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COVID-19 Resource Center for Employers, Plan Sponsors, Brokers and Consultants

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Small Businesses

May 19, 2020 - 3 min read

Protecting your customers, your employees and yourself

A return-to-work primer for small businesses


Every business’s path to reopening will be a bit different, but there are still general guidelines everyone should follow. Doing so will not only help to keep people safe, but will help us continue to flatten the curve.

Business planning

  • Get input from your employees and customers. Consider surveying them to see what their response would be to re-opening, or to modifying how the business operates over the short term.

  • Be sure to contact your supply chain vendors to ensure they will be opening as well.

  • Make sure your re-opening strategy includes a plan in case you have to shut down again, whether it’s for weeks or months.

Continue social distancing

  • If possible, allow employees to continue working from home. If not, be sure to stagger their return to work.

  • Keep common areas (such as breakrooms) closed.

  • Encourage customers and employees to stay at least 6 feet apart whenever possible.

  • Install barriers or partitions in areas where customers and employees tend to interact, such as checkout counters in retail environments.

  • Tweak your business practices to minimize close contact with customers, e.g. online shopping, curbside pickup, drive-through service, stocking shelves during non-peak hours, etc.

An employee working on her laptop at a desk, wearing a mask and gloves, with another employee in the foreground, also wearing a mask and gloves.

Emphasize good health, hygiene and cleanliness standards

  • Encourage employees to use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks and gloves.

  • If employees will be coming in close contact with customers on a regular basis, consider implementing employee screening procedures (such as temperature checks). Visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website to learn more about employee screening procedures.

  • Consider setting up a hygiene station at the entrance to your business. An effective hygiene station should include soap, warm water and paper towels, and/or hand sanitizer.

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home, and require those who show symptoms to do so.

  • Employees who are healthy but who have sick family members at home should notify their supervisor and refer to the CDC’s website to learn how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

  • Emphasize the importance of proper respiratory etiquette (i.e., coughing into one’s elbow) and hand hygiene (i.e., washing one’s hands for at least 20 seconds) to all employees.

  • Routinely clean and disinfect your workplace – especially high-traffic areas shared by customers and/or employees.

  • If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, inform fellow employees of their possible exposure immediately – but make sure you maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A close up of a person washing their hands with soap.

Adjust your business practices

  • If your business has more than one location, consider allowing local managers to take actions outlined in your COVID-19 response plan. If you have yet to establish a COVID-19 response plan, the CDC has created an interim guide for businesses and employers.

  • Minimize all non-essential business travel. If travel is necessary, advise employees to check the CDC Traveler’s Health Notices for guidance and recommendations.

  • Even with a medically sound return-to-work plan, reopening a business at this time still poses health, regulatory and liability risks. Employers and employee should both be aware of the risks associated with returning to work, as well as the procedures put in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

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For more tips and information on how to keep your employees and customers safe, visit:

If you have questions for your county health officials, you can find them here: