Our team is working hard to make good on our promise to serve those who have served. Never has that been more critical than while we navigate this global pandemic together. So we’ve compiled a list of personal and professional tips and resources to help you navigate the current COVID-19 situation. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.
Short-term action and long-term response need to be key areas of focus during this time. Here are some key pieces of advice to consider right away:
- It is not too late to write a business continuity plan.
- Be clear but concise about what your customers can expect from your business – if you are still up and running, communicate what you are doing to continue to serve them during this crisis. And if you decide to temporarily suspend operations, let your customers know that as well.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18, 2020, requires employers with 500 or fewer employees to grant FMLA leave and/or up to two weeks of paid sick leave for absences related to COVID-19.
In the current economic climate, it is important now, more than ever, to continue supporting veteran-owned businesses. View our Buy Veteran & Military Spouse Shopping Guide.
While businesses brace for impact, consider the effect the virus will have on the people within each organization. Employees have become increasingly anxious with the rise of the pandemic and what it means to socially distance yourself in a working environment. While most companies have implemented a strict protocol to promote hygiene, other companies have reverted to working remotely. Big businesses have issued travel restrictions with the intention of limiting their employees’ exposure. In some cases, companies have been forced to shut down completely in response to the lack of incoming business. This outbreak has the potential to leave employees without a job. What’s next? First, protect your employees and provide them with resources to safely prepare as the virus unfolds:
Tips to prepare:
- Crosstrain employees if/when possible to prepare for employee absence
- Perform routine cleaning procedures
- Strengthen sick protocol and encourage or mandate sick employees to stay home
- Familiarize employees with FMLA laws, sick leave policy and company protocol
- Explore conditional paid leave options
- Current National Guard service members may be called to duty. Please take this into consideration when preparing for absences.
- Prepare unemployment packets in advance for your employees to make filing easier. Check USA.gov’s Unemployment Help Website to prepare and assist your employees. Also, don’t forget to check what your state requires to file for unemployment.
- Communication plan – send weekly communication regarding:
- The Federal Communication Commission is helping businesses stay connected during the COVID-19 outbreak – Keep Americans Connected Pledge
- Prepare your team to work from home
COVID-19 is affecting more than just healthcare operations. Small businesses in all industries are forced to adjust and adapt to the changing consumer environment. According to CBS News, 52% of small businesses in America are being forced to make changes in an effort to withstand the economic downfall the virus will have on their business. While certain companies are forced to cut their hours of operations to lower business costs, other businesses are capitalizing on e-commerce opportunities and virtual services. Below are tips to help shift your daily process to accommodate social distancing:
- Communication Is Key
- Communicate with your customers to let them know what you are doing to combat the virus; hygiene procedures, operating hours, response to the outbreak, SOP changes
- Chamber of Commerce tips on how to communicate with your customers and what other businesses are doing to stay connected during the pandemic
- Virtual Sales and Services
- Offering gift cards and vouchers online is a great way for services to increase a cash flow immediately. Kabbage Payments is helping small businesses sign up to sell gift certificates online.
- Digital marketing is essential in the wake of the coronavirus. Strategize how to shift to more digital efforts via ClickZ’s article on Digital Marketing in the Wake of the Coronavirus Outbreak.
- Virtual Customer Services
- Connect with your customers digitally; social media, video chat, telephone
- Increase online posts and advertising
- Shifting to e-commerce – The Balance Small Business released an article, 8 Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce
- Supply Chain Management
- Team to Win
- Seattle is doing it right – teaming up with local businesses that would otherwise be your competitors to share information on responses and successful strategies
- Share your customers – collaborate to offer bundle deals that will entice customers to shop at both locations
- Communication Is Key
All employers need to consider how best to mitigate the spread of the virus and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace. They should identify and communicate their specific intentions, which could include protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, maintaining business continuity, and minimizing adverse effects on other departments or organizations in your supply chains.
When reviewing your organization’s policies and procedures, it is important to think through the second-order effects as well. For example, a ban on travel without a solid work-from-home policy can make the office crowded, leading to higher risk of transmission, and, if you conduct business from multiple geographical locations, consider what impact the closure of one office has on the productivity of another.
Some of the key considerations when making decisions on appropriate responses are:
Tips to Prepare:
- Have you written a business continuity plan? It’s not too late.
