COVID-19 Business Strategies
Having a plan ensures your employees that you are acting in their best interest as well as the company’s.
STAGE 1: Have a plan
Create a Business Continuity Plan.
Conduct a focused discussion on your plan. Share it with your employees. Explain HR policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits available to them. This plan helps workplaces map out how to provide essential services if a number of employees are sick or unavailable. Be sure your employees know what is expected of them. Your goal is to:
- Reduce transmission among staff
- Protect people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications
- Maintain business operations, and
- Minimize effects on other entities in your supply chain (vendors).
Ensure sick employees stay home.
Sick employees should not come to work. If employees come to work with symptoms, ask them to go home. Offer paid sick leave so staff do not have to decide between a paycheck and working while sick. 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, as healthcare providers may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
Prepare staff to work from home.
Equip staff with laptops and supplies needed to work from home. Cancel non-essential business travel, use conference calls and video conferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings when possible.
Increase social distancing in the workplace.
Avoid crowded work settings, cancel business-related face-to-face meetings, space employees farther apart, cancel non-essential travel, promote working from home, and use staggered shifts to have fewer employees in the workplace at the same time.
Offer flexible leave policies.
Staff may need to stay home to care for sick household members or for children if schools are canceled. Make plans for staff to work from home or take leave.
Keep a well-stocked supply of tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. Place them in easy to access spots.
Encourage employees to keep these items at their desks too. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it.
Work with your cleaning staff to make sure workspaces are cleaned and disinfected frequently and correctly.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
In businesses, custodial staff should use disinfectants and sanitizers regularly only in high-risk areas – bathrooms, cafeterias, kitchens, drinking fountains, sink and door handles, shared workstations; preferably, when employees are not present. Follow the disinfectant/sanitizer label directions; overuse does not provide any additional protection and can expose employees to harmful chemicals. Follow the label directions. If disinfecting is targeted against a microbe causing a specific illness (e.g. influenza, Norovirus, COVID-19, etc.) then use an EPA registered disinfectant that is certified as effective against that organism. The Selected EPA – Registered Disinfectants webpage list is located here.
STAGE 2: Share best practices
Your company’s plan is only as strong as:
- your neighboring company
- your personal neighbor
- your customers and vendors entering your business
- your supply chain (if they can’t operate, you can’t operate),
- your spouse and their employer, and
- the greater community.
Please share your plan with us, your Chamber of Commerce, and your vendors. Click here to email us.
STAGE 3: COVID suspected, in, or near the workplace
[Applies only to a non-healthcare workplace]
Positive Testing Employee
If an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, they should remain under home isolation precautions for 7 days OR until 72 hours after fever is gone and symptoms get better, whichever is longer. Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
Sick Employee, Not-Positive-COVID-19
If an employee has had a fever with cough or shortness of breath but has not been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and has not tested positive for COVID-19, they should stay home away from others until 72 hours after the fever is gone and symptoms get better.
Employee Sick at Work
CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
Well-Employee But Positive-COVID-19 Family Member
The employee should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. Family medical leave or other legal contracts may apply.
Employee Returned from a COVID-19-spreading area
The employee should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day. If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (three feet or nearer) with other people, including family members. They should also call their healthcare provider or the local public health department, giving them details of their recent travel and symptoms.
STAGE 4: Outbreak response
- Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. OSHA has more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures to COVID-19.
- Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites).
- Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.
- Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
- Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.
- Plan to minimize exposure between employees and also between employees and the public, if public health officials call for social distancing.
- Establish a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your infectious disease outbreak response plans and latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
- In some communities, early childhood programs and K-12 schools may be dismissed, particularly if COVID-19 worsens. Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible work and leave policies for these employees.
- Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies; employers should take the time now to learn about plans in place in each community where they have a business.
- If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the US, consider canceling non-essential business travel to additional countries per travel guidance on the CDC website.
- Travel restrictions may be enacted by other countries which may limit the ability of employees to return home if they become sick while on travel status.
- Consider canceling large work-related meetings or events.
- Engage state and local health departments to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information. When working with your local health department check their available hours.
ALWAYS plan for business disruption
From the Small Business Development Center
- Capital Access– Incidents can strain a small business’s financial capacity to make payroll, maintain inventory, and respond to market fluctuations (both sudden drops and surges in demand). Businesses should prepare by exploring and testing their capital access options so they have what they need when they need it. See SBA’s capital access resources.
- Workforce Capacity– Incidents have just as much impact on your workers as they do your clientele. It’s critical to ensure they have the ability to fulfill their duties while protected.
- Inventory and Supply Chain Shortfalls– While the possibility could be remote, it is a prudent preparedness measure to ensure you have either adequate supplies of inventory for a sustained period and/or diversify your distributor sources in the event one supplier cannot meet an order request.
- Facility Remediation/Clean-up Costs– Depending on the incident, there may be a need to enhance the protection of customers and staff by increasing the frequency and intensity by which your business conducts cleaning of surfaces frequently touched by occupants and visitors. Check your maintenance contracts and supplies of cleaning materials to ensure they can meet increases in demand.
- Insurance Coverage Issues– Many businesses have business interruption insurance. Now is the time to contact your insurance agent to review your policy to understand precisely what you are and are not covered for in the event of an extended incident.
- Changing Market Demand– Depending on the incident, there may be access controls or movement restrictions established which can impede your customers from reaching your business. Additionally, there may be public concerns about public exposure to an incident and they may decide not to go to your business out of concern of exposing themselves to greater risk. SBA’s Resources Partners and District Offices have trained experts who can help you craft a plan specific to your situation to help navigate any rapid changes in demand.
- Marketing– It’s critical to communicate openly with your customers about the status of your operations, what protective measures you’ve implemented, and how they (as customers) will be protected when they visit your business. Promotions may also help incentivize customers who may be reluctant to patronize your business.
- Plan– As a business, bring your staff together and prepare a plan for what you will do if the incident worsens or improves. It’s also helpful to conduct a tabletop exercise to simulate potential scenarios and how your business management and staff might respond to the hypothetical scenario in the exercise. For examples of tabletop exercises, visit FEMA’s website at https://www.fema.gov/emergency-planning-exercises