Are you a small business owner? Here's a guide to reopen your business post lockdown

Look at these some useful tips that will SMEs to return to work smoothly post the lockdown.

Are you a small business owner Here's a guide to reopen your business post lockdown

Practices and procedures have been hardwired into our routines over the years, and as the world gets back to work after a prolonged lockdown, multiple challenges are in store for businesses. As restrictions are lifted in a phased manner across India, businesses have their tasks cut out. They need to ensure that operations are seamless and uninterrupted and that employees and clients/customers do not infect each other while remaining on track towards desired business outcomes. 

Most importantly, everything needs to be accomplished in compliance with various applicable government orders and advisories. Here are some suggestions that will help businesses make the necessary adjustments and cope with the new normal.

In a nutshell: Government orders for SMEs

Applicable orders belong to three broad categories – financial, operations, and permissions. Let’s look at each in turn.

Financial

  • Businesses that were under total lockdown during various phases have been granted relief from being forced to pay full wages to employees during the lockdown. As the government has rescinded its earlier order of asking businesses to pay full wages to employees, it is now possible for businesses to resume operations without having to contend with the issue of wages. Certain portions of the order issued vide Section 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, ceased with effect from 18 May 2020, and this includes enforced payment of wages.
  • Businesses can now avail of demand loans to overcome temporary cash flow requirements, with a repayment plan of 12 months.
  • The deadline for filing taxes has been extended to 30 June 2020. And GST deadlines have been extended for businesses, with various dates as per the turnover and place of business.
  • Businesses manufacturing products can sell their products to the government on the government’s e-marketplace after registration.

Related: Initiatives by the Indian government to boost startups in India

Operations

  • Certain protocols need to be followed by businesses when reopening. Notably, employees should be provided with special transport facilities to eliminate dependence on public transport. Such transport facilities should operate only with limited capacity not exceeding 40% of actual capacity.
  • Shifts should be staggered to ensure that contact between incoming and outgoing shift employees is eliminated or minimised. Lunch breaks too should be staggered to prevent overcrowding. Lift capacities have to be recalibrated to ensure fewer occupants.
  • Distance between employees should be maintained at a minimum of 6 feet. This effectively means staggering of physical attendance/presence at the workplace to ensure social distancing. To this end, gatherings and team meetings should be cancelled and replaced with digital meetings.
  • All contact surfaces are to be sanitized and disinfected periodically.
  • Wearing of face masks is mandatory for all, and wearing of gloves is advised wherever applicable.
  • Thermal screening of all employees/permitted visitors during entry and exit is mandatory. Maintenance of a record of the same, wherever possible or necessary, can help businesses clearly identify changes in temperature in different individuals over a period of time.
  • Medical insurance for all employees is necessary.

Related: Small businesses: Taxation 101

Permissions

  • As the lockdown is lifted, restrictions remain in place for certain types of businesses in different locations. For instance, in places that are severely affected, businesses are permitted to service client needs only through prior appointment to prevent large groups from waiting/assembling in a space. 
  • In certain locations, night-time restrictions will be in place. This effectively means that business operations in these locations need to wind up well in time, and the movement of employees/goods needs to be planned and adjusted accordingly. 
  • Interactions with customers have changed – for instance, in apparel retail outlets, trial rooms will be off-limits, with revised protocol for exchange/replacement of purchased products.

Related: Gold loans opens up opportunities for small business

Last words

Various government orders and policies being put in place are of two types – mandatory and advisory. Businesses are expected to fully follow the mandatory orders while devising/improvising own methods to deal with the advisories. A combination of revised protocols and strict compliance will help prevent employees or clients/customers getting infected and ensure that business operations continue with near normalcy. Businesses will have to contend with handling customers with greater tact and patience, as the probability of delays in servicing customer needs is likely to impact the customer experience.  Look at these 7 Businesses that sailed through the pandemic. 

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