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As more people receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the states are lifting pandemic restrictions at varying rates. 

Here at Bluehost, we checked in with our nation’s small businesses to learn more about their plans and the return of full capacity in-person operations. 

Keep reading to learn how small businesses feel about the future and how they’re affected by loosening restrictions.

Vaccine Rollout and the Impact on Small Businesses

The White House aims to make every U.S. adult eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, 2021.

At the time of writing, the United States had administered more than 150 million vaccines. Roughly half of the population over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated, and 16.9% of the whole country are fully vaccinated. 

You can view the current vaccination progress on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker website.

Efforts to increase vaccination include increasing production, creating more vaccine locations, and making it easy for adults to find an available vaccine.

As more people receive the vaccine, states continue to loosen restrictions on business operations. In most states, retail, dining, personal care, and outdoor recreation businesses can open. There are still some limitations on indoor dining and in-store capacity. 

You can reference the New York Times Coronavirus Restrictions and Mask Mandates for All 50 States for the most up-to-date information for your state.

The Majority of SMBs Are Preparing for Reopening

To understand how vaccine rollout and loosening restrictions affect local enterprises, Bluehost surveyed 1,000 small business owners with less than 100 employees.

The study showed that 37% of small businesses are ready to reopen, meaning they have a final or near-final plan. 

Florida has the most businesses ready to go with a finalized COVID-19 reopening plan — 34% of its small business are prepared to reopen. Georgia and New York follow with 29% and 28% of companies ready to reopen, respectively. 

While not all businesses have prepared a final reopening plan, 71% of SMBs have an optimistic future outlook. Of the business owners surveyed, 43% report feeling hopeful and 39% report feeling motivated about the future. 

Surprisingly, SMBs located in states hardest hit by the pandemic report the highest levels of optimism. In Georgia, 88% of business owners feel optimistic, followed by 80% in North Carolina and 79% in New York. 

Although businesses appear ready to reopen their doors to customers, it may be some time before most companies are prepared to hire. Only 28% of businesses have plans in place to hire new employees in 2021.

This optimism comes from a combination of internal and external factors. 

Nearly half of the respondents believe the vaccination rollout will generate a positive effect on their business. Additionally, 45% of small business owners attribute their optimism to confidence in themselves and their employees. 

What You Should Do To Prepare for Reopening 

No matter where you’re located, there are things you can do to get your small business ready to serve customers in person again. 

Here are the top five recommended actions to take to prepare your business to reopen.

1. Stay Focused on Hygiene and Safety

Although vaccinations can help us stop the spread of infection, the CDC still recommends precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing. 

Prioritizing a clean and safe business environment helps you boost employee morale and retain your customers’ trust. 

Your reopening plan should include guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as a sanitization routine. 

As you reopen, let your customers know about your sanitization practices and your process for keeping them safe.

2. Reconsider Work-Life Balance

After the pandemic hit, 71% of people in the United States began working from home (compared to only 20% pre-pandemic). Many workers have grown accustomed to their new routines, and 54% would prefer to work from home after the outbreak ends.

Returning to normal business capacity after the pandemic doesn’t mean everything has to go back to exactly the way it was before. 

If you run a business where people can continue to work from home, talk to your team and learn what works best for them. 

A hybrid remote work model might suit your business better. For example, employees can work from home some days of the week and the rest in an office. 

In addition to boosting employee morale, using a hybrid model can empower you to reduce your operating costs by downsizing office space and supplies. 

3. Communicate Your Plan

No matter what your reopening plan is, you should communicate it clearly to employees and customers. Without clear messaging, your reopening can turn into a chaotic and confusing ordeal. 

All employees should be aware of safety policies and any changes you make to work from home rules. 

If you choose to require mask-wearing or social distancing, using physical signage helps your employees enforce your rules. 

Furthermore, you can update your website to communicate any indoor rules and restrictions so customers can come prepared. Your website is also an excellent place to share any changes to regular business hours.  

4. Remain Flexible

The government can make plans for vaccine distribution, but it can’t fully predict how it will affect the virus’s spread. 

Although early numbers show that the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in individuals, we’re still learning how the vaccine affects overall infection and hospitalization rates. 

In other words, small businesses are still operating in uncertain times.

Holidays, large travel events, and group gatherings can still cause surges and put pressure on hospitals. 

Keep in touch with what’s going on in your community, and know that you may need to adjust your plan accordingly.

5. Create a Contingency Plan

As you look forward, remember that we’re not completely clear of the outbreak yet. A high plateau of infection rates means we could experience another national surge despite vaccination rates. 

Have a contingency plan ready to go in case strict COVID-19 restrictions are put back into place. 

Ideally, you won’t have to use it, but if the situation arises, you (and your team) will be glad you have it.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation’s small businesses hard. It tested our established enterprises’ resilience and proved fertile soil for entrepreneurial spirits looking to start a new business. 

As vaccinations continue to roll out ahead of schedule, the end of business restrictions appears to be on the horizon. Small businesses remain hopeful about the future and motivated to get back to pre-pandemic operations. 

With the help of communities and employees, small business owners have proven that they can adjust to a global pandemic and keep their eyes trained on future growth. 

Bluehost is proud to support our country’s small businesses, both new and old. Explore Bluehost’s flexible options for fast and reliable hosting today.

  • Machielle Thomas

    Machielle is a content enthusiast who has a passion for bridging the gap between audiences and brands through impactful storytelling. Machielle has also spoken at dozens of WordCamps throughout the years.

    Texas State University
    Previous Experience
    Brand Content, Content Marketing, Brand Lead, Operations Lead, Course Instructor
    Other publications
    Shopify, Contently
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