Preparing your Small Business for Coronavirus.

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Updated 3/15/20 -

FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) guidance is live as well as Department of Labor info on FMLA.

Wisconsin K-12 schools will close this week increasing the urgency to make proactive arrangements with any parents on your team. These are not typical circumstances and this is not the time to depend on your typical policies.

Ask your team -

  • What do you need at home in order to work effectively?

  • What can we do to to ensure that work can continue such as adjusting work hours or other temporary solutions? What work will we need to prioritize and what can be pushed to Q3?

  • How can I best support you right now? People are stressed and need your support in different ways.

Tell your team -

  • Kids are kids! If (let's be real - when) they interrupt meetings or need time and attention during the work day, we'll start from a place of empathy and not judgement.

  • Yes, we may need to make some adjustments to our work. Non-parents shouldn't feel like they're being overwhelmed just because they don't have kids. Be mindful of checking in on every team member.

  • Provide guidance/share resources for ideas for parents. Such as this open source "survival guide". Kudos to local company Fiveable for stepping up for high schoolers!

As of 3/10/20 -

Other regions are currently experiencing greater struggles with COVID-19. Given the patterns there, we’d be naive to not plan for the likelihood of local cases.

Right now - before the team is under strain or leaders are impacted - is the right time to prepare.

Sick time is expensive time for everyone involved. So, even if you think the news is overreacting to COVID-19 - it’s worth being proactive with your plans even in a typical cold & flu season.

Decide who decides.

Before you start calling meetings or taking action, decide whose decision this is and what other input is needed. This will save so much time and headache if/when you need to make decisions quickly.

Review your formal sick & leave policies for accuracy and clarity. Check for telemedicine in your health plan.

Plan for a stress test on your system such as 14 days of leave and/or a substantial portion of your workers out and answer questions like these:

- What’s allowed and will be paid?

- What’s allowed and will be unpaid?

- How will you handle an instance where someone needs to go negative on their PTO balance?

- How will you handle hourly wage workers? (KUDOS to Microsoft!)

This is a values meets reality moment. Your people will be watching how you handle this and how it aligns with whatever you proclaim when you’re sailing on smooth seas.

Yes, of course you need to balance the financial realities of your business. This is not easy to do and it’s exactly why you should plan now.

When you’re clear on your policies, make them publicly available and re-share with your team. Yes, it’s probably in your handbook. No, your team will probably not remember to check there. Your proactive communication on this will build trust.

Include any telemedicine options that may be included in your plan.

If someone is part of an at risk group or lives with someone at risk and wants to discuss their options - provide clarity on who (ideally HR, a senior manager or EAD plan) they can go to for a confidential conversation.

3. Understand your informal sick & leave policies.

Your informal policies and habits are what people will follow first unless you explicitly change them!

Is your team frequently sharing food? Watch what happens in your kitchen (I’m sorry in advance for what you may discover) and the varying levels of “washed” people have in mind for dishes.

Do people hug in your office? Frequent handshakes? Think about what small habits you can address. (Also hugging is… unusual so good chance to find out if people are actually ok with it).

Think about times people have been sick in the past. Do they tend to “power through” and show up for fear of looking like a slacker? Is there a pride in showing up that’s explicitly or implicitly rewarded in your culture? Do leaders show up sick? If so, your implicit culture is likely telling people to “power through”.

Or, is there a subtle shaming when someone is out? “Hey Jane. These TPS reports are really piling up and the team is having trouble keeping up. We really miss you!” ← this makes Jane feel guilty regardless of your intent. Even if no one says anything, are people annoyed when someone is out sick? Then you may have a “show up anyway” culture.

YOU CAN SAY - “Hi Team. We’re taking your health and safety seriously. If you’re ill, especially coughing/sneezing/fatigued, please stay home. We expect you to stay home and we’ll send you home if you try to come in anyway. Please work with your manager on how to allocate your work or remote work possibilities.”

4. Review your remote work policies today vs. if needed.

What’s required to do your work remotely?

Tech: For example, does your IT team need to set up VPNs or is everything accessible already? Do you have a messaging tool like Slack or other shared repositories of information to use?

System: For a first time remote team, core “online” hours can help to facilitate quick turnaround and avoid a constant stream of interruptions. Some teams find that these bursts of communication with other blocks of time for execution can increase productivity by up to 24%!

Management: Managers need to be very clear in remote teams as to what “good & done” really looks like. The better that your leadership team can continue to paint that picture on a regular basis, the easier it is for remote teams to stay on track.

What will you not allow typically vs. what might you allow as a preventative measure? How will you decide?

Would an office closure be possible if needed? If there are “must do” in-office tasks, who will do them and how can you minimize that? Is there something one person could have a plan for with a backup in case that person becomes ill?

5. Review your travel policies.

What travel will you cancel? Who decides when travel is cancelled? The company? The employee? How does your expense flow work? You’ll want to minimize financial impact to both the company and team member.

This is also a values meets reality moment and one that your team will not forget.

6. Assess your workspace.

Wouldn’t it be great to prevent germs from spreading all together?! Take a look around and make sure you have tissues, cleaning wipes or other supplies readily available for everyone to easily access.

Note where people are coming into contact with the same surfaces frequently - light switches, printers, fridges, etc. and wipe down regularly. Also a great spot to put a convenient hand sanitizer!

7. Seek info/watch for public policy changes from local and federal agencies.

Do stay informed. Don’t panic.


City of Milwaukee -

Waukesha County -

Questions or looking for help? We’re not medical experts but we’re here to help as you make plans or consider remote work!

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