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Getting Ready to Reopen

May 11th 2020 | by Ron Zayas

We’ve reached the point where some states are gradually starting to reopen their economies, and other states are considering the best path forward for doing so.

Getting back to business as usual will be a long process, especially since few of us are certain yet what “business as usual” will look like. But this is the time your company should be preparing for what is to come, and that will involve a complex equation that factors in social psychology, virus transmission, marketing and your customers’ buying habits. With that in mind, here are some things to consider:

Space: The Final Frontier

Whether you run a restaurant, a large corporation or a small business, you rely on people. For some it is the customers who come through your doors; for others, it’s the people who show up for work every day, to service those customers and clients they may rarely see in person. But in both situations, space is going to be important. Your doors may be open, but that doesn’t mean people are going to instantly feel comfortable coming back.

Space-separation will make people feel more secure in the months to come. Reorganize your office to allow for more space between employees. Look for bottlenecks like restrooms and kitchens and develop a strategy (scheduling and staggering breaks and lunches, for example) to avoid congestion. If you don’t have enough room in your office to accommodate reorganization, consider staggering shifts or allowing some employees to continue to work from home. As long as employees are capable of doing so, you will save on utilities, cleaning bills and may be doing the planet a solid, too. Plus, working at home saves employees money at a time when budgets may be strained.

If you have customers coming in, social distancing is even more critical. A business that looks packed or claustrophobic may drive people away. So, if your business relies on in-store trade, follow the lead of grocery stores and develop a strategy for managing traffic and personal space. Do it now, before you open.

Cleanliness Is Next To Everything

Most of us have known since we were little how to avoid getting sick: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cover your mouth when you cough, etc. These practices need to be reinforced at work. If your employees deal with the public and keep their facemasks around their necks while working, customers and other employees will notice and take action, whether you like it or not. And if you do have an outbreak, you will put lives at risk, affect productivity and very likely be closed down again.

The more foot traffic into your business, the more attention you will have to play to hygiene (another reason to let employees work from home, if you’re able). For the foreseeable future, work places are going to have to look, smell and be clean, with attention given to disinfecting and good health practices. Keeping your windows, desks, carpets, and ceilings (yes, people notice ceilings) clean helps give the impression of being clean, and impressions will matter a lot, especially in the first few months of being open. Keep your office or storefront well lit and allow for as much natural light as possible.

It’s Only A Surprise To Those Not Paying Attention

If you take a few moments to think about what your employees and customers may worry about before coming back to your business, you should be able to deal with most issues before they come up. But don’t stop there; what is your plan if you have a breakout of contagion? What will you do if one, two or 10 employees become sick? Think — and plan for it now — and you may save yourself a lot of grief later.

That’s what our company did. Before the official order came to close down in our area, the business managers discussed how we would shut down in an emergency if an employee became ill. That made us realize we had a lot to gain by sending everyone home and very little to lose, especially if we were able to plan for it. It made better personal and business sense to keep people healthy in the first place.

Right now we are in no rush to bring people back into the office — but we are fortunate; our employees can work from home. We understand not every business has that luxury, so all the more reason to plan for what happens if…

Open All Hailing Channels

Over the last month we have decided to communicate more often with our clients, reassuring them that we are fully open for business and able to meet their demands.

When you prepare to reopen tell customers, vendors and partners that you are back and ready to get going. And if you are not fully back — or, like many businesses, hurting intensely — let them know that, too. It is not a bad thing to ask for help if you need it. You may be surprised just how loyal your clients (and employees) are.

One restaurant I still frequent posted a sign saying, “Our employees are working less hours, earning less and sacrificing more. Any tip, no matter how small, is appreciated.” When asked how that was working out, the owner said that in many cases, the tips were bigger than the actual order. Employees started volunteering to deliver orders and were willing to work for tips and gas. That plea for help was keeping her business alive.

In The End, What You Take Is Equal To What You Give

If your business is not hurting — ours has been extremely resilient so far — give back and help those who are hurting, even your competitors. We have offered to help any business craft messages, work out marketing ideas and provide a sounding board, pro bono, because we are grateful for how we are holding up. We offer many free services to our clients in the same vein. Give back, and be grateful for the customers and employees who keep you in business.

Need help? Contact us. This isn’t a sales pitch, but an honest offer to help. Also, check out our page of businesses that are giving back and see how they can help you. If your business can give back, let us know and we will showcase you, too.

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