There is a lot of talk about the country re-opening the economy, but not a lot of the focus has been on COVID-19 best practices when it comes to how businesses will handle day-to-day operations once they’re allowed to re-open.
For businesses in many industries, this will be completely new territory. If you’re a small business owner, you probably have plenty of questions about what post-quarantine work will be for you, including:
- How can you ensure confidence in your customers/clients?
- What should your hours be?
- How will you handle health measures and inventory?
- What about employee safety?
These are just some of the questions that are probably swirling around in your head now as you prepare to re-open your business—however soon, or far off, that may be.
COVID-19 Best Practices
While a lot of businesses were deemed “non-essential” in their states and therefore had to close as part of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, there are others that not only were allowed to stay open but were frequented quite often.
Grocery stores have not only remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, but they’ve been packed with customers consistently. They’ve had to deal with just about every challenge you might think of.
As a result, your business can turn to the experiences of grocery stores as a good model for COVID-19 best practices for your own business. Here are some of the things that grocery stores have done during the pandemic that you may be able to use to your advantage when your business is allowed to re-open.
1. Adjust your business hours
Some states regulated the hours that grocery stores were allowed to be open, while others gave more leeway to the business owners. In either case, a lot of grocery stores adjusted their business hours in a few different ways and for various reasons.
Grocery stores closed earlier than they usually did so they could allow for proper sanitation and re-stocking of shelves that were often left barren. This not only protected their employees from doing these tasks in a crowded store, but it also allowed them to take care of their employees by not forcing them to work all hours of the night.
Also, many grocery stores around the country reserved the first hour or so of shopping for older adults and those who are vulnerable. For example, many grocery stores set aside the hours between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for just this population.
Depending on the type of business you run, these are COVID-19 best practices that you could put into practice to protect your employees and the vulnerable population that frequents your business.
2. Restrict the number of customers
It’s challenging to abide by COVID-19 best practices of social distancing with an overcrowded business. That’s why many grocery stores began implementing limits on the number of customers who could be in the store at the same time.
To do so, they station one employee at the entrance and one employee at the exit on the other end of the store. When people leave the store, the employee signals over to the other at the entrance that they can let in that many more people. This helps keep space between people as they browse the aisles and stand waiting at checkout.
You could do this at your place of business as well. This would help protect the safety of your employees, your customers, and yours too. How many people is the right number that you should limit capacity to depends on the size of your building as well as how people move about the space without it being overcrowded.
3. Ramp up inventory
One thing that grocery stores—and shoppers—quickly discovered was that the coronavirus pandemic caused people to panic buy. Everyday household items such as water, disinfectants, bread, paper products, and even meats were in short supply. Grocery stores had empty shelves at first, with signs apologizing to customers for the shortage.
Over time, though, they got smart with their inventory. They focused on re-stocking supplies with the products that were in the highest demand, and they set purchasing limits on these certain products so no one could hoard them.
This is one of the COVID-19 best practices that you could possibly tweak for your business. You may not be in a similar situation, where any of your products would be in such high demand when you re-open that there’d be a shortage. However, you could use the way grocery stores focused on popular items to re-stock as a tactic for handling your inventory in the future.
By focusing on popular products or services, you could end up seeing better returns and lower inventory/stocking costs. If you do it right, you might be able to trim excess inventory and have products fly off the shelves quicker.
4. Add delivery service
Before the coronavirus pandemic, not all grocery stores had shopping and/or delivery services. Now, it’s almost unheard of if a grocery store doesn’t offer one, the other, or both.
In the “new normal” of post-quarantine life, many customers may still want to avoid big crowds, small spaces, and stores in general if they can. They’ll want, and potentially even expect, businesses in all industries to provide delivery services and/or curbside pickup—or they’ll at least expect them to partner with another company that can handle that service.
While offering a full-blown delivery service may not make sense for your business, it would be easy to provide shopper services and curbside pickup of products—no matter what industry you’re in.
Also, you may need to ramp up your website to support online ordering of in-store products or have a dedicated phone line. It would be an excellent service to offer, one that your customers will highly appreciate. If you go this route, you could hire an employee that could handle these aspects of ordering.
5. Sanitize your store
One of the best COVID-19 best practices is making sure that you sanitize your business frequently. This is something grocery stores have done very well during the coronavirus pandemic.
This means disinfecting all your surfaces and things that people touch or come in contact with often. You may even consider an air purifier, depending on the size of your building.
But sanitizing alone isn’t enough. You must communicate to your customers the exact steps you’re taking to keep your store clean and safe. Also, take steps to help customers and employees, sanitize themselves while they’re in your store. Offer hand sanitizer or at least hand washing stations, when possible.
6. Follow the CDC recommendations
The fact of the matter is that you are not an expert on sanitation, health, and how best to handle a virus such as this. But neither are grocery store owners.
The reason they have been so successful at adjusting their business to these times is many followed, to the letter, the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC.
The CDC released guidelines, tools, and helpful hints as to how to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. By following the CDC guidelines, you can ensure that you are implementing COVID-19 best practices in your place of business—keeping you, your employees, and your customers safe in the process.
As states around the country prepare to re-open their economies in the coming weeks or months, you must begin to prepare yourself and your business for life after quarantine. Things will undoubtedly be different now than they were before, as it’s essential to implement safeguards to prevent the massive potential spread of the virus.
While there is no one right way of doing things, you can follow the blueprint grocery stores have created, which paved the way with COVID-19 best practices as they remained open during the coronavirus pandemic. Following some of the tips above will give you a great headstart to re-starting your business when you’re allowed to re-open.
In the meantime, you can check out all of the resources and tips we provide at Camino Financial. In fact, we have dedicated an entire page on our website to facts, figures, and guides for how to deal with these new times: