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A guide to returning to work after lockdown for small businesses

4-minute read

A guide to returning to work after lockdown for small businesses
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

30 March 2021

Many businesses will soon be opening their doors again after long periods of closure during the coronavirus pandemic.

And as restrictions begin to ease across the UK and the roadmap to reopening in England looks like it’s on track, the coming months will be an important time for small businesses. From telling customers you’re back in business to making sure you’re insured, follow our checklist to help you get ready.

Guidelines to reopening – a checklist for small businesses

1. Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment

If you haven’t reopened since the start of the pandemic, you’ll need to complete a Covid-19 risk assessment. The government says that if you have fewer than five employees, you don’t need to do one.

There’s nothing new here, but here’s a reminder of things to consider:

  • check for health and safety hazards
  • provide hand sanitisation and hand washing facilities
  • encourage social distancing with two metre markers and signage
  • identify what could cause transmission of the virus and take steps to prevent it, for example using screens and barriers
  • stagger shifts

For more information, read the government’s risk assessment guidelines.

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2. Update your Google My Business profile

As the high street opens up, customers will be looking at your business profile page on Google to know whether you’re open. This information appears when you search for your business in Google, so it’s important that it’s up to date.

You should update your page with:

  • main opening hours
  • ‘More hours’ if you’re running services such as delivery, takeaway, and collection
  • additional information (called ‘attributes’) to show if you offer online services, such as classes and appointments
  • any extra services you’re offering

Read Google’s guide on how to edit your business profile for more details.

3. Check you’re insured

If your business insurance policy lapsed during Covid-19, or you have different requirements due to changes in the way you run your business, make sure you’re covered before getting back to work.

4. Tell customers you’re back in business

Next, update your website and social media channels and start marketing. Let customers know when you’re opening and create excitement, whether that’s by sharing photos of new stock on Instagram, emailing clients about booking appointments, or filming a video in your fitness studio.

Looking for more tips? Why not refresh your memory with our guide to marketing for small businesses?

You might also want to revisit your business plan and consider doing a SWOT analysis to give your business a health check.

5. Continue offering online services

While we’re all excited about getting back into the world, the demand for online services is likely to continue – whether that’s to support those still shielding or simply for convenience.

Depending on your business, many of you may have pivoted to offer services online over the past year, so it could be a good idea to continue this alongside reopening for in-person services if you can.

6. Take time to adjust

Going back to work after a long time away is likely to be mentally taxing, whether that’s because you’re working through long client waiting lists, rebuilding networks, or just getting used to a new routine.

We’ve all spent many months at home, so it’ll take time to adjust to life after lockdown. To avoid burning out, make sure you’re taking time to look after yourself as you transition back to work – we have a range of wellbeing resources for the self-employed, from stress and anxiety support to nutrition and sleep tips.

If you’re welcoming staff back to the office, make sure you’re looking after employee wellbeing too. The pandemic has affected everyone differently, so good communication and transparency is important.

7. Stay on top of your budget

Make sure you have a clear budget (both for your personal life and your business) so you can stay on top of your finances as you revive your business. Here, financial coach and author of Black Girl Finance shares her tips on managing financial wellbeing.

8. Access coronavirus support – if you can

While our research into the impact of Covid-19 suggests many small businesses felt that government support didn’t go far enough, you may be able to benefit from the various schemes still running.

Check our latest guides on coronavirus financial support and small business grants if your business is struggling.

Reopening guidance for gyms and fitness instructors

From 12 April in England, all outdoor fitness classes, indoor gyms, and swimming pools can reopen, while indoor group classes are set to reopen from 17 May. To prepare your business for reopening, check the government’s guidance for providers of grassroots sport and sports facilities. This includes indoor gyms, fitness studios, and multi-sport facilities.

Reopening guidance for shops

Non-essential shops can open from 12 April in England. The government guidance for shop owners goes into detail about how you can prepare to safely reopen.

Reopening guidance for pubs and restaurants

Hospitality venues in England can serve outdoors from 12 April, and are set to open to customers indoors from 17 May at the earliest.

The Food Standards Agency has more information on reopening your food business, including a checklist for reopening and how to adapt your business.

Reopening guidance for salons

Services including hairdressers, barbers, and massage therapists can open in England from 12 April. Make sure you read the government guidance for close contact services to protect your staff and customers when you reopen.

Reopening guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The reopening dates and government guidance mentioned above is specific to England as the easing of lockdown restrictions is administered by the devolved governments. The links below have information for businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including risk assessments and safety guidance by sector:

Use the BBC’s coronavirus restrictions checker to see the current restrictions in your area. And always check your national or local authority website for the latest information.

Are you preparing to go back to work soon? We’d love to hear how you get on – let us know in the comments.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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