As a business owner, you communicate daily with a variety of individuals and organizations that help keep your business running efficiently.

How To Communicate With Employees

In the days since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, once consistent communication chains have begun to show cracks as businesses shut down and individuals stay home.

When running any company, communication is key – even in times of crisis. Your messaging displays the confidence you have in the ability of your business to continue operating even in difficult and uncertain times.

Whether you are navigating paychecks with employees, bills to landlords, or financial assistance with creditors, ensuring that consistent communication is occurring across channels is vital for success in the post-COVID economy.

So what are restaurateurs, CEOs, and managers to do to keep the flow of discussion and messaging moving? Let’s take a look at some top areas of concern where your messaging should be consistent, clear, and confident.

Steps To Take When An Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19

As you begin to reopen your business for customers, there is the possibility that an employee or team member will come down with symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus.

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is vital that you have a plan for how you, your team, and your business will respond. The following guidelines are built from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employees.

Immediate Response To A Positive Test

● Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.

● Employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, vendors, and visitors, and sent home.

● Sick employees should follow the CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

● Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.

Steps To Protect Other Team Members & Customers

● If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure but maintain confidentiality as required by the

● Americans with Disabilities Act.

● Fellow employees should self-monitor for symptoms.

● Identify where the infected employee worked, as well as those individuals—including colleagues, customers, visitors, and vendors—the infected employee came into contact with during the 14 days prior to testing positive or first displaying symptoms.

● Employers should notify affected customers, visitors, and vendors and instruct those employees who came into contact with the sick employee within the 14 day period to go home and self-isolate for 14 days, working remotely if possible.

● Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met. The CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented.

● OSHA recordkeeping requirements mandate covered employers to record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log.

OSHA released new guidance on May 19 that employers are responsible for recording a COVID-19 case if it is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness; it is work-related; and involves one or more of the general recording criteria, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

Response For The Business Environment

● Based on the size of the workplace and the potential breadth of exposure to coronavirus, the employer should consider closing immediately, coordinating with employees to work remotely if possible.

● Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in your facility, following CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

● Employers should develop policies for worker protection and provide training to all cleaning staff on-site prior to providing cleaning tasks. Training should include when to use personal protective equipment, what PPE is necessary, how to properly wear, use, and take off PPE, and how to properly dispose of PPE.

● Employers must ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with appropriate OSHA standards.

● Collaborate with local and state health departments to ensure appropriate protocols and guidelines, such as updated/additional guidance for cleaning and disinfection, are followed, including for identification of new potential cases of COVID-19.

A Swift Response Is A Safe Response

In a quickly changing world, having a contingency plan in place to address employee illness will speak volumes to your team members, investors, and the public. Companies that not only create a crisis response plan but also publish pertinent information to the public will ensure that patrons feel safe when visiting your business.

General Business Considerations & Contracts

Communication with stakeholders is a vital necessity as you navigate doing business during the novel coronavirus pandemic. In order to keep all parties feeling confident during times of crisis, it is important to develop consistent communication practices.

By staying involved with financial and legal representatives, as well as other parties depending on your business’s stability, you can maintain vital integrity and build confidence with your stakeholders.

Insurance & Litigation Considerations

You will want to ensure that you have completed a thorough walkthrough of your contingencies and policies when it comes to operating your business functions during the pandemic.

As businesses and restaurants begin to reopen their doors to the public, there will be an increased level of risk involved with operations. Should a customer or employee become sick, having a robust response readily available will keep business owners and restauranteurs safe from litigation.

Consider adding a lawyer on retainer if you do not currently have one. Ensure that they are trained and up to date on laws and policies related to business operations during the pandemic, to prevent falling victim to litigation due to being unprepared for the unexpected.

Considerations For Landlords & Tenants During COVID-19

If you are operating as a landlord or a tenant during the pandemic, it is important to stay abreast of all updates and changes as the situation unfolds in your area and region. Landlords need to keep up to date and review their insurance policies and update their contractual obligations to their lenders during this period of uncertainty.

Review your insurance policy for pandemic exclusions. Many times, loans on properties will require year-long proof of rent numbers in order to maintain current standards with their insurance and loan covenants.

As a landlord who may be facing defaults due to lack of rental income from individuals or businesses, it is important that you remain in constant contact with your lender to avoid penalties.

As stated above, stay in contact with your attorneys and any accountants on retainer regarding any deferral or abatement requests. It is especially important to review information regarding the sudden loss of tenants and lease income.

As you consider the long-term economic ramifications of the pandemic, consider the effect on your property cash flow, loans, occupancy, and lender cooperation to ensure that you have all of your bases covered.

For tenants, there are currently deferments and moratoriums on rent and evictions across the country. Before tenants can apply for rent concessions, however, they must be prepared to show proof of a real loss of business income, furloughs, or revenue with viable financial documents.

Tenants must also show that they have taken the steps to apply for either disaster assistance through the proper channels. A good note to remember is that many landlords still have costs they must pay – even during a pandemic – that will require income from tenants.

Having an open stream of communication between tenants and landlords will ensure that everyone is on the same page and is taking advantage of all possible finance opportunities.

When In Doubt, Over-Communicate During Crisis

Nothing beats basic communication during a crisis. As the COVID-19 pandemic enters new phases, it is likely that updates and changes will be necessary for businesses of all kinds.

By staying in constant contact with the necessary stakeholders in the organization, business owners can ensure that they remain financially responsible, and maintain integrity with their customers, employees, and other involved parties.

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