Back to Business: A Guide For Small Businesses Returning to Work Amidst COVID-19

May 6, 2020

As some states begin to re-open and relax restrictions and other states work closer to doing the same, businesses are beginning to strategize back to work plans. Needless to say, things have changed (that’s certainly an understatement) and businesses must be prepared for the new world amidst COVID-19. This means revising old policies, adopting new policies, and ensuring the health and safety of all employees. 

Before your company reopens and employees come back into the office, there are several things you must do first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released a guide for businesses and employers to plan and respond to COVID-19 when preparing workplaces for return, reducing transmission among employees, and maintaining a healthy work environment.

Following the CDC’s guidelines, Netchex has developed a comprehensive checklist for small businesses as they plan to return to work amidst COVID-19. 

Revising/Adopting Policies
  • Post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) poster in a visible, high traffic place in the office. If employees will remain working from home, send by email, or post to the company’s internal website. 
  • Review and revise hiring practices and policies:
    • Have staffing needs changed? Do you need to change benefits or pay to become more competitive?
    • Implement remote interviewing techniques.
    • Update onboarding practices and create an online experience, if possible
    • If you are recalling only some workers that were laid-off or furloughed, ensure your practices for determining who to recall do not discriminate against any group of employees.
  • Review and revise leave policies:
    • Know how FFCRA affects your previous policies and practices. 
    • Consider implementing PTO/vacation rollovers, grace periods, and revise guidelines for usage if vacation is forfeited if not used by year-end. 
    • Consider implementing or revising bereavement leave policies. 
    • Ensure that all employees have access to and an understanding of all leave policies that may apply to them.
  • Review and revise work from home and child care policies.  
  • Update work travel policies in light of any new orders in your state and any new practices being implemented in the workplace to keep employees/customers safe.
  • Review rehire/reinstate provisions for your benefits policies (eligibility/waiting periods)
  • Distribute all new or revised policies to all employees.
Health and Safety
  • Explain company policies and procedures related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting, and work meetings and travel. 
  • Educate employees on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at home and at work by following CDC recommendations
  • For employees returning to a worksite, make sure they understand what’s expected of them in the workplace, including: 
    • Must they wear face masks or face coverings?
    • Will protective items and hand sanitizer be provided?
    • Will workplace hours be different?
    • Will you be taking employees’ temperatures each day when they arrive?
    • Is teleworking or staggered shift work allowed/encouraged? 
  • Ensure that all employees who are currently ill or have contact with an ill family member follow CDC recommendations and stay home. 
  • If an employee becomes sick at work, send them home. 
  • Promote safe social distancing in the workplace by encouraging employees to:
    • Remain at least 6 feet away from each other.
    • Discourage handshaking.
    • Email, message, call, or video call rather than meeting face to face.
    • Clean computer equipment, desktops, phones, and workstations often.
  • Provide hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and face masks or face coverings (where appropriate/necessary), as well as no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Place posters throughout the business to encourage social distancing and hand hygiene.
Additional Best Practices
  • Be aware of any local public health or other orders related to COVID-19 that may affect your business.
  • Ensure your workplace cleaning company is up to date on current methods of safely removing COVID-19 hazards.
  • Communicate frequently and as transparently as possible with employees:
  • Train managers on dealing with employees that may face increased personal challenges during this time, such as bereavement and loss, childcare and school-cancellation challenges, financial stress, and other dependent care and support needs.
  • Offer flexibility wherever possible and adjust workloads to be reasonable.
  • Be prepared to quickly investigate and stop discriminatory speech or acts in the workplace.
  • Consider contracting with an employee assistance program (EAP) if you do not currently have one.
  • Designate a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace.
  • Develop a plan to operate if absenteeism spikes or if another shelter-in-place or stay at home order occurs in the future:
    • Implement a plan to continue essential business functions. 
    • Implement flexible work schedules and leave policies.
    • Cross-train employees on performing essential business functions.
  • Develop emergency communications plans, including a way to answer workers’ concerns.
  • Communicate your appreciation and welcome employees back to work.

Download and/or print out this checklist for easy access and reference


Netchex is the leading HCM partner helping you improve workforce management and optimizing benefits for your employees. Our powerful, yet user-friendly technology simplifies the business of HR and bring self-service features to your company to provide more independence for your team.

Talk to us to find out how to put Netchex to work for your company. Take a look at our full suite of HCM solutions that grow with your business, including payroll, compliance, HR, benefits administration, and time & attendance, backed by experts and the best technology in the industry.