Kickstarting your business post-lockdown
After months of lockdown, business owners and managers are finally seeing some relief as restrictions are slowly eased across the UK. If you’re one of them, an essential thing you should bear in mind as lockdown lifts is that your responsibilities towards your employees and customers will not lift in tandem; in fact, they will be even more extensive. So, your business needs a plan to allow you to resume your activities in a controlled, safe manner. And, if some activities cannot be carried out safely, they should not be done at all.
For various reasons, it is unlikely that all staff will want to come back to work at once. For example, some may have childcare or transport issues, while others may need to self-isolate. Or, your business may opt to restart gradually, bringing people back on a progressive basis. These restarters will need training, or at least an induction, to update them on any new working arrangements. You also have the responsibility to understand, and more importantly, support your staff with any issues relating to their mental health: it’s likely many will fear for their own health or their loved ones’, while others may be grieving.
Protecting your employees
You’ll need to provide your employees with the right protective equipment, like gloves, masks and even visors. You should also provide them with guidance on how to correctly place, wear and remove their face masks. If employees were already wearing PPE before the pandemic, you must ensure that all protective equipment now meets COVID-19 requirements.
Your business premises may need to be altered or reorganised to allow for greater distance between your employees. In particular, face-to-face workstations should be avoided due to the risk of transmission. Varied shift patterns will also reduce the number of people on the premises at any one time, and will allow your staff to avoid peak travel times. You may also need to consider staggered meal breaks. For deliveries, you may need to introduce new protocols and processes to reduce contact.
Shops will need queue arrangements, door control to limit the number of people inside, and a one-way system to control the flow of traffic between narrow aisles. Neighbouring premises should make efforts to consult each other and make arrangements so their queues don’t overlap.
Before you reopen your workplace, you will want to deep clean your toilets, canteen and other specific areas, and then implement a thorough regime of sanitising. Obviously, you should pay particular attention to desks, computers and phones – and hot desking could become a thing of the past. You’ll also need to take out the rubbish more often to avoid a build-up of used gloves and masks.
Hand washing is a vital measure, so you must ensure that hot water, soap and paper towels are available at all times. Hand sanitiser should also be available, particularly at points of entry and exit.
Shops may want to reduce opening hours to allow time for cleaning before and after receiving customers. You should wipe down baskets and trolleys after every use. Last but not least, card payments should be encouraged to avoid your staff having to touch cash.
You’ll need to run several checks before restarting after such a long closure. Firstly, you should inspect the building for any signs of deterioration or damage that may need to be repaired. You should also check any security installations, such as alarms, CCTV, sprinklers, fire doors and extinguishers.
If you have equipment such as heavy plant, you should also take it through start-up checks.
Water should be reopened slowly to avoid water hammer, which could damage your pipes. Taps and showers, which are likely to be have left unused for weeks or even months, should be turned on for five minutes to minimise the risk of legionella.
As for fleet operators, you should check that your vehicles are still road-legal, including tyres, brakes, fluid levels, etc. Your drivers should be confident about their skills, and you’ll need to provide them with training on any revised procedures, including how to abide by safety rules when on your customers’ premises.
While the security checks you’ll need to carry out are mostly similar to what needs to be done after a usual temporary closure, restarting your business after a national or even international lockdown will come with many unique logistical challenges.
You’ll need to assess how long your stock levels can last while your supply chain is still building itself back up. You’ll need to talk with your suppliers, especially if they provide critical spare parts. Your priority should be to speak with tier-1 suppliers first in order to secure adequate supply for the next six months. If you are using a temporary premises (perhaps to stock more) you’ll need to inform your broker so they can help you arrange appropriate cover. You’ll also need to consider the distribution capacity of your logistical partners.
When you’re restarting your business, you’ll need to take all the above precautions – and you’ll need to be able to prove you’ve done so. You’ll need to document the undertaking of risk assessments, how you’ve assessed the risks, created your cleaning schedule and informed your staff about the new processes. Most importantly, you must put your employees and their customers at the centre of your restart plan. People will be anxious about coming back to work in the current climate – and you have to consider and understand this. And, of course, you should understand and adapt to your customers’ needs, which will likely have changed tremendously in the wake of the pandemic.
The pandemic has greatly changed the way that many businesses operate. It’s possible that this should be reflected in your insurance cover. At BJP , we offer a free insurance assessment, to ensure that the cover reflects your business today. It’s a good way of ensuring you have adequate protection in place, without paying for cover you no longer need. Why not give us a call today?