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Updated: May 5, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought the small business community closer together, but when it comes time to reopen, staying six-feet apart will be the name of the game. Even once the economy begins to reopen after the crisis, things can’t be expected to go back to normal overnight. Social distancing is likely to remain a part of society at least through the summer months.
As certain states begin to relax their lockdown restrictions and small businesses begin to reopen their doors, the whole country is watching to learn what this new normal will look like. These businesses have provided a roadmap from which other business owners can glean how things will look once their local economies restart again, too. To help business owners acclimate to the new standard, we’ve identified ways to adapt your business for social distancing.
Chances are you’ve already been practicing social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Everyone is covering their face with masks when they go out into public, and some people are wearing gloves. Many companies have shifted staff to work from home and, in some cases, have moved the entire operation online. So when it comes time to reopen, how you further adapt your business for social distancing probably won’t seem too foreign to you or your customers.
Social distancing comes down to making sure there’s six feet of space between you and someone else, but there are specific steps you can take.
One measure businesses that have reopened are integrating is ensuring the health of the staff. For instance, a construction company in Florida requires project managers to take their temperature with an infrared thermometer before heading out to the job site. If the reading is anything but typical, the individual must remain at home. Businesses could easily adopt this method of crisis management in other industries in which the staff has physical interaction with customers.
Larger corporations are going so far as to add “infrared body temperature scanners to offices,” with plans to provide virus test kits for employees as soon as they’re on the market. Your state may not outline specific ways for you to practice social distancing, so you may need to get creative. For instance, you might want to explore the possibility of also taking the temperature of employees walking into your business.
Another idea is having fewer people working at any given time in the workday, something you can do by staggering your staff’s schedules. Strategic scheduling will help you to manage the number of people that are present at any given time
When customers begin coming back to your business, it might seem natural to greet them with a handshake or even a hug. But in light of social distancing requirements to maintain six feet of distance between people, refrain from doing so. There are other ways to build customer loyalty and maintain relationships in the new normal, like friendly nods and smiles.
If you own a business like a restaurant or hair salon where it’s essential for people to be close together before, things will no doubt look different when you reopen. The general rule of thumb has been to keep six feet between people, so you may need to rearrange your tables and chairs.
Also, where you once allowed people to walk in at any point in the day, you might need to start taking reservations or appointments to keep your establishment from becoming overcrowded. One salon that recently reopened said it was expecting to see about one-third of the foot traffic that it did before COVID-19. At salons and barbershops, you might want to invest in disposable gowns for customers and gloves for the hairdressers.
While cash may still be king, it can also be quite dirty. As a result, currency is increasingly taking the digital form. That’s why you might want to make sure you’ve equipped your business to accept payments from multiple platforms, like Square, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and others. Using digital payment gateways like these will help to reduce the spread of germs via physical money.
Even after the doors of your business are open again, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your pivot to e-commerce that you’ve made in recent weeks and months. You could follow the lead of Uber Eats, which has begun contactless food delivery at the doorstep.
Business owners who can, are encouraged to continue receiving online orders to cut down on the foot traffic in a physical store location. When possible, offer curbside pickup or delivery for customers who order products online.
All of these efforts could be in vain if customers aren’t aware of the steps you’re taking, so come up with a plan to communicate these changes to them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made this easier for you and has prepared print materials that offer COVID-19 advice, with posters ranging from “Stop the Spread of Germs” poster to “How to Protect Yourself and Others.”
You might find that social distancing continues to cramp your style a bit as the restrictions could continue to cut into your cash flow. If you haven’t already, you might want to apply for an SBA-backed business loan as part of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program under the CARES Act. Funding Circle is among the fintech companies that are accepting applications. You could even find out how much you qualify for before you apply using this Paycheck Protection Loan Calculator. Extra cash could go a long way when adapting your business for social distancing.