Returning to Work After COVID-19: 5 Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Reopen

It’s been months since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spark shelter-in-place regulations and business closures across the U.S. Now, those restrictions are starting to let up and we’re all eager to get back to normal—especially business owners. Unfortunately, it won’t be as easy as just opening your doors.  There are a few things you’ll need to consider in order to make your reopen a success.

1. What is the best strategy for reopening?

How you reopen is just as important as when. Take the time to personalize your reopening strategy with ideas and practices that fit your unique culture.

Will your full staff return or will some employees continue to work remotely? Do seating arrangements need to change to maintain social distancing? How can you accommodate employees who are wary of taking public transportation or may not know what to do about childcare?

In some cases it will be best to give employees the option to remain remote. Chances are, you’re going to need to be open and flexible, especially early on.

2.  How have we made things safer for employees and customers?

Before you reopen, you’ll want to have the office thoroughly cleaned, especially the common areas, bathrooms and door handles. Stock up on hand sanitizers and be sure you have more than enough antibacterial soaps and cleansers for the days ahead.

You might even consider implementing new guidelines, such as one-way hallways with signage throughout the office to reinforce new policies.

Whatever you decide, communication is key. Let employees know what’s been done to prepare for their return and what you expect from all of them. The same goes for a customer facing business. Communicate what customers can expect when they return to your boutique, salon or gym so that they can feel safe doing so. If you really want to make an impact, send an update letter to their homes and include a little personalized gift.

TIP: Give people a chance to voice concerns. Try a digital survey or virtual Town Hall for employees, or a social media Q&A for customers.

3. What should the first week back look like?

Don’t attempt to get straight to business. Instead, set up something to welcome your employees back. Maybe you arrange a fun activity to give people time to catch up. Maybe you greet them with gift bags, filled with personalized items like hand sanitizers and desk accessories. You might even modify the workday to include wellness activities that help ease anxiety. In the wake of the pandemic, and the many lifestyle changes it’s caused, they’ll appreciate you making the effort to boost team morale and keep spirits high.

The same goes for customers who come into your establishment. Give them something special to show you missed them and appreciate them.

4. What changes do we need to make to our business model?

As you probably expect, opening your doors and getting back to normal are not one and the same. The return to normalcy may actually be slow. Figure out ahead of time how you should operate moving forward. 

Consider whether or not remote work can be a permanent change in your office. How will your meetings be held? Maybe you relied heavily on in-person interactions and are discovering that you need to ramp up your virtual offerings. That’s ok! This is the perfect opportunity to change.

If you’re a primarily customer facing business, consider whether you change the way you schedule appointments, or limit the number of people allowed inside at one time. Can you still accept walk-ins? Do you need to modify your return policy? Will you offer curbside pickup or delivery options?

Look to see how you can make changes that not only keep customers and employees safer, but work to make their lives easier during this time. You can thrive by keeping their needs and concerns at the forefront of your decision-making.

5. How are we planning to publicize our opening?

In office settings, you may not need to do anything at all—but when reopening a brick and mortar business, publicizing is key. You can’t simply open the doors and expect customers to come.

You may not be able to rely on the same methods you used before COVID-19. You probably won’t even be able to throw a large customer event in your storefront. What you can do, however, is reach out to your customers via email and direct mail. Use online avenues and social media to connect with people in your surrounding area, then hold a virtual grand reopening event walking everyone through some of the changes you’ve made. You can also still rely on promotional gifts to help you get your message out.

Overall, treat your re-opening like a grand opening!

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