COVID-19 Response Checklist For Small Businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption to life as we know it. Here in Canada, small businesses are now faced with, what are for many, unprecedented challenges.

Here are some critical steps and considerations as you engage your organization’s response:  

Bring key decision-makers together to analyse the situation

Identify who you want in your inner circle throughout this process to help you make decisions in this new environment. Set regular meetings so your business can be responsive and react appropriately to any developments in your company and your community.

Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis (Harvard Business Review)


Communication strategy and cadence

Establish a communication plan, addressing each category of stakeholders. Employees need frequent updates on the status of the company, and on the plan, regarding processes, challenges, and successes. These communications are best made on a regular schedule and with the intention of maintaining, as best as possible, a calm, informed, and orderly environment. 

See: Demonstrating Calm During a Time of Crisis


Demonstrate supportive leadership

Demonstrate to your team your dedication to your collective success in overcoming this challenge. Understand your employees are dealing with concerns about their income, their health and that of their family members in addition to their work; you are too, plus the welfare of your employees. This is your opportunity to inspire others with your work ethic, your humanity, and through your belief that you will be a stronger team when you all get past this crisis together. 

Sign up for the upcoming webinar: Leading During a Crisis and Switching to Remote Work


Reset priorities – confirm what is critical and what isn’t 

The pandemic has caused many small businesses to shift gears from planning the next five years to planning the next five days. Reach out to key customers and suppliers to understand how they are impacted so you can get a clear picture of where your organization stands – both in the financial sense and in serving your customers. Make it clear to your employees where their focus needs to be, and that some priorities will change dramatically. 

Read: What Organizations Need to Survive a Pandemic (Harvard Business Review)


Plan for an employee’s positive COVID-19 test result 

Hopefully, you will not be faced with this situation, but plan for the possibility. Establish a process to protect your employees and minimize the risk of community spread of the virus. First and foremost, anyone exposed to the virus must self-isolate immediately. Are there shared areas, machines, printers etc.? Could any other employees have been infected? What does it mean for your business if your employees are in quarantine? Can employees work from home? Having a plan that covers all safety and business processes will help you to act decisively and quickly. 

Listen to Arete HR’s Head Forward Podcast: Effectively Responding to Illness Outbreaks at Work


Understand COVID-19 symptoms and educate employees 

Ensure that everyone in your organization can identify the main symptoms of COVID-19. Make it clear that if they are exposed to someone with the virus or if they, or people in their household, start to exhibit any of these symptoms, they are not to come to work.  

Link to article and webinar: Be Prepared, Be Informed, and Protect Yourself


Update practices to reflect the current situation 

If your business is in operation and you have employees working at the office, take strong measures to minimize risks. Here are some examples:

  • Increase both the frequency and extent of cleaning in the building and workstations.
  • Provide a method of hand sanitizing and encourage diligent handwashing habits.
  • Enforce social distancing.
  • If at all possible, have staff work from home. 
  • Cancel internal and external gatherings. 
  • Hold meetings by video or teleconference instead of in person.
  • Restrict visitors from entering the building.
  • Relocate workstations to ensure a two-metre radius between employees.
  • Hold group activities (e.g. meetings, exercise classes, yoga sessions) in virtual environments.
  • Eliminate all business travel, including domestic, and insist on a quarantine of 14 days for any employees returning from any travel.

Review company policies related to leave, absenteeism and work refusal 

Businesses have been disrupted by COVID-19. Families have also been disrupted with school cancellations, lost income, daycare closures, family health concerns and more. It is critically important to understand how these different elements will impact the ability of your employees to come to work. For example, how will your business respond if:

  • Employees cannot come to work as a result of a government mandated closure?
  • Employees choose not to come to work and perform their regular duties as a result of a perceived risk to their health?
  • Employees cannot come to work because their kids are unexpectedly out of school and they have no other viable child care options?

Explore these issues proactively and make those hard decisions. Let your employees know if they will be paid during this period; if they can use vacation or sick time; or if they can take a leave without pay?


For more information in navigating these challenges visit our HR Section and the Resource and Information Links for Business Owners page.

Chambers Plan

Chambers Plan

Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan is Canada’s #1 employee benefits plan for small business. Chambers Plan has been protecting Canadian firms for over 40 years. As a not-for-profit, any surpluses are reinvested to the Plan to support industry-leading stability. That's why more than 30,000 small to midsize businesses trust Chambers Plan to protect their employees.