Few small business owners have ever experienced a summer like the one just ended, with its lockdowns, phased reopenings, re-closings and associated uncertainty. But one thing is certain: When you get an all-clear signal (and if you haven’t yet, you will), you can’t just crank the engine and re-start the business as if nothing happened. Especially if you have employees, contractors or other workers.
Your crew members depend on you for more than a job and a paycheck. In this year of uncertainty, they look to you for clarity, insight, leadership and a command of relevant information. They need to be able to trust you. And they will have questions about city and state rules, and your strategies about reopening, such as:
- Is it safe to reopen yet?
- What are the mask and PPE policies for workers and the public?
- Will there be easily-accessible hand sanitization stations for employees and customers?
- Will you be doing temperature checks and other screenings? At what intervals?
- If an employee has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, what then?
- Has your sick leave policy changed? How?
- What medical resources are available if needed?
How can you provide the best leadership for your workers as you begin the process of re-starting? Consider these best practices:
Communication: A health crisis is no time to ghost your staff. Get in touch with your workers individually to see how they’re doing and set up expectations for reopening. As your plans take shape, let them know ASAP, even if they’re likely to change. The more you level with your workers now, the more they’ll feel invested in a successful re-start. Checking in early also helps you plan for any staffing shortages if someone isn’t available to return.
Clarity: When health is involved, people deserve the unvarnished truth so they can make decisions informed by facts. That includes the boss. You and your team members should be straightforward with each other. If someone has symptoms, you need to know. If you’re considering changing your operating hours, they need to know. You can alleviate a lot of worker anxiety simply by acknowledging it and being clear about what you know and don’t know.
Buy-in: It’s helpful to seek feedback and buy-in for any operational changes you propose. Hear your workers out, as they’re likely to have perspectives you might not have considered. Ultimately, this approach tells your staff that you value their input. This is not a time to be dictating new rules unilaterally.
Caution: By prioritizing safety and health over profits—and communicating that position unambiguously and often—you send a comforting message your workers need to hear. At the same time, identify and correct any rumors or irresponsible speculation.
Rights and responsibilities: Emphasize interdependence. Worker safety is everyone’s responsibility. Spell out what preventive measures you expect workers to take on their own at home and at work. And detail what they can expect from you. Use the opportunity to reinforce the mutual goals you have with your team members.
Monitor conditions: It’s still a shape-shifting scenario, with regional and local differences in infection rates. Stay on top of relevant data in your community, and share any developments. Monitor your establishment, too. Check temperatures periodically and record the results. Consider an employee survey (with or without names) to gauge their confidence in your re-start strategy. Take their suggestions seriously.
Refer when needed: As the company authority figure, you may be faced with a team member who needs more from you than you can provide. If a staff member needs emotional support, medical advice or counseling, and you don’t feel qualified or comfortable giving it, be ready with resources. If you provide health insurance for your employees, what are their resources? Keep the names and contact info handy for local counselors, physicians, urgent care centers, and hospitals.
As the economy continues rebuilding, Pango Financial will be here with innovative funding options for small business owners. Contact us at 1-855-WHY-PANGO (1-855-949-7264) to explore financial strategies that help your company bounce back stronger and more nimble than ever.