Is this global pandemic changing how you do business? Here are 14 ways to make sure that your employees and customers feel safe while these COVID-19 lockdown restrictions unfold.
For many small business owners, this public health crisis hit so suddenly that few preparations could be made for the people around them. You’ve gone from being more hygiene aware, to having to change the way that you operate – all because of varying country-wide lockdown restrictions.
According to Yale School of Medicine, COVID-19 will last months, peaking in July and lasting until early fall. Then there may be additional outbreaks, if it follows a similar model to other influenza pandemics. You need to communicate with your people, because you’re in it for the long haul.
Here are 14 easy ways to reassure your employees and customers that their safety and wellbeing are your top priority. Take these steps now to show your people that you care.
Step 1: Protect Your Employees
Essential or non-essential, you’re in this together. Communication is a vital part of extending care, protection and support to your employees as you all survive this global health crisis.
#1: Encourage Workstation Sanitation
One of your business goals should be to establish a healthy operating environment for employees that can’t work-from-home during the lockdown. Start by encouraging better workstation sanitation.
- Provide hand soap, tissues, sanitation wipes, sanitizer and no-touch trash cans
- Create a simple set of protocols for correct workstation hygiene
- Include when and what to disinfect in your work environment
- Technology, surfaces, entrances and exits are high-touch areas
>> Help your employees keep their workstations clean, safe and virus-free.
#2: Create Effective Hygiene Hotspots
Part of your crisis management plan should be to create effective hygiene hotspots for your on-premises employees, and to educate your work-from-home employees about these protocols too.
- Make sure that you assemble hygiene stations at high-touch hotspots
- Hygiene stations are where employees can disinfect themselves and other items
- Use the correct cleaners – here is the EPA’s official list
- High-touch items might be phones, door handles, keyboards and light switches
>> Give your employees designated areas for hand-washing, sanitizing and disinfecting.
#3: Address the Illness Elephant
It’s up to you to be sympathetic to your employees as they work through this crisis. That means addressing the elephant in the room – what happens if they look sick, or get sick from COVID-19?
- Create a rule that if an employee feels sick they must stay at home
- Make sure that they have access to the right information for at-home care
- Have procedures in place if an employee tests positive, and test your team
- Suspend your doctor’s note policy and don’t demand COVID-19 disclosure
>> Address what will happen if an employee gets ill or shows flu symptoms.
#4: Chat about Job Stability
Part of your crisis communication plan should be letting your employees know that it’s okay to get sick. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell you, and they should feel secure in their jobs.
- Have a meeting where you reassure everyone about their positions and value
- Chat about them coming to work during the crisis, falling ill, recovering and returning afterwards
- If you have any contingency plans or policies bring them up
>> Speak openly to your employees about job stability.
#5: Host a Weekly Update Meeting
Every week, orientate your employees on any changes due to COVID-19. Update them on new policies and procedures, and share accurate and helpful resources with them.
- Discuss changes in a weekly meeting
- Tell your employees about assistance program (EAP) resources for when they have to navigate stress, financial hardship and illness during the outbreak
>> Host a supportive orientation meeting every week for your employees.
#6: Enhance Your Technology Infrastructure
Check to see if your technology infrastructure allows your employees to work from home, and connect with you. Remote employee and customer access is key during this time.
- Consider website redesign services and a fresh WordPress design
- Find secure WordPress hosting that can handle increased traffic
- Make sure your WordPress website is a tool for employees and customers
>> Enhance and upgrade your technology as required, for remote work and continued business.
#7: Let Them Work from Home
If your employees have the ability to work from home, then let them. This global pandemic spreads with the movement of people, so the less people moving around the better.
- Practice social and physical distancing by transitioning to remote work
>> Find ways to let your employees work from home.
#8: Outline Your Paid Leave Policy
Your employees need to know if they’ll be covered with paid leave during the coronavirus crisis. Spend some time outlining your policy, and tell them about government provisions to help.
- Legislation was recently passed allowing an additional 14 paid sick leave days during a public health emergency
- Address day care concerns, transportation issues and remote payments
>> Speak to your employees about their paid sick leave concerns.
Step 2: Protect Your Customers
Whether online or on-premises, your customers need to know that you’re working to keep them safe. During a health crisis, it’s best to over-communicate than leave people wondering.
#9: Offer Account Holds and Holidays
Your crisis management plan should offer customers account holds or a payment suspension holiday, so that those financially impacted by COVID-19 don’t go into arrears or forfeit payments.
>> Freeze your customer’s accounts and don’t penalize them for non-payment during the outbreak.
#10: Creatively Retain Customers
Many non-essential items can’t be sold during lockdown. To retain your customers, keep selling and promise delivery once lockdown ends. Be creative about keeping your regular customer base.
- Stay connected and communicating on social media
- Offer free months and discounts
- Provide services with delayed payment options
- Find new delivery methods and fresh ways to serve customers online
>> To survive lockdown periods get creative about customer retention.
#11: Announce a Refund Update
For customers that require an immediate refund or cancellation, give them credit. If they want to return physical goods, make it possible after the lockdown, but set return dates.
>> Announce your refund process during a global pandemic lockdown.
#12: Cancel and Reschedule Events
It’s best to cancel and reschedule any events or meet-ups you’ve put in motion for the next few months. Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and you need to protect your customers.
>> Cancel and reschedule events, or shift to an online meeting/event process.
#13: Publish Work Operations on Social Media
Stay in constant contact with customers on social media, by publishing regular operational updates there. Crisis communication means always letting people know how and where you are trading.
>> Publish updates on social media about how your business is operating during the crisis.
#14: Prominently Display Hygiene Protocols
Make sure that you display and enforce strict hygiene protocols to manage the spread of COVID-19 on-premises. Use entrance sanitizers, sprays and wipes – and encourage patrons to use them.
>> Display signs and posters detailing your strict hygiene protocols.
During this global pandemic, if you make your employees and customers feel safe and protected – they will continue to support your small business. It’s important that you have the tools in place to keep running, and that you can update your people on the status of your company in real time.
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