Business as Usual During COVID-19: What Does it Really Mean?

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Apr 30, 2020
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While many businesses in the Kansas City-metro were either forced to close their doors or abruptly move to a remote workforce, other area businesses have remained open throughout the coronavirus crisis. For those businesses deemed essential, it has been “business as usual”. But is that even possible? With social distancing rules, continual workplace sanitation efforts, and supply chain disruptions, essential businesses have had to quickly adapt to their new business as usual. While the extent of precautions that must be taken will vary based on your industry, these are five practices that have become part of the new business as usual. 

1.  Assess Risks

Unless you are mandated to close, you must assess your risks and business needs to determine the proper course of action for operating your business during the pandemic. By answering these questions, you can get a better idea of the necessary steps your business should take:

  • Do my federal, state, or local authorities mandate my business shut down?
  • Can I reasonably expect my employees and customers to follow social distancing and proper hygiene practices?
  • Can I properly sanitize my place of business to minimize the chance of employee and customer infection?

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2.  Determine Social Distancing Rules

Social distancing means avoiding gatherings and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet. In the workplace, special attention should be given to places where customers or employees tend to gather, such as the breakroom, cafeteria, lobby, or checkout lanes. According to the CDC, businesses that remain open during COVID-19 should implement the following policies, when possible, to help enforce social distancing rules:

  • Implement flexible worksites, like telework.
  • Create flexible work hours, like staggered shifts.
  • Increase the physical space between employees at the worksite.
  • Increase the physical space between employees and customers through partitions, drive-through services, the use of plexiglass and moving credit card machines to the other side of a partition or six feet away from the cashier. 
  • Postpone non-essential meetings and travel. Consider video conference call services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. When video or phone is not an option, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces.
  • Provide services remotely through phone, video, or the internet.
  • Offer curbside pickup or delivery services.
  • Consider temporarily downsizing operations.

3.  Identify Possible Supply Chain Disruptions

During normal times, the domestic supply chain follows a predictable ebb and flow. That said, once the pandemic hit the U.S. that predictable ebb and flow quickly changed and shortages developed (think about personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfectant solutions and wipes — even groceries). At this time, supply chains have not failed, rather they are experiencing a temporary disruption due to the spike in demand for certain products. If your business’s essential functions may be impacted by disruptions to supply chains, prepare to adjust business practices to maintain critical operations. This may include having ongoing conversations with your suppliers, identifying potential alternative suppliers, prioritizing existing customers, or temporarily suspending business operations impacted by the supply chain disruption.

4.  Implement a Workplace Sanitation Plan

A simple way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your place of business is by implementing a sanitation plan, with a focus on keeping surfaces clean.

  • Regularly wipe down surfaces, such as desks, phones, tables, handrails, doorknobs, and keyboards) with a disinfectant. Contamination on surfaces regularly touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways COVID-19 may spread. A list of disinfectants approved by the EPA to COVID-19 can be found here.
  • Promote regular handwashing and/or sanitizing. Provide soap and water and hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol throughout your business.
  • Place posters in visible locations discussing handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette.
  • Discourage handshaking or sharing of personal items, such as phones.
  • Consider shutting down water fountains.

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5.  Additional Considerations for Businesses with Walk-In Customer Traffic

Many major retailers have been forced to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic to provide essential goods and services to the public. For businesses with a constant flow of walk-in customer traffic, protecting your employees and customers is of the utmost importance. Consider these additional tips during COVID-19: 

  • Enforce employee social distancing requirements.
  • Enforce customer social distancing requirements.
  • Set up barriers or visual cues at various areas where customers might congregate, such as checkout lines.
  • Sanitize card readers often.
  • Insist cashiers should use hand sanitizer between transactions.
  • Consider going to credit/debit cards only transactions.
  • Provide shopping cart sanitation wipes or have a team member sanitize all carts before they are returned to the inside of the store. 

For businesses that have remained open and are operating business as usual, the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have definitely impacted “business as usual”. At Axcet HR Solutions, the health and safety of our clients and worksite employees is our number one concern. Our Safety Consultant, Risk Management group, and experienced HR team are always here to help businesses navigate what “business as usual” means during these uncertain times.  


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