Physical stores are slowly reopening as businesses continue to adjust to the new realities brought by COVID-19.
During this precarious time, it’s important for retail businesses to add another layer of caution and due diligence. Aside from building commissioning, maintenance, and renewing permits, businesses need to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers.
Below are a few tips to help owners and managers get started.
Comply with reopening prerequisites
Before anything else, owners and managers should keep abreast of the latest safety guidelines for businesses. Local and national authorities are constantly updating their policies as health experts learn more about the virus.
Specific details will differ per state as well so be sure to check with your local jurisdiction.
Find out about reopening prerequisites. Check if the authorities are enforcing mandatory virus testing before the entire staff can get back to work. Additionally, see if there are any personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements for employees (e.g. respirators, N95 masks, face shields).
Knowing these things in advance will not only help ensure that you’re complying with the proper procedures, it will also help forecast for health and safety expenses.
Create store policies around health and safety
While stores may be reopening, it won’t be business as usual in the traditional sense. Social distancing, frequent handwashing, and contact tracing will alter the way businesses operate from here on out.
Owners and managers must craft new store policies that will remind everyone about health guidelines. Signs and memos should inform employees about proper handwashing and sanitation protocols within the store. The same should be done for customers as well.
Additionally, to enforce the new rules there should be corresponding actions or responses to any violations. At the same time, managers should also understand that both employees and customers will have an adjustment period. So each situation should be assessed on a case by case basis.
Give due notice and consult staff
To help reduce friction during the adjustment period, businesses should send out notices ahead of time. Staff won’t be properly prepared if they only receive information about new rules and guidelines only on the first day of reopening.
However, owners and business managers shouldn’t solely rely on written notices or announcements.
Changes and proposed guidelines during this extraordinary circumstance should be subject to an ongoing conversation. Employees should be given an opportunity to raise questions and put forth suggestions that can make the workplace safer.
Additionally, store or workplace rules should be revisited to see if they are really effective on the ground. After weeks or months of implementing changes, employees will have a better sense of what’s working and what’s not.
Clear up technical details
Retail businesses should ensure they are still complying with federal wage and hour laws in certain scenarios.
For example, businesses should clarify when a shift actually starts. It could start after temperature checks and wearing of PPE equipment or as soon as an employee arrives for work. But the relevant laws will differ depending on the jurisdiction concerned, so it’s best for owners to seek legal advice on this.
These precautions may prove useful later on when the situation arises. This is especially true if you’re forced to layoff or furlough some of your staff due to limited operating capacity.