Author`s name Alex Sanders

Can businesses reopen safely as pandemic continues?

All over the world, businesses are starting to reopen, after completely closing down or changing their operational model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on, so business owners must consider the health and safety of their employees, their customers, and the general public while reopening. 

If you want to maximize your chances of reopening safely, and you want your employees and patrons to feel safer, you'll want to pay attention to three important areas: information, physical changes, and behavioral changes. 

Information 

Your first set of responsibilities revolves around informing your employees and customers. You'll want to make sure all people relevant to your business are up-to-date with the latest information about COVID-19, as well as your company's policies on the matter. 

Posted warnings and signs are a good place to start. For example, you can install digital signage in your physical business to explain how the virus spreads and the best practices that can mitigate its spread. You can also use these to notify customers of new policies, or new safety measures you've put in place. Instructions may also be valuable to your employees and customers; for example, you can post step-by-step instructions on proper hand washing procedures in the bathroom. 

It's also important to communicate with customers who haven't yet visited your physical location, or those who want to know more about your business before visiting. Here, your best bet is posting on social media. Make sure to update your business's information, including your hours of operation, across all your online communication outlets. You'll also want to write and coordinate regular email blasts to keep your existing customers up-to-date on the latest news from your business. 

Physical Changes

There are a number of physical changes you can make to your business to improve its health and safety as well, such as:

  • Installing physical barriers. One of the easiest changes to make is to install plastic (or other physical) barriers between people who would otherwise be directly interacting. For example, you can set up plastic barriers between individual bar patrons, or between customers and cashiers at the checkout line.
  • Allowing more space between people. The standard recommendation is to keep people six feet apart whenever possible to mitigate the possible transmission of the virus. You can enforce this as much as possible by increasing the distance between people in your business. Allowing more space in aisles and/or between furniture is the best route here.
  • Making hand washing more accessible. You can (and should) also make handwashing more accessible. Additional hand washing stations, hand sanitizer dispensers, and sanitizing wipes can all make people feel more comfortable-and give them more options for staying clean.
  • Sterilizing contact surfaces. You'll also want to spend time putting together a plan to regularly sterilize common contact surfaces. This is something you should do multiple times per day, and ideally between each set of customers who comes into your business.
  • Improving air flow. You may be able to slow the transmission of the coronavirus by improving the air flow in your organization as well. Opening the doors and windows and installing more fans can reduce possible virus transmissions.

Behavioral Changes

Additionally, you'll want to implement new policies that encourage better behaviors from your employees and customers. These could include:

  • Face mask adoption. It's the best choice to mandate the adoption of face masks when on your premises, even if there's already a state-level order in place. Notify all customers entering your business that they will be turned away unless they're wearing a mask over their nose and mouth.
  • Hand washing recommendations. If you, your employees, and your customers are all consistently washing their hands (and washing them properly), virus transmission can be kept to a minimum. Enforce old rules or make new ones to make sure everyone is washing their hands regularly.
  • Occupancy limits. Large numbers of people can accelerate the spread of the disease, so consider imposing new occupancy limits. Remain aware of how many people are in your business at any given time, and don't let it become excessive.
  • "No contact" rules. Human to human contact can spread the virus easily, so introduce new policies that keep contact to an absolute minimum.

Many of these strategies and approaches can be done with minimal money and only a bit of effort. Accordingly, there's no reason not to try them. Talk to other business owners in your area to see which changes they're adopting, and work to provide the best possible health and safety accommodations for your own people. Not only will it keep your local population healthier, it will also help people feel more comfortable visiting your business-and your reputation could improve as a result.