Returning to Work Safely

These are unprecedented times, especially for small business owners — our customers, families and employees have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in one way or another. Independent business owners need guidance to protect their business and employees, but want the ability to operate freely. Here are considerations for how to prepare for a safe return to work, while running your business and serving your customers.

First, consider a thorough training program for your staff. You might start with how to speak to your customers about your safety precautions. Give them a script on how to greet and thank customers given the new normal. Prepare a list of potential questions and answers so they can respond to customer questions about health and safety concerns in a professional manner. Depending on the nature of your business and customer relationships, customers may ask about the status of your business and whether it will survive. Create an authentic answer that re-assures your customer that you and your staff are there to stay and can be relied on for years to come.

If you’ve adjusted work protocols for social distancing you'll want to train your staff on new work procedures, reinforcing the importance of workplace adjustments. Like most workplace change, employees may be resistant so you’ll want to reinforce the well-intended reasons for new requirements. 

Here are some considerations for getting your employees back to work safely.

  • Adjust work protocols for social distancing. If they must work in close proximity to one another indoors, insist on face masks. You should make them available to avoid lost time due to employees not coming to work prepared.
  • If your employees use company-owned vehicles or equipment, limit the use to one person. You should limit one person per vehicle and have employees drive directly to job sites. Also limit tools and equipment to one person’s use.
  • Enforce cleaning and sanitation protocols for all common spaces including vehicles and equipment. (Remember tools, handles, steering wheels, etc.)
  • Consider staggering start times to minimize congregation at office and shop locations. 

While most employees will be happy to return to work, some may be less motivated because of recent changes to unemployment benefits, safety concerns and other coronavirus-induced stressors. Keeping your staff engaged and focused on work may be a challenge. It’s important that employees know you’ve created a safe and healthy environment for their return. One way to demonstrate your concern for their safety is to create and post signs informing them of warning signs. There are several resources available online for these types of things. Early warning signs should include: 


Body aches


Loss of appetite

Dry Cough

Loss of taste

Another way to reinforce your intent to maintain a safe and healthy workplace is to encourage your employees to do certain things, and insist they don’t do others.

The Dos

The Don’ts

  • Stay home when they are not feeling well.
  • Wash their hands more often than normal with warm water and hand soap.
  • Implement social distance (staying at least 6-feet apart)
  • Practice respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes, and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Use hand sanitizer gels or wipes.
  • Wash their hands and exposed skin before leaving work before the end of the day before leaving the job site
  • Come to work when ill
  • Share work masks, respirators or other PPE equipment such as ear muffs or gloves.
  • Use a nuisance mask or respirator that is dirty or contaminated or been stored in a potentially dirty environment
  • Come to work in dirty clothing
  • Come to work impaired or not ready for duty

If you need additional information regarding a safe return to work, check out these resources:


Note: the information provided in this article has been curated from various articles and websites written for small business owners with guidance during COVID-19.