How do we get “back to business”?

In the coming months, some businesses will be allowed to reopen as part of a gradual process to get ‘back to work’. Many SMEs will be keen to reopen soon, as the financial pressure of closing premises has been significant, but it’s important to ensure that businesses reopen safely and with the appropriate cover in place.

Whether you’re planning to return to your premises in the near future or not for several weeks, it’s important to review your business continuity plans for returning to your premises.

Before Reopening

Before you return to your premises, you should ensure that they are completely safe for re-entry.

  • Do your premises need a deep clean prior to reopening?
  • Is there any debris or evidence of damage that needs fixing? This could be due to disuse or due to animals/vandals on the property during the extended period of inactivity
  • Are your security systems still in operation? You may need to let your alarm receiving centre know you’re returning after a period of absence
  • Is your fixed wiring system in good order? Have you had your electrics checked and are the inspection certificates up to date?
  • Have you checked all your equipment is operating properly?
  • Has potentially hazardous material been stored correctly? If not, does it need to be disposed of?
  • You may need to review your fire risk assessment– is your fire alarm operating correctly? Are your fire extinguishers within date? Will all your fire wardens be on site when you reopen or do you need to reallocate these roles?
  • You may want to get a pest control contractor in to check the premises for signs of infestation- you don’t want to discover surprise tenants have moved in while you’re away!

Once the more structural checks of your premises have been done, you want to ensure you’re still complying with Government recommendations and advice.

  • It’s sensible to revise your health and safety policies to include precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus COVID-19
  • Are you able to provide access to sufficient hand sanitiser and other hygiene supplies?
  • Are your staff and customers able to maintain social distancing on your premises? How can you ensure this is possible? You may need to put social distancing signs and markers up
  • Do your staff require personal protective equipment?
  • Are any staff members considered “high-risk”? Do any members of staff live with any “high-risk” individuals? If so, you might want to consider helping them to work from home where possible

Different industries will need to consider more specific checks before reopening. For example:

  • If you’re a food business, do you have any perishable stock that needs replacing?
  • If your business involves home visits, will you and your staff be adequately protected when entering customers’ homes? How can you minimise risk of infection?

During reopening

Some businesses will have to do a gradual return to full trading capacity, so check with Government regulation and guidance to ensure you comply with all requirements.

Staff may be struggling with their mental health and the so-called “fear factor” during their return to work. As their employer you can help them feel supported with the below suggestions.

  • Are your staff members able to maintain social distancing during work? If this is difficult, you may want to stagger shifts or reduce the volume of staff on premises by encouraging those who wish to, to work from home
  • How many of your staff are using public transport? See if you can arrange parking facilities nearby for those with cars, or adjust working hours to prevent staff travelling during peak hours to maintain social distancing
  • You may wish to provide access to mental health support for staff members who are struggling

When reopening, it’s important to check your business insurance. You may have downgraded or stopped your insurance cover in lockdown, so it’s important to ensure this is back in place before you resume trading.

  • Has your business model changed during the lockdown? Any changes to how your business operates (deliveries, etc) will need to be brought to your insurer’s attention
  • Let your insurer know when you are back on the premises, so that they don’t mistakenly think you’re exceeding any unoccupancy clause in the policy wording

It will take a while for things to get fully back to normal (or as close as we’re likely to get), so we recommend continually reviewing your business practice and policies as things pick up. Many insurers are taking sympathetic views to mid-term adjustments and changes in cover, so if necessary you may be able to slowly increase your cover back to normal as required by your business.

In the future

It’s important to, above all, stay safe as the country begins to reopen. You may decide to look into group health insurance for your staff, or you may want to change your sickness policy to ensure you don’t see any outbreaks within your business.

As things begin to ease, you may want to revisit your business continuity plan to help keep your business running if a future event causes issues. You can do so using our free BCP kits, provided by Inoni. If you’re a registered member, you should have a link to these in your welcome pack.

John Robinson, Managing Director of Inoni says:

“We need to recognise the pace and timing of resumption will be different for different sectors, and even individual businesses, taking the new constantly-evolving set of social rules into account.”

In a recent blog, Inoni put forward six steps for business leaders to continually re-focus their efforts, based on present and future conditions:

  1. Paint an evolving picture of how your sector will emerge from coronavirus COVID-19, using the best available information
  2. Use it to focus, adapt and evolve your strategy, planning constantly
  3. Be aware of the risks in any assumptions you make, such as a second intense period of lockdown or a key supplier failing
  4. Anticipate events and be ready to act swiftly and decisively if you do get blown off course
  5. Keep important parties informed (staff, suppliers, customers) and onside, setting their expectations
  6. Keep safe, by logging all the decisions you make in case of legal challenge or enqui

There is a long road ahead and those that embrace an agile way of thinking may have a significant advantage.

We also have available our guide for businesses returning to work which you can download here.

You know your business best, and we’ll be here, along with all the other FSB benefits and services, to help ensure your business’ resilience. Call us for insurance advice and quotes on 020 3883 7976 Monday-Friday, 9am-5.30pm.