Despite the recent introduction of vaccines for the disease, the COVID-19 pandemic will still be a significant concern in the coming year. The development of vaccines in most countries is still underway, and deploying them will also take several months at least. So, we’ll all be welcoming 2021 with masks still on.
However, businesses that survived this year’s economic recession remain hopeful for a better turnaround while adapting to the new normal. If your business enterprise happens to be among the lucky survivors, there are ways for you to improve your business operations for both your customers and your company during the next twelve months.
Safety Precautions for Your Business
A business can face threats any time, more so today because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether it’s cyber-attacks, lockdowns, or health crises, preparing your business now for the coming new year can save you from trouble later.
1. Effectively Manage Business Operations
Vast numbers of COVID-19 cases prompted local governments to put their states or municipalities in total lockdowns. As a result, some businesses temporarily closed down due to the restriction of business operations. Many businesses have since reopened, but they must follow specific rules to keep the virus from spreading further. The following will allow you to resume your business safely:
- Determine how many of your employees can work remotely. The more employees who stay away from the office, the safer they are. It’s also a way to keep more people working with you instead of laying them off.
- Establish business network security for everyone working remotely. This will ensure that hackers won’t infiltrate your company regardless of where your employees are connecting from.
- You or your IT manager must install a firewall to block ports.
- Protect your identity and then log into your network by using a VPN. A VPN, or virtual private network, will allow you to hide your activity, change your IP address to fool websites that track them, shield you and your employees from intrusive surveillance, and keep payment transactions private.
- Audit employee access to information on any business services by using two-factor authentication.
- Use updated software and use cloud services to expand company storage and secure sensitive information.
- Limit the access to a few people only so you can easily track any users.
- Work-from-home opportunities must come with an efficient way to track the productivity of your employees. Make use of time tracking apps that remote employees must activate once they start work. Such apps take screenshots and track keystrokes so that you, the administrator, will monitor their work activity without having to ask or make guesses.
- Improve internal communications by establishing regular channels where the employees, business owners, or stakeholders can meet. Communication efforts with your team must be direct and straightforward to avoid confusion. You can also use messaging apps, emails, phone calls, and video calls to make sure that specific people will reply to an urgent message immediately. It will help form a bond among the people in the company that could raise productivity.
- Create social-distancing policies if your business provides on-site services to reduce interactions and physical contact.
- Allow only essential workers to enter the workstation.
- Implement a six-feet distance for employees and customers. Expect that the latter will result in long lines. Mark the floor or the ground that customers must stand on to make sure that they’re far away from each other.
- Discourage hugging and handshakes among employees. Create rotational shifts to reduce the number of people coming in to work at the same time.
- Hold meetings virtually so that you can still see your employees and discuss important aspects of the business.
- Employees must notify a superior if they are sick. Please encourage them to stay home and to seek medical assistance. It should be the same even if the employee is well but has family members or roommates who are sick.
- You must identify various ways to automate your business. They will help to quicken processes and improve efficiency. You can do this by finding specific tools that can help with pricing and marketing and getting your team to familiarize themselves with these tools. You may also use automated equipment for customers, such as contactless vending machines that are operable through downloadable apps. These vending machines will allow customers to view product information, make cashless transactions, and automatically receive goods without having to talk to approach and talk to a salesperson.
- If your business is running low on funding, you can take advantage of financing options (if still available in your area) or other business loans. Lending companies offer a wide range of credit, starting from $2,000 up to $2 million. Take to websites featuring lists of the most reputable companies providing business loans and comparing prices, requirements, and approval rates. Be sure to take note of the payment terms.
2. Deep Cleaning Implementation
For businesses that receive customers in person every day—such as restaurants, retail shops, and other essential enterprises—they must prioritize everybody’s health. Business owners must develop thorough policies for personal hygiene and workplace sanitation to lessen the risk of contracting the virus.
- Create a list of high-touch surfaces and areas (entrances, doorknobs, tables and chairs, countertops, bathroom, toilet bowl, mirrors, bidets, etc.) that must undergo regular disinfection. Depending on the types of businesses and public services, categorize cleaning into the following:
- general cleaning for all areas
- frequent cleaning of specific areas for public-use
- intensive cleaning of high-touch surfaces
- Adopt a systematic cleaning process that employees must follow at all times, starting from the dirtiest area, that repeats every two to four hours.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for yourself and your employees. You can make use of tight disposable gloves to lessen the risk of contamination between surfaces—however, remember that this means you must change your gloves in between interacting with high-touch surfaces or hazardous areas. Use both masks and face shields to protect the face and eyes.
- Implement washing from the tips of the fingers up to the elbows before and after cleaning and disinfecting. Just soap and water can easily disrupt the protective membrane of the virus and as such is the best means of cleaning your hands. For cleaning objects in your store like keyboards, cash registers, and computer monitors, use isopropyl alcohol (70% min.).
- For general cleaning, use a mild alkaline-based all-purpose detergent—if you can also acquire an effective disinfectant, feel free to add some to your cleaning mix. For areas with a higher chance of contamination, you can use the following:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Alcohol-based disinfectant
- Chlorine-based disinfectant
- Launder beddings, tablecloths, aprons, and other fabrics with regular laundry detergent at the warmest setting to eliminate possible traces of the virus.
- Provide the necessary bins or plastic bags for the disposal of cleaning materials that touched the grimiest surfaces.
- Different work areas must have designated cleaning supplies such as rags, detergents, disinfectants, and disposable trash bags to prevent cross-contamination.
3. Run Background Checks
There are a few other precautions to take to ensure that your employees and customers are safe. These should be looked into as early as possible if you need to make a claim.
- If your business has endured a few months of closure, you understand the repercussions of being unprepared. If you haven’t insured your business yet, now is an excellent time to visit an insurance company to inquire about the most important business insurance policies you can get. If your business already has insurance, you should check your existing policy and assess if it needs more coverage. Due to lockdowns, business closures can impact expenses such as tax payments, loan payments, employee wages, rent, and more. Talk to a qualified insurance representative and inquire about general liability, property insurance, and workers compensation insurance. The latter may require more clarity as some companies may only grant payouts, depending on their work nature.
- If you cannot produce enough funding to pay your suppliers, try to compromise on payments for goods. If your business is doing well despite the limited number of customers you can serve, you may ask for extensions or payment adjustment due to the pandemic. Suppliers may also be affected because businesses may not be able to procure goods from them. Thus, they may gladly agree with your appeal.
- Go through your business location with utility personnel. Check if there are any loose wirings, pipe leaks, gas leaks, and other fixtures requiring repairs. Take advantage of the current lockdown or use days off to look for structural flaws that may become dangerous over time. It’s an absolute must, especially if your place of business is old and you can’t afford a new location in the meantime. Neglect often results in devastating consequences such as fires or explosions. You may also want to do some minor sprucing by adding a fresh coat of paint on walls and a little redecorating.
The world was not prepared for the pandemic, and many have suffered losses. However, it’s better to brainstorm solutions than to dwell on your business problems. Evaluate different areas of your enterprise to spot flaws that you can improve. If you have employees, establish acceptable communication practices keep everyone informed, and make sure that no one is left behind. Most importantly, always ensure that everyone in your company follows safety regulations to protect themselves and the customers from contracting the virus. Your business can still flourish as it treads carefully into 2021’s new normal.