Navigating Your Business Through COVID-19: A Guide for Business Owners

May 14, 2020 | Alaina Riley

Alaina Riley, Marketing & Wellness Coordinator, Focus OneSource

Thinking back to early March feels like a lifetime ago. Our world and way of life has been completely flipped upside down. Everything from how we go about our daily life to the way businesses operate has been altered from just a few short months ago. What have you learned during this period of change? What will you take with you when life gets back to ‘normal’? What will you do differently in the future because of this?

The end of March brought change at an unimaginable rate. Many businesses were forced to drastically alter their operations overnight to accommodate this rate of change. Often times it felt like we were being faced with more than we could comprehend–and in some ways, we were. But, on the bright side, many businesses have navigated their way through the first wave of change. Now that we have a better understanding of what is happening with the virus, it is time to plan for the future.

Let’s re-cap. Here are some of the major changes that have occurred since late March:

  • Businesses were asked to close.
  • The country was asked to social distance and stay six feet apart from one another.
  • Business operations changed, drastically:
    • FMLA enhancements
    • Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
    • New tax credits for paid sick and paid family & medical leave
    • Changes in how health plan benefits are paid
    • State unemployment expansion
    • Paycheck Protection Program

Thanks to the digital age we live in, we are consumed with constant updates and information being thrown at us. With all of this new information, it can be overwhelming for business owners to digest the meaning and figure out how it will impact their business.

As the saying goes, those who fail to plan are planning to fail. Which is why having a thoughtful action plan in place is critical to businesses success in times of uncertainty. Keep these recommendations in mind when creating or updating an action plan for your business.

General Protocol – Include general information about the company’s stance on COVID-19 and the response to various scenarios. Inform your workforce if you will actively encourage sick employees to stay home.

  • If employees are exhibiting fever, cough, shortness of breath or behaviors associated with these symptoms, what will be the procedure? Supervisors may ask the employee to leave and call (or go to) the doctor.
  • Consider following CDC recommendations for employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms. If an employee displays symptoms upon arrival to work or becomes sick during the day, they will be separated from other employees and sent home immediately.
  • Post guidance from credible sources in office space, breakrooms, bathrooms, etc. Encourage employees to follow guidelines to help stop the spread of germs (e.g., covering mouth when coughing or sneezing, frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds, etc.).

Office Protocol – This section should include items that apply to those working in the office and those who may be asked to temporarily work remote.

  • Chances are, some, if not all, team members will be asked to work from home at some point during COVID-19. Be sure to address how your company will address this topic and provide guidance for your workforce.
  • During community spread of the virus, who will be allowed to enter or exit the office building? Create a statement that addresses non-essential visits by vendors, clients, etc. Will visits be temporarily suspended?
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning. Provide disinfecting products for employees in the office to clean commonly used surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls). Educate your team on the proper cleaning techniques.

COVID-19 Mitigation – Include items that will help your business mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on your workforce. Consider the following:

  • If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19 and must stay home, what is the company policy for PTO, sick leave, etc. Will the company offer paid leave without affecting PTO?
  • If critical employees are diagnosed with COVID-19, how will you ensure essential business continues? Will you crosstrain personnel to perform essential job functions?
  • If an employee is positively diagnosed with COVID-19, how will you inform your workforce of the possible exposure? Business owners must maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in this scenario.

While a global pandemic is a new experience for all of us, proper preparation and planning can help businesses navigate through the uncharted waters.

Download a free Employee Checklist from Focus OneSource about how to prepare your business and workforce during different stages of COVID-19 transmission in your area.

Alaina Riley is marketing and wellness coordinator at Focus OneSource in West Des Moines. Email her at