A widely circulated article about the COVID-19 pandemic, written by author Tomas Pueyo in March, described efforts to cope with the crisis as “the hammer and the dance.” The hammer was the abrupt shutdown of most businesses and institutions; the dance is the slow reopening of them — figuratively tiptoeing out to see whether day-to-day life can return to some semblance of normality without a dangerous uptick in infections.
Many business owners are now engaged in the dance. “Reopening” a company, even if it was never completely closed, involves grappling with a variety of concepts. This is a new kind of strategic planning that will test your patience and savvy but may also lead to a safer, leaner and better-informed business.
When to move forward
The first question, of course, is when. That is, what are the circumstances and criteria that will determine when you can safely reopen or further reopen your business. Most experts agree that you should base this decision on scientific data and official guidance from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But don’t stop there. Although the pandemic is, by definition, a worldwide issue, the specific situation on the ground in your locality should drive your decision-making. Keep tabs on state, county and municipal news, rules and guidance. Plug into your industry’s experts as well. Establish strategies for expanding operations or, if necessary, contracting them, based on the latest information.
Testing and working safely
Running a company in today’s environment entails refocusing on people. If employees are unsafe, your business will likely suffer at some point soon. Every company that must or chooses to have workers on-site (as opposed to working remotely) needs to consider the concept of COVID-19 testing.
Employers are generally allowed to test employees, but there are dangers in violating privacy laws or inadvertently exposing the company to discrimination claims. The CDC has said that routine testing will likely pass muster “if these goals are consistent with employer-based occupational medical surveillance programs” and “have a reasonable likelihood of benefitting workers.” Consult your attorney, however, before implementing any testing initiative.
There’s also the matter of working safely. If you haven’t already, look closely at the layout of your offices or facilities to determine the feasibility of social distancing. Re-evaluate sanitation procedures and ventilation infrastructure, too. You may need to invest, or continue investing, in additional personal protective equipment and items such as plastic screens to separate workers from customers or each other. It might also be necessary or advisable to procure or upgrade the technology that enables employees to work remotely.
Move forward cautiously
No one wanted to do this dance, but business owners must continue moving forward as cautiously and prudently as possible. While you do so, don’t overlook the opportunity to identify long-term strategies to run your company more efficiently and profitably. We can help you make well-informed decisions based on sound financial analyses.