In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted wide-sweeping shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders across the United States. Now, as parts of the country look to start relaxing these strict measures, small business owners need to think about what’s next and how they will adapt and move forward safely and sustainably.
COVID-19 has impacted every business differently. Some were able to shift to a remote work model, while others adjusted operations or closed their doors entirely. Factors that have impacted businesses’ timelines and their abilities to resume “normal” operations include:
- The status of any existing stay-at-home orders in their state(s) of operation. See the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s State-by-State Reopening Guide for details on reopening plans in your state.
- The severity and volume of COVID-19 cases within their locale.
- Whether the business has a physical location.
- The ability to enforce proper social distancing (at least six feet between individuals) within the business location.
- The level of contact with customers and other employees (e.g., beauty salons and gyms with direct physical contact vs. retail stores and restaurants with indirect contact).
One thing is true across the board, though: Every business will face tremendous challenges as our nation begins the path to recovery, while still facing the public health threat of the virus.
When brick-and-mortar businesses are able to reopen their doors, consumers may be wary about being in an enclosed space with other individuals, regardless of the health and safety protocols in place. Even digital businesses that have remained fully operational may find it difficult to boost sales with so many customers facing lost or limited income.
The businesses that will survive and thrive are the ones that can be flexible and adaptable to consumers’ new and evolving needs. You’ll need to plan carefully and understand not only what may need to change about your business, but what new growth opportunities may exist for you in a post-pandemic world.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps your business will need to take to reopen as restrictions are lifted across the country. While your exact reopening strategy will depend on your home state and business type, you can use this playbook as a starting point to help you plan and prepare for the “new normal.”
The pandemic has affected different industries differently — likewise, the reopening process will vary by sector. Here are sector-specific guidance from some of the leading industry associations and government sources:
- For retailers: National Retail Federation’s Operation Open Doors
- For home service providers: AIHA’s Reopening Guidance for At-Home Service Providers
- For construction businesses: AIHA’s Reopening Guidance for Construction Environments
- For gyms and fitness facilities: AIHA’s Reopening Guidance for Gyms and Workout Facilities
- For office-based businesses: AIHA’s Reopening Guidance for General Office Settings
- For hair and nail salons: AIHA’s Reopening Guidance for Hair and Nail Salons
- For airlines: CDC’s Interim Guidance for Airlines and Airline Crew