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Guide to managing your business during the coronavirus outbreak
How to keep up with daily operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on businesses across the US to conform with mandated closures while keeping operations afloat. Trying to decide how to proceed in a rapidly changing situation is a challenge. But with transparent guidance and helpful tools, you can manage daily operations, employees and finances during this difficult time.
CDC issues reopening guidelines to businesses
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released reopening guidelines for businesses on May 14, 2020 to continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as the economy reopens.
The agency advises businesses to set up a reopening plan that includes:
- Routinely cleaning and disinfecting workspaces with EPA-approved chemicals
- Frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol
- Setting up social-distancing measures
- Wearing cloth face coverings
- Staying home when sick
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth
You can learn more about what you can do to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as you begin to reopen your business on the CDC website.
How can the coronavirus stimulus help me run my business?
There have been three major stimulus packages since March 2020. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and a grant though the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
The Economic Aid Act relaunched the PPP and EIDL grants in January 2021, and established a Second Draw PPP loan program for businesses that already used their PPP funds and expanded eligibility and expenses that qualify for forgiveness. PPP loans are available until May 31, 2021. It also created a grant program for live venue operators.
The American Rescue Plan Act, or HR-1319, expanded PPP eligibility and EIDL grants even more in March 2021. It also created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund for the food service industry, offered debt relief to some farmers and expanded funding to nonprofit financial institutions.
Tax breaks, SBA loan payment subsidies and other programs might also help you retain employees and keep your business from shuttering completely. Also, check with your state and local government for other funding options for your business.
What's in this guide?
- How to continue business during the coronavirus outbreak
- How can I set my employees up to work from home?
- What to do if your business stays open
- Should I close my business?
- Financing options for businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Apply for a small business loan today
- Will my business insurance cover lost income?
- Bottom line
- Frequently asked questions
How to continue business during the coronavirus outbreak
Continuing business during the coronavirus outbreak is possible — but it may require you to apply some protective measures to keep customers and employees safe.
1. Keep in clear communication with your employees.
Transparent communication with employees is crucial. The more your employees know about your expectations and intentions, the better equipped they are to prepare.
Create an email account specifically for coronavirus-related queries and communications. Provide scheduled updates on how you plan to tackle day-to-day operations. If you anticipate having to close up shop or plan to ask employees to work from home, give as much notice as possible.
Given the current circumstances, a play-it-by-ear approach is entirely understandable. But keep your team in the know with frequent updates.
2. Set up direct deposit for all employees.
Shifting payroll from paper checks to direct deposit eliminates the need for employees to pick up paychecks in person. You can set up direct deposit through your business bank account provider or payroll software like ADP, Gusto or OnPay.
Collect the necessary banking information from your employees, including their bank account type, number and the routing number of their financial institution. After you submit their information to your direct deposit provider, all that’s left is setting up a payroll schedule and completing your provider’s authorization process.
3. Shift employees to work from home when possible.
While it may not be feasible for all business models, telecommuting can safeguard the health of your employees while keeping operations afloat. If it’s possible for your employees to get work done with a computer and an Internet connection, encourage them to work from home. Check where to buy computer monitors.
4. Come up with ways to continue serving your customers.
“Use social media and other avenues to keep your customers informed about your business and how they can purchase from you,” Michael Myhre, the CEO of the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, told Finder. “Reassure your customers that you are taking steps to protect their health.”
Does your business rely on in-person sales? Consider selling online. A number of merchant services providers like Square and Shopify offer e-commerce store building software. You don’t need to be tech-savvy to set up your website, as most providers offer beginner-friendly website themes. You can even integrate your online store with your social media accounts for omnichannel marketing.
5. Strategize the best ways to keep your business running.
Business operations during a global pandemic are all about managing risk. “When possible, companies should consider shifting their sales strategies,” Myhre says. “If you’re forced to close your store, find ways to keep your employees paid by selling online, using social media or other innovative ways.”
“In Pensacola, where our headquarters office is located, a growing number of restaurants are adopting innovative approaches to serve customers through the ban on restaurant dining. A local bakery has debuted a make-at-home dessert menu and restaurants are creating innovative drive-thrus and adapting by promoting take-out and delivery menus.”
How can I set my employees up to work from home?
For a smooth transition from in-person operations to an at-home workforce, consider implementing these strategies and tools:
- Communication software. Shift company communications to an online workspace with the help of communication software like Slack, Flock or Microsoft Teams.
- Employee monitoring software. Track how your team is spending their time during work hours to ensure they stay on task and productive.
- Established desk hours. Set a daily schedule and structured desk hours to help remote workers establish a routine — but keep in mind that some staff members may be trying to balance child care while keeping up with work responsibilities.
