Reopening your business safely during coronavirus
After weeks of quiet high streets and shuttered shop fronts, the government has announced that all non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from Monday 15 June. This is good news for retailers up and down the country, many of which have been unable to trade for months.
The move is part of plans to further ease lockdown, but does depend on “progress in the fight against coronavirus” over the coming weeks.
However, there are plenty of things that business owners can do now in the lead up to reopening mid-June as retailers will have to adhere to new social distancing and hygiene guidelines to keep shoppers and workers safe.
The government has published a series of guidelines to help employers better understand how they can promote and ensure safe working. It’s essential for everyone’s safety that retailers make every effort to comply with social distancing and hygiene standards.
‘Shops and branches’ include:
- Food retailers
- Hardware/homeware stores
- Fashion shops
- Charity shops
- Betting shops and arcades
- Tailors, dress fitters and fashion designers
- Car dealerships
- Auction houses
- Antique stores
- Retail art galleries
- Photography studios
- Gift shops and retail spaces in theatres, museums, libraries, heritage sites and tourism sites
- Mobile phone stores
- Indoor and outdoor markets
- Craft fairs
- Similar types of retail
- Bank branches
- Post offices
- Other open money businesses
Preparing to work safely
Now that we have more information on when and which non-essential businesses can open, business owners can begin to take the necessary steps to get themselves back up and running in a way that promotes health, safety and wellbeing and minimises the spread of COVID-19.
Firstly, the government has stated that all employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment to evaluate and manage the risks that COVID-19 poses to employees and customers. While it’s not possible to completely remove the risk of the virus spreading, it’s important to reflect on what you can do to minimise any risks using the guidance provided.
The advice for shops and branches in relation to bringing employees back to the workplace includes:
- Increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning in every workplace.
- Taking reasonable effort to enable working from home where possible. If this isn’t an option, social distancing guidelines should be followed.
- Where social distancing can’t be followed in full, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate. If so, take action to reduce the risk of transmission between employees.
- Further guidance can be found on the government’s website here.
As well as this, business owners should:
- Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other.
- Keep activity time at a minimum.
- Use back to back or side to side working whenever possible.
- Reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams’ or ‘partnering’.
Be sure to go through an assessment with your team so they understand the precautions that are being taken and feel confident to be in the workplace. Maintaining social distancing between your employees is just as important as encouraging customers to keep a safe distance between themselves.
From staggering arrival and departure times to providing additional parking or facilities, such as a bike rack, and encouraging your employees to walk, run or cycle to work where possible will help keep people safe when they return to work.
Keeping customers safe
It’s unclear what we can expect from consumers when shops reopen. There might be a great demand, with lots of people out and about, browsing and purchasing. Alternatively, we might see smaller numbers of people shopping than before the pandemic.
Whether your business attracts hundreds of customers or just a few, the objective is to minimise contact for customers and visitors that visit your locations.
The government is advising that retailers take the following steps:
- Define the number of visitors that can reasonably follow the two metre social distancing rule within the store and any outdoor selling areas. This should take pinch points, such as entrances and exits, and the total floor space into account.
- Limit the number of customers in the store at a time.
- Provide hand washing facilities (or hand sanitiser where not possible) at entry and exit points and encourage customers to use them.
- Encourage customers to avoid handling products while browsing.
- Create queue management and one way systems where possible to reduce congestion and customer contact.
- Encourage customers to shop alone where possible.
- Use outdoor areas for queuing where possible.
- Manage outside queues to ensure they don’t risk individuals or other businesses.
There are a number of additional steps that can be taken, which are detailed in the government’s guidelines.
The best way to communicate these changes and measures will be by implementing clear signage and visual aids that provide guidance for customers. Spoken communication may also be necessary and appoint ‘social distancing champions’ to help customers if needed.
Businesses are facing a huge challenge moving forward, with workplaces and shop floors needing to adapt in order to move forward. Use the coming weeks as a way of assessing your unique needs and how you can ensure safety for your employees and customers – the safer your customers and team feel, the more likely they are to be comfortable shopping with you once again.