Business as we knew it before COVID-19 will never be the same. Many things are changing in order for companies to operate safely…for their employees and customers. Business models may have to be altered and big changes may be necessary for fiscal survival. But little things may also be required for day-to-day operations.
Here are some practical ideas to consider in the new normal of the business world:
Your physical setup
Office space may need to be refigured in order to space out workers to avoid future contamination. One news article suggests that open space floor plans may be replaced with former cubicles.
Businesses with waiting rooms for patients and clients need to rethink how to stage seating to comply with distancing rules. It may also be wise to remove magazines and newspapers that previously adorned waiting rooms.
Plexiglass shields at registers to separate employees from customers can provide a measure of safety. The shields can be easily disinfected regularly.
Retail stores may need to be rearranged to enable customers to distance themselves (e.g., many supermarkets have made aisles one way). Checkout lines may need to be lengthened, with masking tape on the floor to delineate spacing, to accommodate customers.
Allowing or requiring employees to work remotely may become the norm for many businesses. Stay-at-home orders have shown that employees can be highly productive without being physically present at the company’s office.
Businesses can consider using staggered hours where practical so that fewer employees are on site at any one time. For example, many manufacturers and warehouses can operate around the clock with reduced personnel on each shift.
Odds and ends
Cleaning supplies and protective gear are essentials to have on hand. Be sure to stock up on items to have them available as needed. Decide whether to provide masks to customers who show up without them.
Think “disposable” to protect everyone. This runs counter to thinking of sustainability, but may be a necessary practice for now. For example, restaurants may want to use paper menus that can be discarded after one use. Stores that formerly encouraged or required shoppers to bring their own reusable bags may now want or need to provide paper bags (provided it’s allowed by state and local law).
Go cashless as much as possible. To avoid employees from handling cash (even if wearing latex gloves), consider encouraging payment with credit/debit cards or other methods (e.g., Apply Pay and other app payment options) that customers handle themselves. But review state laws on barring cash purchases entirely (not everyone has plastic or other forms of payment available to them). According to Payment Source, a number of cities and states have already banned plastic-only transactions.
Check your local and state rules for businesses on how to address the “recovery period.” There may be mandatory or suggested practices you need to follow for everyone’s safety as well as for the benefit of your business. And check OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.
Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2020 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about.