- Schedule daily check-ins. Help your team stay connected and up to speed with team check-ins, conference calls and virtual town halls through Skype or Zoom.
- Explore business apps. Review your business app options to streamline operations as your team works from home.
What to do if your business stays open
If your business is still open amid the COVID-19 crisis, take proactive measures to keep employees and customers safe:
- Disinfect daily. Regularly disinfect high-traffic areas and surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, desks, light switches, keyboards and telephones.
- Remind employees to practice good hygiene. Make soap and hand sanitizer available while encouraging staff to routinely clean their hands and avoid touching their face.
- Avoid handling cash. Request that your customers use noncontact payment methods, like tap or online transfers.
- Open the windows. Consider increasing ventilation by opening windows.
- Limit in-person meetings. Cancel all nonessential face-to-face chats.
- Refrain from handshakes. Ask employees and customers to opt for noncontact greeting methods, like hand waves or head nods.
- Communicate with customers. Let your customers know how your business plans to conduct itself, including expected hours of operation and updated sanitization protocols.
Should I close my business?
Many states are issuing a mandatory suspension of nonessential businesses. Other states and cities may employ this strategy in the weeks to come. And there could be consequences for refusing to comply.
If your state, region or city doesn’t require your business to close, you may elect to remain open. But even if it isn’t forced, consider a temporary suspension of operations. Weigh the benefits of staying open against the potential risks to your customers and employees. Stay on top of local COVID-19 news about precautions to take and when it’s a good idea for nonessential businesses to close, even if it isn’t mandated.
How can I help my employees?
Remaining flexible and responsive can help your employees feel supported during the coronavirus outbreak. Employees may need to tend to their children or support a loved one in a high-risk group. Clarify your company’s sick-leave policies and prepare to deal with questions and requests.
The CDC advises that if someone feels sick or has a sick family member at home, they self-quarantine to lessen the risk of potential infection. Let your employees know what coronavirus financial assistance programs exist to help them cope, including unemployment benefits and banks that have begun to offer financial aid.
Financing options for businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak
Funding options to help your business cover overhead include:
- Discounted business loans. Lenders like FundRocket and U.S. Bank have begun offering discounted business loans, and others are sure to follow suit.
- Government loans. State and local government loan programs have begun to crop up, so check with your state or city to see what’s available.
- Private grants. Organizations like Amazon and Facebook have begun rolling out private grants to qualifying businesses.
- PPP loans. You have until May 31, 2021 to apply for a First or Second Draw PPP loan this time around — and now more businesses can qualify and self-employed borrowers can qualify for more funding, thanks to a new formula.
- EIDL loans and targeted advance grants. Businesses can still apply for this disaster loan program — and grants of up to $5,000 will become available to all small businesses by mid-April 2021.
- Shuttered Venue Operators grants. Businesses that depend on ticket sales for revenue can qualify for a grant equal to about 45% or 50% of their 2019 revenue — in addition to a PPP loan. Applications are available through the SBA.
- Restaurant Revitalization grants. The SBA is also offering up to $10 million to food service businesses based on the difference between your 2019 and 2020 revenue — or payroll expenses if established after 2019. Applications will also be available through the SBA.
- Business credit cards. Some business credit cards offer a 0% intro APR, which lets you make purchases or balance transfers without worrying about paying interest for a period of time.
Apply for a small business loan today
Below is a list of online lenders that can help you get funding for your business.
Will my business insurance cover lost income?
Businesses that hold business interruption insurance might assume lost income as a result of the outbreak is by their policy. But here’s the problem: Business interruption insurance is an extension of property insurance designed to cover property damage after a natural disaster. And the current COVID-19 pandemic may not qualify.
After the SARS outbreak in 2003, many providers began to exclude epidemics and pandemics from their business insurance coverage. Read our guide on insurance during the coronavirus outbreak for more information. You should also ask your insurance provider about your coverage and whether lost income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak qualifies.
Is it too late to get business insurance?
While it’s not too late to get coverage and many providers allow you to submit applications online, it may be difficult to find a provider willing to cover lost income as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Many businesses across the US are in the same boat and seeking support for business insurance providers. You may be better off pursuing a government or private financing or relief option instead.
Businesses can navigate the COVID-19 outbreak by planning ahead, using resources and taking a proactive attitude. Stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 developments through our coronavirus hub.
Frequently asked questions
Answers to common questions about helping your business survive the coronavirus outbreak.
Should I ask employees to wear face masks?
US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams advises against it. But while it isn’t clear how much protection is provided by wearing a face mask, particularly those that aren’t N95 respirators, they are known to capture droplets — which is the main transmission route of COVID-19.
Should I cancel international business trips?
It depends on where you plan to travel. Check the CDC’s travel recommendations, and keep in mind that employees may need to self-isolate for 14 days after returning.
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