What to know about operating your business from home during COVID-19

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States, many business owners, including hairstylists, personal trainers and even clothing retailers are working from home.

The pandemic has forced some entrepreneurs like Joyce McNally, an Atlanta-based coach and owner of Say ‘YES’ Fitness, to adjust their business models.

“I’ve discovered that I love working from home. I set up classes in my living room and don’t have to travel,” says McNally, who began offering virtual classes and personalized training plans for clients earlier this year.

4 tips to safely run your business from home

If you’re among those who are running your business from home, there are a number of steps to take to ensure you’re protecting yourself and your visitors. You’ll also want to consider any insurance needs and make sure you’re following regulations.

If you find yourself working from home or operating a business from your residence, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Seek help from those who understand your business

Businesses are as diverse as the products and services they offer — from graphic design and artists to personal chefs and developers. The needs of each kind of business will vary.

“First, you should evaluate your risks,” says Scott Holeman, director of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute (III). “If you’re a home-based accountant, your risks are much different than if you operate a day care.”

It might make sense to work with an expert such as an insurance agent or regulatory specialist to identify potential areas of risk.

If your industry has a national board or association, it can be a good resource for understanding new regulations and best practices. When McNally started promoting her training business, she began taking classes with The Talent Hack, an online network of fitness professionals. Through a digital business accelerator course, she received expert coaching on brand building as well as legal and financial precautions to take. Seeking like-minded professionals can help you uncover blind spots in your business.

2. Take precautions to protect yourself and visitors

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain a physical distance of six feet between people. If you are operating your business from a home, prevent groups of employees or customers from gathering, and organize the layout to allow people to remain six feet apart.

The CDC also recommends regular and thorough hand washing (or using hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable). If you’re welcoming employees or clients to your home, make sure you have the proper hygiene products available.

If you have clients or customers visiting your home, you may choose to implement similar protocols as larger, public businesses.

These may include:

  • Asking visitors if they’ve had any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus. The CDC says that symptoms may include fever, cough, muscle aches, fatigue and more.
  • Temperature checks upon arrival. According to the CDC, someone with a fever equal to or higher than 100.4 degrees should not be allowed to enter your home.
  • Wearing a mask and asking visitors to do the same. The CDC issued recommendations for mask-wearing in July 2020.
  • Adjusting your cleaning checklist. The CDC offers tips for what products to use, how frequently certain surfaces should be cleaned and more.

Should someone report fever or other symptoms, have a protocol prepared. If the temperature check and inquiry about symptoms happen before entering, the protocol may be simply asking them to come back another time.

3. Check your insurance coverage

Research and evaluate your insurance coverage before beginning to offer services from home.

“Whether you’re running a part-time, seasonal or full-time business from your home, you should carefully consider your risks and insurance needs. Having the right insurance can provide a financial safety net and peace of mind,” Holeman says.

Since homeowners or renters insurance may not be sufficient, Holeman says to “consider adding an endorsement to your homeowners policy or consider a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy.”

Here are some tips from Holeman to keep in mind when evaluating your coverage.

  • Equipment and inventory: “Know the value of your business property. You’ll need insurance to protect from loss due to theft, fire or other insured peril.” Items covered might include items such as computers, products, inventory and more.
  • Liability coverage: This would protect you if someone is injured while visiting your home workplace.
  • Coverage for employees and contractors: If your workers visit your home, “your homeowners insurance may provide some protection, but it may not be sufficient. Consider adding an endorsement to your homeowners policy or consider a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy.” You might also need to purchase workers compensation insurance. “In some states, workers compensation insurance is mandatory, so be sure to check your state’s workers compensation website for local requirements.”
  • Auto insurance: If you’re using your personal automobile primarily for business, or if your business owns vehicles, you’ll need business vehicle insurance.

4. Comply with all regulations

It’s important to educate yourself about your state and local ordinances and stay up to date with all regulations to make sure you are operating your business accordingly. Many states and municipalities regularly update information on their websites to keep residents informed.

For example, San Francisco has a page on its website dedicated to current COVID-19 regulations and recommendations.

It helps local businesses identify if they are allowed to operate from home or for workers to be in other people’s homes. For instance, in-home services such as housekeeping, personal chefs and maintenance are allowed if they’re able to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, and certain non-contact group fitness classes can happen outdoors with mask-wearing and a limited number of participants.

The situation continues to develop, so it’s important to check frequently to make sure your business complies with all current regulations.

The bottom line

Operating a business requires near-constant diligence to make sure you’re optimizing your success, complying with local, state and federal regulations and keeping yourself, your employees and your customers as safe as possible.

While the current COVID-19 pandemic can make those goals more complicated, by leveraging these and other resources, it’s possible to succeed even during current challenges.