The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic varied from one industry to the other. The United States, India, and Brazil are the top countries worst hit by the pandemic in terms of the total case count. But even beyond them, a majority of countries had to impose partial or complete lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
Small businesses have faced massive implications due to these lockdowns and further uncertainty brought by the pandemic. By some reports, nearly a fourth of all small businesses in the USA closed permanently due to the pandemic and in some areas like San Francisco, reports suggest about half of all small businesses faced this fate. This has a massive knock-on effect on the overall economy as more than 99% of the 28.7 million firms in the United States are small businesses.
The process of post-Covid re-opening for small businesses is complex and is still evolving. Europe, UK, and South Africa are already into a third Covid wave and predictions are the same may be true for the US. Given that, small businesses need to have a plan to re-open and continue business operations while maintaining the security and safety of their employees and customers.
Post-Covid Reopening Guidelines
Analysis of Government Guidelines
Governments across states are working on guidelines and measures to control the pandemic and boost the economy. Small business owners must stay updated on the Government guidelines related to business operations. This includes the most current information on things like mask mandates, vaccine information, and other issues. Authentic information from federal and state-level resources can assist in staying compliant with the Government guidelines and policies. The official websites of the governing bodies can be followed to receive the latest updates. Industry-specific resources can also add significantly to the required information. In many cases, the guidelines for essential and non-essential sectors vary.
Insurance Policies and Opportunities
Small businesses need to re-examine their insurance policies and schemes before reopening in the post-Covid era. Covid-19 raises several liability concerns especially if a customer or an employee gets infected with the virus as an outcome of the business’s negligence. General liability insurance is important to provide protection and coverage to defend against a wide variety of claims.
That apart, there are some specific insurance areas that may need focus based on need. Do take the time to consult your insurance agency or advisor to check which policy is relevant to your operations. As a guide though, here are some policies that offer value in different circumstances.
In the case of startups and more corporatized small businesses, stakeholders could sue the small business if they perceive an inadequate response to Covid-19 concerns. Directors & Officers (D&O) Insurance can offer coverage for some such allegations.
Cybersecurity has been a major cause of concern for businesses during the pandemic. The instances of data breaches, network security attacks, malware attacks, etc. have significantly increased with employees working remotely. Cybersecurity insurance is integral for small businesses with such concerns to avoid financial losses resulting from a cybersecurity attack.
Before reopening, small businesses must also evaluate their business assets and the coverage status in the property insurance. The crucial assets need to be completely insured for their full replacement value.
Some small businesses opened between the first and second Covid-19 waves and numerous employees contacted the virus while commuting to the workplace or at their respective workplaces. Check with your insurance agency if worker’s compensation insurance norms could come into play in such cases.
Covid-19 has led to immense uncertainty for the businesses with a possibility of nationwide lockdowns with a rising number of cases. Business supplies are hit with such closures. Also, small businesses dealing with perishable goods can face deterioration of the goods and resulting losses. Business interruption insurance is critical to managing interruption risks.
Safety Measures and Protocols
Small businesses need to follow safety measures and protocols before they open up. Workplaces need to be sanitized before employees start coming in. Common spaces, such as the lunch room, corridors, meeting rooms, etc. need to be sanitized regularly. Basic safety measures, such as the compulsory wearing of the masks, use of PPE kits, and social distancing norms are significant to maintain employee and customer safety. Safety guidelines need to be published and shared with employees and visitors.
Communication – Employees, Customers, Suppliers
Small business owners must make communication a priority in these uncertain times. There is already massive confusion among the employees, customers, suppliers on the business processes as per the new normal. Small businesses could use social media channels to keep their customers updated on the opening of the business, safety measures being followed, new guidelines, etc. Similarly, employees and suppliers must receive constant updates from the organization on the opening guidelines, vaccination policy, safety measures, rosters, and the like.
Plan and Prioritize
As businesses reopen, it’s important to keep the possibility of future Covid-19 waves in mind. Business owners need to create plans to maintain the balance between business continuity and the safety of their employees if such situations emerge. Also, revised controls and improved plans must be brought in to address such eventualities.
In the End
Small businesses need to re-open in the post-Covid world with a mix of safety measures, business plans, insurance protection, and communication strategies in place. Uncertainty and risk management procedures are essential to sustain and continue working in the post-Covid era and small businesses will continue to be at the frontlines.