- Virus severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the business is located
- Impact of virus on employees who are vulnerable and may be at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications
- Employers with 500 or fewer employees are to grant FMLA leave due to COVID-19 and up to two weeks of paid sick leave for absences related to COVID-19, as part of the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act federal legislation
- Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness:
- Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions.
- Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
- Do you know the rules around giving notice of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and the sharing of medical information? Here is need-to-know data privacy information for reference.
- Allow local leadership/management to have authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business infectious disease response plan based on the condition in each locality.
- Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each operational location
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has additional tips for preparing your workspaces for COVID-19 (OSHA Standards for COVID-19 and Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19)
Troubled organizations are more likely to believe in a faster recovery—or a shallower downturn. Facing up to the possibility of a deeper, more protracted downturn is essential, as the options available now, before a recession sets in, may be more palatable than those available later. For example, divestments to provide needed cash can be completed at a higher price today than in a few weeks or months.
Keep your financial house in order during the pandemic:
Tips to Prepare:
- Ensure accessibility to vendor information, account numbers, and invoices/payments if employees are not permitted to be physically present in the office
- Evaluate ability to cut checks early if necessary, for quarantine purposes
- Evaluate potential penalties if payments are delayed due to quarantine purposes
- Set-up automated payments for recurring expenses such as utilities, janitorial services, and maintenance, where possible
- Contact your creditors to let them know if/when you are affected by COVID-19-related regulations. Most will have a plan in place to help you.
- Consider deferring any optional expenses
- Apply for a SBA Disaster Loan if your business has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. There’s no guarantee everyone will be granted assistance, or at what rate, so qualifying businesses are encouraged to apply early.
- Are your business and personal finances in order? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a checklist for you to review.
- Restructuring Protections in a Time of COVID-19 – some legal guidance from the National Law Review to help you navigate what may or may not be protected at this time. Please note this is guidance and not specific to everyone’s unique situation.
By now, everyone has received a handful of “This is How We are Responding to COVID-19” emails from company mailing lists. It is important to let clients and customers know if you are still up and running, and what you are doing to continue to serve them during this crisis. And if you decide to temporarily suspend operations, let them know that as well. Be clear but concise about what your customers can expect from you.
- Ensure you have virtual capabilities to serve your customers who may not be available to see you in-person
- Recognize that your customer has not changed, but what is important and valued to them right now likely has. Adjust your messaging appropriately.
- Be cognizant of the rapidly evolving situation and remain flexible with your planned communications to customers
- Do not expect consumer spending to immediately return to pre-pandemic ways. Put a plan in place to both keep your business operating and serve your customers where they are when a sense of “normalcy” is regained.
Notable Corporate Efforts
- Walmart has a new policy to support any associate who may be affected by the virus, including paid leave for any associate who needs to self-quarantine. Also, Walmart has adjusted operating hours for Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets to help ensure associates are able to stock products and sanitize the stores. No-contact pickup and delivery is available in some areas with a full roll-out expected in the coming days.
- Darden Restaurants, parent company for Olive Garden, announced it will begin offering its 170,000 workers paid sick leave amid coronavirus concerns. The company was developing the policy but is rolling it out sooner following a report that workers were coming in sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off.
- Forbes released an article to highlight 5 Ways Companies are Giving Back During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Chase is helping small businesses develop a contingency plan – check their webpage for more information on how to develop your plan and join their webinars
- Amazon created a Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide grants to small businesses in Seattle
- In addition to steps taken to support their employees, customers and communities, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to supporting organizations on the front line
- JPMorgan Chase & Co. has made a $50 Million investment to help address the impacts of COVID-19
- Facebook is Pledging $100 Million To Small Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus
Resources for Specific Fields and Professions
- US Department of Education Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel
- Resources for Higher Education from the CDC
- Resources for K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs from the CDC
Event and Meeting Planners:
- Coronavirus Resources from Meetings Mean Business
- Resources for Events and Mass Gatherings – COVID 19 from the CDC
For Faith-Based Leaders:
Food Industry Professionals:
- COVID-19 Guidelines for Healthcare Providers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health
- Information for Healthcare Professionals from the CDC
Human Resources Professionals:
Small Business Impacted by Exports or Trade Disruptions:
- Inc.com’s Tracker – Financial Assistance for Businesses Affected by the Coronavirus
- Wisconsin Chamber Of Commerce – COVID-19 Resource Guide
- Google – Helping Businesses Stay Connected
- Small Business Association – Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources
- SHRM – Coronavirus Resources