5 Ways to Get Back to Business with Confidence
Back to business! We all wish we could go back to how it was just a few months ago, but business will not be back to that normal for a while. Neither employees nor consumers are tossing caution to the wind wholesale to go back to how it was. Everyone wants back the normal we had, but most people are cognizant of the risks and anxious as to how those risks will affect them. To be able to get customers and employees back, organizations must provide them environments in which they feel safe. Confidence is a key driver for success while in this worldwide health crisis. The more confident people are in you being able to provide them the service and/or products they want while also keeping them safe, the more likely they are to come back to work and do business with you. So, how do you get there? Below are 5 ways to getting from “closed” to “open” with confidence:
1. Make Employees and guests feel safe
This is both a perception issue and a practical one. If people come into your store and don’t see safety precautions being taken and safety recommendations being followed, they are unlikely to stay, shop, and return. Additionally, if a break-out of COVID-19 occurs at your place of business, not only do you risk losing customers for at least the short-term but will most definitely experience losing staff because of them becoming infected. A breakout will undermine your reputation, open your company to liability, and cause disruption to your business. You may lose customers, lose employees, and potentially be unable to recover. If the shut-down put your business under pressure, a shut-down now will possibly be devastating.
Create clear policies and protocols that are easy to understand that cover the full gamut of possibilities such as what to do if an employee becomes ill, testing procedures, sick-time policy changes, traffic control, safety rules, distancing requirements, hygiene rules, and more.
2. Allow for flexible work options
Flexibility may be a necessary reality because of daycares and schools being closed as well as health issues impacting both employees and their families. Nursing facilities may experience disruption resulting in families having to take in family members who require full-time care. Employees and/or their family members may have health concerns that necessitate they take extraordinary precautions. Whatever the issue, be prepared to provide reasonable alternatives and flexibility to your employees.
Options to consider include staggering work schedules, having employees work from home, and even physically changing workspaces to accommodate health and safety concerns. Regardless of the steps you take, be sure to create policies and procedures that treat all your employees the same. Consistency in policy making and execution are important so that you are providing clear, relevant, and non-discriminatory guidance to your staff that takes their circumstances into consideration while also allowing you to continue to effectively operate.
Good communication requires consistent messaging through multiple mediums. This includes communicating to both your staff and customers the procedures, rules, and protocols you put in place at work. Train your staff and have weekly update meetings in which you can reinforce good hygiene and other relevant safety policies. Your messaging about the steps you are taking to protect everyone’s health must be easily understood, consistent, and visually reinforced in practice as well. In other words, if you require guests to wear face masks at all times, employees should be wearing them as well, especially the very individuals tasked with enforcing policy.
Signs should be visible and placed where they provide the most impact. Your company website should reflect the new rules if relevant to do so, and guests should be advised prior to arriving at your office of policies that may affect them. Your communication protocols will mitigate the possibility of conflict while also ensuring that rules are followed.
4. Physical distancing
To mitigate the spread and contagion of COVID-19, keeping your distance from others is an effective method of keeping one another safe. However, just stating that physical distancing is required may not be enough. People cannot self-regulate themselves if the physical environment doesn’t allow for spacing to occur.
A few options to consider include moving desks apart, widening aisles, removing workstations, and shutting off areas such as checkouts. You can also limit capacity in meeting rooms and traffic entering your building as well as taping the floor to identify what constitutes 6-foot spacing for both guests and employees. These are just some ideas to help create the physical environment necessary to allow for everyone feel they are able to safely keep their distance from others. Visual cues combined with ergonomic changes provide people confidence that your organization is taking the appropriate precautions.
5. Do it together
You are not in this alone. No change can effectively take hold unless you have your team on board and bought in. Culture change, even one that is temporary as a result of a pandemic, requires the cooperation of all your staff. To get there, not only do you have to communicate the changes effectively, but your employees must also feel they are being heard and that their concerns are reflected in the policies and protocols being created. Making them part of your process is thus critical. At the very least, they must have someone with influence accessible to them for questions. Even better, have key members of your team be part of a safety committee which meets regularly. Doing so will alleviate management of having to be policy police because employees, by virtue of their involvement, will be self-regulating safety protocols with each other.
Finally, as part of being together, employees who feel valued and cared about by management, typically exude that same kind of thoughtfulness and care to customers. Challenging times and crisis typically illuminate which companies are most capable of rising to the moment. By working with your employees, they will work with you too and help you be one of those companies that rose up, thus positioning your organization for success beyond the subsiding of the pandemic.
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