Use our return to work checklist to prepare your business reopening plan

1. Get clear on reopening guidelines and make a plan

Prepare for reopening by gathering information, assessing or adapting your business model, and developing a step-by-step plan. Guidelines can change from state to state and even from region to region, so it’s important to stay abreast of current legislation. Assess your business model in light of any national, statewide, or local ordinances and evaluate if your current business plans are still viable.

Make sure your business reopening model addresses what services will be offered and plans for options like contactless shopping or curbside pick-up. Adjust your business hours as needed to reduce traffic and permit enough time to properly clean and sanitize spaces. Consider offering designated time slots for seniors or other high-risk shoppers.

2. Prepare your facilities

Evaluate all facilities — including storefronts, office space, storage space, and warehouses — by asking the following questions:

Do your facilities support your current business needs?

Run a cost benefit analysis that compares your financial projections before the pandemic to your current business operations or to your reopening projections. Will income permit you to keep your current facilities? Evaluate any leases and added operating costs for new safety measures to determine if your current physical location will still be a sustainable option.

Are there ways to use your space differently?

If your current space is too large or no longer suits the services you’ll provide when reopening, consider opportunities to partner with another organization or repurpose a portion of your space.

Are your facilities physically prepared?

Assess the preparedness of your facilities to best promote safety and to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Will any retrofitting be required to meet safety requirements? Will you need to install barriers for cashiers or partitions between employees? Will your current space work with the state/local occupancy mandates and social distancing rules? Think through all the key interaction points within your space loading docks, storage, administrative offices, breakrooms, bathrooms, spaces open to the public — and tailor your safety measures to the use of each space. 

3. Plan for customer flow

Before reopening to the public, think through how people can safely move through your space while maintaining social distancing. Determine if customer screening will be needed and comply with state-by-state restrictions. Refer to the National Retail Federations Coronavirus Retail Restrictions by State tracker for guidelines, regulations, and laws for retail store operations.

  • Assess capacity protocols for each section of your store and business facilities including elevators, stairwells, offices, and waiting spaces.
  • Prepare a queue management system, such as demarcated spacing guides that can designate social distancing requirements for areas where customers may congregate, such as near cashiers or entrances.
  • Prepare signage for all spaces that clearly states capacity limits. Determine and designate who and how this will be tracked and have all employees monitor capacity.

4. Train and prepare your employees

Different roles have different risk levels for COVID-19 exposure. Administrative roles in non-public spaces are going to have far less exposure than employees who have contact with customers, so training and precautions should be aligned accordingly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has provided guidelines for assessing risk.

Update employees on all policies and procedures including:

  • Safety guidelines and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. Provide clear expectations for employee’s use of PPE and outline any reimbursement policies for masks or protective equipment they personally acquire.
  • Health monitoring and screening for COVID-19 such as questionnaires or temperature checks. Share clear disclosure requirements for reporting possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19 for employees or their family members. Determine if there are any reporting requirements to government agencies or public authorities for sick employees.
  • Paid time off and leave laws including extended leave laws related to COVID-19.

It’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees so take proactive steps to support your team before reopening.

5. Communicate your reopening strategy to your customers

Provide clear, consistent, multi-channel messaging to your consumer base that highlights both the logistics of how your business will be reopening and the safety precautions you’re taking. Develop a unified message that’s empathetic and timely and keep your tone consistent across different platforms. Provide updates on your website, social media channels, newsletter, and any text or customer service communications.

Be prepared for feedback and ready to answer questions or address recommendations. By being receptive and highlighting your safety measures, customers will be confident that your space is safe for visitors and employees alike.

Reopening is a staged process and as states monitor risks for continued spikes or resurgences, retail businesses will need to stay responsive and be prepared to scale back or adjust their in-person services. Find more information to help your small business in our coronavirus resource center.

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