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Checklist for Reopening Your Business Safely

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The spread of Covid-19 in the U.S forced millions of businesses to temporarily shut their doors. Now that most states are easing restrictions on businesses many entrepreneurs are facing a new challenge--when and how to safely reopen their business.

There is no easy solution or one-size-fits-all answer, however, there are four steps every business owner can do. Here’s a checklist for reopening your business safely.

1. Check state guidelines

When and how a business can reopen depends on your location and industry. For example, restaurants have different guidelines than wholesalers so the first thing you need to do is check with local authorities.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce has an interactive map that can show you guidelines based on where your business is located. Here are some general guidelines that most business will need to follow:

  • Posting signage with social distancing guidelines
  • Screening employees for symptoms of coronavirus
  • Requiring employees and customers to wear PPE like face coverings
  • Vulnerable population accommodations, such as providing specific store hours for senior citizens or those at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus

2. Introduce new cleaning and disinfecting protocols

A vital part of any reopening plan needs to include new cleaning and disinfection standards. Create a plan for your business following approved disinfection guidelines, like those outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Your plan should include:

  • Regularly disinfecting frequently touched objects such as doorknobs, tables, and desks
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Providing hand sanitizer stations
  • Training employees on hygiene and safety practices

3. Rehire your team and ensure sufficient staffing

If you had to reduce the number of employees on payroll during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Approximately 36 million Americans are unemployed because of pandemic-related business closures. But, as you work on reopening your business, you’ll need a team to help you get things running again.

Hiring new employees can cost a lot of time and money. In fact, studies suggest that hiring and training a new employee could set you back at least $4,000. And, if you have to hire multiple positions at once you’ll wind up spending even more.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to rehire former employees. Not only is it cheaper, but there’s the added benefit that they are already familiar with you, the company, and the job responsibilities.

There are a few things you need to consider when rehiring your employees:

  • Provide your employee with a new I-9 and W-4, even if they were only laid-off for a short period of time. This ensures their payroll and benefits information is up-to-date and accurate.
  • Provide an updated employee handbook to reflect the new cleaning and safety protocols your business is implementing
  • Have your employees provide updated emergency contact information

4. Check for coverage gaps in your insurance policies

If your business was closed, now is a good time to re-examine your coverage needs for reopening your business. You may be considering restructuring your company to adjust to new consumer demands. For example, many businesses are adding delivery services or moving more of their business online. This means your insurance needs are changing as well. Here are some policies you should consider:

  • Cyber Liability: If you’re doing business online or store sensitive data about customers and employees electronically, you’re at risk of cyberattacks. To protect your digital assets you need to have Cyber Liability insurance, it’s the only policy that can pay for claims associated with data breaches.

  • Commercial Auto: If you’re adding delivery services, you’ll likely need this policy. Even if you’re using a personal vehicle for deliveries, personal auto insurance won’t cover accident claims where your vehicle was being used for commercial purposes.

  • Workers Compensation: Most states require Workers Compensation once you have at least one employee on the payroll. Once you reopen you’ll need to make sure this policy is active to ensure you’re compliant with state regulations.

  • Equipment Breakdown: You might find that some of your equipment has been damaged due to lack of use. If you need to purchase or rent new equipment, this is a policy that will protect that investment. Equipment Breakdown insurance will cover the cost of repairs or replacement.

Keep in mind, if you’re working on a tight budget there are ways you can minimize your insurance payments. As a result of the pandemic, many carriers are offering payment deferments or pay-as-you-go options, which can help you reduce your up-front costs and ensure you have the coverage as your staff grows. In addition, you can also bundle policies which can be cheaper than paying for two separate policies. One common example is combining General Liability and Commercial Property policies into what’s known as a Business Owners Policy (BOP).

Final thoughts

As the world adjusts to a “new normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic, business owners are facing many complex challenges. However, if you utilize this checklist for reopening your business safely you’ll be able to get back to business in no time. Remember to follow state guidelines, have strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, create a plan to rehire your team, and talk to your insurance providers about your new coverage needs.