As business owners reopen their workplaces to welcome back employees and customers now that most pandemic-related restrictions are lifted across the country, there’s a need to look closely at how business has changed over the past several months of remote working.

Some of your employees may not be ready to return to an office or place of business after working from home for close to two years. They may have concerns that their newfound work-life balance will be altered by commuting to a workplace and giving up the flexibility remote working provides. Use it as an opportunity to enhance your employees’ happiness and gradually re-introduce them into the workplace. Of note, a KPMG Canada survey finds 54% of Canadians are afraid to return to a physical workspace, and six in 10 will refuse to go back if they feel it’s not safe enough. That said, 72% say they’re okay with returning to work so long as COVID cases remain low.

Returning to work in an office

Moreover, how have your business’s operations changed? Before you swing open the doors to the public, it’s worthwhile to contemplate what your company is doing differently. For example, what new products or services have you introduced? Or have you increased or decreased your employee headcount?

Matt Jardine, a licensed insurance broker at Zensurance, told the Red Deer News Now recently that the business landscape has shifted. For business owners, that means re-evaluating where their organizations are so they’re prepared for the weeks and months ahead.

“We’re in a new business environment now. That demands business owners find a balance between recouping lost time and income and protecting their assets,” he says. “Don’t act on impulse. Instead, take it slow and steady. Be strategic and make informed decisions for your business. Above all, ensure your business insurance policy adequately covers the potential risks you face, as it’s a crucial component of every business owner’s risk management strategy.”

4 Tips for Preparing a Return to Your Workplace

Small business owners need to weigh all the factors involved with having their employees return to their physical workplaces. Here are four ways to address the new business environment all companies face:

1. Craft a return-to-work plan

Have a return-to-work plan, communicate it to your employees, and get their opinions. Your employees may have concerns or suggestions to address and include in that plan, so ensure you engage them over team meetings and encourage them to get involved. Making health, wellness, and safety a key plank in that plan is critical, and it’s helpful to review the recommended guidelines for returning to work offered by your provincial government. 

For example, it may be necessary to continue wearing masks in some workplaces, remain consistent with cleaning and disinfecting workstations and high-traffic areas, and adhere to physical distancing measures. Also, train your employees to protect themselves and what they should do if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

2. Be aware of public health updates

Don’t let down your guard and assume the COVID-19 won’t re-emerge once more. Keep up with what public health officials in your region advise and be mindful of any new developments concerning the virus. Additionally, the Canadian government offers guidelines for business owners on reducing the risk of COVID-19 in their workplaces that includes different strategies to help address what measures they may need to have in place.

3. Mind your cash flow

It’s well-known that Canadian small businesses have suffered significantly throughout the pandemic. Statistics Canada notes small businesses were more likely to expect a decrease in profitability and sales and were less likely to expect demand for their goods and services to increase, compared with larger businesses. No doubt there’s an emphasis on ramping up to recapture lost income. But effective budgeting must remain at the forefront. In other words, tread carefully with spending to ensure you have ample cash reserves on hand.

4. Review your business insurance policy

Although it should be an annual practice, taking time to review your existing business insurance policy to address changes to your company’s operations as government-mandated restrictions are lifted is highly recommended. 

For instance, look at your current commercial general liability coverage and ensure you have adequate protection for inviting customers back into your place of business. If you jumped into the world of e-commerce to sell goods and services online, do you have sufficient e-commerce insurance protection? Moreover, what does your business interruption coverage provide? When the pandemic first struck in early 2020, many business owners were surprised to learn this type of insurance typically did not provide coverage for closures due to public health restrictions or infectious diseases. Now, some insurers have enhanced their business interruption policies to include government-ordered closures.

Also, when thinking about your existing policy, check what your revenue was over the past 12 months and what you expect to earn in the next 12 months. It’s possible these figures have changed because of the previously mandated closures or they will now that things are opening up.

Being Ready to Get Back to Business Safely

Depending on the layout of your place of business, there may be additional measures you need to take. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends other practices to consider, including:

  • Consulting a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professional to inquire about increasing ventilation and fresh air if possible.
  • Implementing a work-from-home program that allows employees who can work remotely to do so.
  • Introduce a phased-in approach when recalling workers.
  • Stagger in-person meetings, breaks, and team talks to minimize the number of employees in one place simultaneously.

Above all, strategizing to have your employees return to your workplace with clear and frequent communication will empower them and enhance safety. That strategy should include a review of your business insurance policy and coverage limits. If you’re interested in exploring your insurance options, fill out our online application to get a free quote. Our licensed brokers will shop the market for you and provide you with options on how you can protect your business.

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