regulations
Small businesses that have been closed have lost months of revenue. And now, there are some big new expenses to consider as you reopen your business. Sanitation regimens, masks, plexiglass barriers, thermometers and sometimes even equipment, such as a second register or contactless ordering system, can easily break your budget. Some businesses, like the Tobacco Barn Distillery in Maryland, have to completely reconfigure their operation, using plastic cups for tastings in lieu of reusable cups and setting up outdoor tents to enforce social distancing. Those costs add up quickly.
Solution: Ask for a COVID-19 surcharge
Many businesses are asking for customers to help mitigate the cost of keeping their staff (and patrons) safe. “Some hair salons, restaurants, dentists’ offices are charging for protective gear, more disinfectant and those Plexiglas barriers at the cashier. Sometimes it’s in the form of a clearly stated COVID-19 surcharge, often between 3% and 5%, to cover the cost of things like masks and gloves,” reported Marketplace.
If you do decide to share the costs with your customers, make sure to be transparent about why their bill has gone up. Surprising a customer with a higher bill can negatively impact brand loyalty. It’s better to be proactive about outlining the steps you’re taking to keep everyone safe and use that opportunity to explain why some prices may be higher than customers are used to.
Challenge: Bringing back staff
The challenge, as one expert described, to reopening with your team is twofold. First, are your employees willing and available to come back? And secondly, are they able to follow the proper procedure to reopen safely?
For many employees, returning to work isn’t that straightforward. With summer camps and daycares closed, some workers are juggling childcare and home responsibilities in addition to work. Others who rely on public transportation may not be able to get to work safely. Once workers return to business, underlying health conditions may make it difficult to follow safety procedures.
Solution: Create a sick leave and work-from-home policy
Update your leave policy and employee handbook to include a work-from-home option and protected COVID-19 sick leave. Your temporary coronavirus sick leave policy should allow team members to stay home for at least two weeks if they are ill. “Employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 or report any symptom of coronavirus shouldn’t return to the business until they are free of all symptoms such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath for at least 72 hours, and not using any medicine such as aspirin that might mask symptoms,” wrote Barron’s.
The policy should also cover how you will accommodate absenteeism and working from home. As much as you can, provide employees with the option to continue working remotely until they feel safe enough to return. Read more about this in the article, “7 Ways Companies Are Preparing Employees for Reopening.”