The U.S. economy has undergone a massive slowdown over the past two months, with businesses closing their doors and laying off millions workers. Schools, churches and theaters were shut down en masse. People adjusted to staying at home and the world paused as we waited for instructions on what to do next.
Now, as we move into the summer months, many states across the country are preparing to reopen amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The decision on whether to reopen your business or not is an individual one and, for some, not a reality at this time. On the other hand, some are ready, and want to know how to do so safely. Guidelines will vary greatly across states and industries, so check with your local representatives for more information on what is allowed or not in your state.
Critical to all communication plans is customer guidance. First and foremost, it is important that whenever a potential customer visits your website, they have some form of direction concerning what to do next — customers want something on the page that’ll satisfy them on a psychological level. So, have your COVID-19 Response updated regularly and made easily accessible throughout your website.
As you take steps to reopen your storefront, first find out if there is any required signage in your state for entrances and exits. Many states are requiring signage at all doors. Plus, having safety signage can help customers and employees feel safer in your establishment.
You’ll also need a plan in place on day one to eliminate unnecessary contact and prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout your establishment. Try the website and official communications channels from your governor or state health department to get industry-specific guidelines and area-specific guidance.
Areas of consideration could include:
- The availability of space for safe social distancing.
- Daily sanitizing of the establishment, as well as regular sanitizing of “high contact” areas such as payment terminals, counters, door handles, tables, etc.
- Indoor face-covering requirements.
- Any Personal Protective Equipment required for your type of establishment.
No matter your type of business, you’ll want to enact certain policies to keep yourself, your family, your customers and your employees safe. Here are some suggestions:
- Follow CDC guidelines for safe distancing.
- Reduce general occupancy and gatherings to allow room for customers to spread out.
- Limit the number of people in your business and create safe-distance queues outside (“one out, one in”).
- Allow employees who can work from home to do so.
- Maintain touchless and virtual service options, such as pick-up and delivery.
- Consider removing self-service tools, such as salt and pepper shakers, napkin dispensers, pens and other community devices.
- Have sanitizing wipes, sprays and gels readily available and in multiple positions throughout your establishment.
Building and Maintaining Trust with Your Customers and Employees
Some of your customers might be hesitant to return to your establishment or use your services, while others will not. Regardless, there are several ways that you can build and maintain trust among your community throughout this trying time. Examples include:
- Publicize your new self-service, virtual, or pick-up options prominently on your website and frequently on social media.
- Publicize the measures you’re taking to sanitize your facility and keep others safe.
- Now is not the time to slack on your digital marketing – emails, social media, conference calls, and digital messages are critical to monitor AND advertise during this time.
- Share pictures or videos of your employees in their Personal Protective Equipment.
- Post photos of customers in the store, of your new safe practices, and you and your staff operating the business, to remind people you are open – or make posts showing your staff conducting phone or video conferences.
- Show your customers that you care about their safety with sanitizing wipes, sprays and gels readily available and in multiple positions throughout your establishment.
It’s also important to remember that employees may have a hard time returning to work because of their “new normal”. Some may have health conditions that will make them fear the return to work, or they may be responsible for children whose schools are not open. In general, all employees should feel safe enough to want to return.
As a new remote-worker, understand that much of the workforce these days are mobile and or/home-based, so there is no need to feel guilty if you do not feel you can return to the office safely or have your regular company and community gatherings at this time. There are many resources available so that you can work – and stay connected – comfortably, efficiently and safely from your home office.
To stay connected with your staff and clients, definitely consider the following:
- Conference call, meeting, and webinar software.
- Also, stay in touch with your clients through email platforms. There are many of these platforms available and they make sending robust or regularly scheduled emails a breeze.
- For your word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation needs: Look into cloud-based services that offer these tools. Both Microsoft and Google offer cloud-based services for document processing. This will allow you to take your work with you
Lastly, cybersecurity should be a top concern while working from home so you’ll want to implement cybersecurity protocols and policies for your remote employees and yourself. If you haven’t already, installing anti-virus software is a must to keep your organization secure. A great option here is to consult with a local IT company to help you implement your business or orient your employees’ workspaces to be optimized for home use. A quick Google Search should turn up a few local IT companies you can contact.