Guide for Small Businesses to the Coroniavirus

Guide to Coronavirus Pandemic for Small Businesses

With the world in the grips of coronavirus panic and the World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeling it a pandemic on March 11, 2020, how will it affect you and your loved ones personally?  And how will it affect your business?

A pandemic, according to the WHO is “… the worldwide spread of a new disease.” The coronavirus is in over 114 countries including the US.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the US stock market has lost more than three trillion dollars and many people have gone into full-on panic mode, buying excessive amounts of supplies in preparation of a more widespread outbreak, as “doomsday preppers” crawl out of the woodwork.   

Both large and small businesses must be proactive in planning on how to address the inevitable disruptions that the virus’s impact will have on the supply chain, as well as labor shortages that will likely result as it continues to spread. 

This guide has been put together to help you take the necessary steps today to ensure that you’re properly prepared.    

Minimizing Risk of Infection at Work

The coronavirus spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can also be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, including doorknobs.  Here’s a list of things you can do to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in your workplace.

1. Encourage employees to stay at home

If your company already has employees who are sick – even showing the mildest of symptoms – it’s best that they stay at home for fear of spreading infection at the office.

2. Establish best practices for proper hygiene

Remind your employees of preventative measures, like washing your hands in hot water for at least 20 seconds and/or using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.

In addition:

  • When sneezing or coughing always use a tissue to cover your face. Worst case scenario, use your upper sleeve. Never cough or sneeze into your hand, even though you were probably told that it was the “polite” thing to do you as you were growing up.
  • Encourage employees to immediately use sanitizer or wash their hands after sneezing or coughing
  • Make sure there is plenty of hand sanitizer equally distributed around the office.

3. Keep your workplace as clean as possible

It might seem glaringly obvious, but it’s of the utmost important that your workplace be kept clean. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated surfaces that are touched regularly – workstations, counter tops, door knobs – should also be cleaned often and employees should be provided with adequate cleaning materials to wipe them down.

This is extremely critical for common areas like kitchens, where there’s typically a lot of foot traffic.

4. Consider postponing company events and get-togethers

The highest risk of infection is through human contact; therefore it makes sense to postpone all unnecessary gatherings where possible. Business meetings should also be limited to video conference calls during this period.

5. Monitor travel for yourself and for your employees

If you have employees who need to travel overseas – or will be traveling overseas yourself – consult with the CDC’s online traveler’s health notices regarding the current status of a country. If you or your employee has a cough or is sneezing, it’s best not to travel at all.  If you’re already abroad and start demonstrating symptoms, it’s important to immediately see a health care provider.

Having a Plan to Sustain Business Operations During a Worst Case Scenario

 While it’s important to have prevention practices in place at work, it’s equally important to develop a plan in the event the outbreak worsens, and you have employees who are affected and must self-quarantine themselves at home.

Here are recommended steps to take:

  1. Check with key employees to see if they have home offices set up, or at least stable Internet connectivity and a quiet place to work.
  2. Make sure you have employees who are shadowing essential work personnel in the event they fall ill and are unable to come into work.
  3. Make an assessment on the minimum number of staff for your company to continue operating, and which key areas are essential to maintain operations.
  4. Monitor what’s happening in your local community. This is a fluid situation so be prepared to change your plans, depending on what’s happening.  Knowledge is power.
  5. If your business has more than one location, local managers should be entrusted with more authority in the event they have to take action on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Establish a communication plan that is also flexible and takes your employees suggestions into consideration. An example of this might be to distribute a daily release of the latest updates by health officials and then analyze how it could affect your business operations. This will reduce fear and misinformation among your employees, which is important. Be sure to always keep your entire workforce in the loop with what’s going on.  Also ensure that communication is transparent and doesn’t wildly contradict previous statements. This will help reassure people that everything is under control.