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COVID-19 numbers are decreasing across the United States. As more people develop herd immunity and the most vulnerable get their vaccinations, the numbers will likely continue on a downward spiral. Businesses can see the possibility of an end to the pandemic.
McKinsey reports over 12 billion vaccine doses should be released in 2021. Industrialized locales best equipped to distribute the immunizations include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries.
Once people are immunized, they’ll likely return to shopping and activities rather quickly. Now is the right time to prepare for opening your business back up post-pandemic, if you haven’t done so already. Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.
1. Become Informed
When COVID-19 first struck the U.S.’s shores, we didn’t know much about how the virus behaved. While there is still some uncertainty about treatments and prevention, health care experts understand a lot more than they did in the early days.
Take the time to read the latest information about the virus and what to expect. What measures keep your employees and customers safest? What are the recommended spacing, cleaning measures and other practices you can put in place?
2. Mark Your Floors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 6 feet of space between people for best social distancing measures. One of the simplest ways to protect customers is by putting markers on the floor indicating how much space to put between them and another client.
People may think they know what 6 feet means, but some will get much closer than that without a visual reminder. Use a tape measure and mark off sections in front of cash registers, common areas and walkways.
It’s smart to use something temporary, as the 6-foot rule might not be necessary for the long term. You want to be able to remove any floor markers easily should you no longer need them.
3. Create Paths
Another thing you can do to encourage distancing is to create one-way paths through your office or store. Use ropes to mark off walkways and arrows on the floor to indicate direction. You may also want to add signage. It’s easy for people to become confused about which direction to go. A sign helps alleviate any uncertainty.
Keeping 6 feet of spacing isn’t easy when people pass by one another in a hallway or aisle. One-direction paths help alleviate the issue.
4. Add Plexiglass Barriers
You’ve likely been in stores that have installed plexiglass between workers and the public. Adding barriers is a smart move because it protects both the employee and the customer from coronavirus germs, and it can prevent the spread of colds and other viruses.
Consider the best placement of the barrier. You still want your staff and patrons to interact with one another and do so safely. Think about where each stands when checking out and install pieces that align properly. You may need to study your checkout areas to figure it out.
You’ll want barriers between cubicles in offices. Think about how to reduce the spread of germs in and around each space. You may want to go back to closed-off offices rather than an open floor plan.
5. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
OSHA offers some guidelines for returning to the workplace safely based on the risk level for different industries. It reports symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure. That is a big window of time, and some people are asymptomatic.
Provide high-quality PPE to your staff to prevent further spread of the virus. Make sure you offer customers face masks and hand sanitizer at the entrance. Some sites also take the temperatures of workers and anyone entering the building.
6. Clean More
Whatever your cleaning regimen was before the pandemic, you need to step up your efforts. A cleaner environment keeps everyone safer and you’ll gain the trust of nervous customers.
One example is a casino in Florida. It installed barriers between devices, and whenever someone gets up from a slot machine, employees immediately wipe everything down with a disinfectant and clean the space. These actions offer a level of reassurance to patrons, making them feel more comfortable frequenting the casino.
7. Institute New Rules
Many businesses allowed employees to come to work sick in the past because a mild cold was only a minor inconvenience. That’s not the case if it turns out someone has COVID-19.
Make it clear to employees they are not to come to work sick. Either seek funding or offer more sick days to cover employees when they must be out. It’s far better to pay for a few extra days than to have your entire workforce come down with the virus and have to shut your doors. Plus, just imagine the public relations nightmare of informing customers you’ve had an outbreak.
8. Allow Remote Work
Another option for many companies is allowing remote work. If someone is at high risk if they contract the virus, they should telecommute. Perhaps they live with a child who has asthma or a family member with diabetes. If they have any symptoms, they should also be encouraged to work from home.
A Gartner survey found that 88% of businesses asked employees to work remotely during the pandemic. Even as the restrictions ease, many brands are sticking with the remote model at least part of the time.
9. Conduct an Audit
Every business changed during the pandemic. Some struggled to survive, while others scrambled to keep up with increased demand. There is no question you’ve undergone adjustments, so spend time looking at your company as it is today. Throw out methods no longer working, and keep the things that are still beneficial.
Get feedback from your leaders, employees and customers. Find out what things concern them. What are their fears, and how can you help them past any hurdles they face? With a little attention to detail, you’ll come up with a plan that makes you stand out from the competition.
Plan for the Worst
Move forward with expectations of a brighter future. We all long for a world where we can put the pandemic behind us and embrace normal again. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility the virus could mutate or something else appear on the horizon.
Expect the best, but prepare for another series of sweeping changes. Have an emergency plan in place. Keep up to date on scientific developments and make changes as needed. It is time for businesses to reopen and invite customers back in. How that looks varies depending on your company and health organization recommendations, so make sure you’re prepared for anything.