As businesses across the country begin to gradually reopen, there are a few precautions you may want to take in order to help protect your community, your business and your customers. Start by asking yourself these four questions:
1. Should I set special hours for at-risk customers?
As an essential service, many grocery stores have set special hours for the elderly and at-risk to shop for their purchases in a more controlled environment. This provides an option for higher-risk individuals to receive goods and services while staying safe. Is this practice a good idea for small businesses to emulate? Taking a look at the pros and cons of this decision may help you decide.
Setting aside these special shopping hours limits the amount of regular customers you will serve in a single day, provided that this occurs under normal business hours. By offering this option you may cause some customers to look elsewhere for their shopping needs if they are only able to visit your store during the hours you now have blocked off. This could lead to a decrease in revenue as your foot traffic takes a dip.
In addition to the increased safety of your more vulnerable customers, a benefit of this approach is the positive brand image you may create for your business. Taking care of your local community will not go unappreciated. The positive image may benefit you for years to come, as this sort of action pays dividends through thankful community members.
2. How should I share amenities while social distancing?
Social distancing can be tricky in a space where common areas and amenities are frequently shared. Most offices provide a breakroom with kitchen appliances and seating for all to use. These are locations where the virus can easily be spread if proper safety precautions are not enforced. Here are a few solutions that might be able to help:
- Provide disinfecting products to keep shared spaces clean after each use.
- Create a sign-up sheet for breaktimes to prevent overcrowding in the breakroom.
- Post reminders about the official social distancing guidelines in your area.
- Encourage arrangements that don’t require the use of company equipment, such as bringing lunch from home.
It’s equally important to practice social distancing in areas that are viewable to the public, such as front desks and lobbies. This is done not only to reduce the risk of customers contracting the virus, but to protect your brand image. Word will quickly spread if your employees are being careless, which will hurt more than just your profits.
3. Should you require in-store customers to wear masks?
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public, and some states have made it a requirement. If your state hasn't, should you still require your customers to wear masks?
The first worry small businesses might have is that some customers will avoid stores that require customers to wear masks. But by not requiring masks inside store property, it also leaves everyone in the store more susceptible to contracting the virus. For this reason, it’s a reasonable suggestion to require a protective face covering for everyone entering the building.
Unrolling a policy such as this will be a delicate process, as there will undoubtedly be some pushback by customers or staff who don’t believe a mask is necessary. The first step will be educating employees on the reasons why the business establishment is putting this rule in place, so they can clearly answer any questions regarding this change. Employees should also be expected to lead by example by always wearing their own masks while on the clock. The company should also post official notices explaining their reasoning for all to read, so that customers are aware of the motive behind implementing this rule. Finally, businesses should consider providing masks at the door to those who don’t have their own. This ensures that no one feels unable to enter due to the simple inconvenience of not owning one personally.
4. If a team member gets sick, how should I conduct contact tracing?
One of the most dangerous aspects of COVID-19 is how quickly and easily it can spread. Because of this, businesses are encouraged to follow safe practices to prevent the spread of the virus during business operations. One such recommendation is for businesses to carry out contact tracing to protect employees who may have been exposed to the virus.
Contact tracing is the process of monitoring those who have contracted the virus and any interactions they’ve had with others. This includes notifying anyone who may have been exposed to the virus so that they know to take appropriate measures.
Small businesses can take steps to limit the spread of the virus in their buildings by using proactive processes such as time logs and access restrictions. This allows employers to see where a diagnosed employee has been, allowing them to track the potential spread. Restricted access also prevents too many people from being together at the same time, further curbing the spread of the virus.
Lastly, small businesses should report potential contacts to the proper health authorities. By working with other local leaders, they can aid in reducing the spread of the virus. Notifying health officials of any potential contractions of the disease will allow them to tackle the situation early, preventing unnecessary and preventable damage.
Businesses should consider providing masks at the door to those who don’t have their own. This ensures that no one feels unable to enter due to the simple inconvenience of not owning one personally.
Small businesses are itching to get the economy restarted, but it must be done in a careful and calculated manner. Asking yourself these questions before reopening your business can help you to do so safely. Your staff and community will thank you for your cautious efforts.
Photo: Getty Images
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