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Health and safety gear, social distancing and advice from experienced SMEs to help your small business safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Can you hear the rustle of recyclable totes? That’s Australians getting ready to shop again. In a May 4 message, the minister for employment and small business, Michaelia Cash, urged companies to prepare for safely reopening. But are you ready to unlatch your doors?
Smart business owners planning to reopen can learn from the health and safety measures used by stores operating throughout the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic: signage and floor decals to guide social distancing, sanitiser stations and instructions to employees to sanitise, and protections for team and customers with sneeze guards (plexiglass screens). “Businesses should go to trusted sources rather than thinking they have to go it alone,” says Amie Fasolis, health and wellbeing manager at Officeworks. “As well referring to government website resources, other businesses have traded during this time; you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Multiple factors will influence your reopening date, including the review of restrictions flagged by Senator Cash and coronavirus’s impact on your neighbourhood. But when the day arrives, the simplest, most heartening way to advise people you’re back in business is a humble open sign. Whether it’s in can’t-be-missed LED lights or classic red and white, “Come in – we are OPEN” unambiguously tells your customers what they are longing to hear.
Bright durable markers take the guesswork out of safely queueing and make social distancing easier to enforce. “Even if it’s tape on the floor,” says Fasolis, “it triggers customers.”
SMEs are acutely aware some customers have faced economic hardship while others are itching to spend. “The resilience of small business to bounce back has been proven time and again,” read Senator Cash’s missive. Signs indicating sales, new arrivals and clearance items have a role in reopening.
Fasolis, part of the initial Officeworks COVID-19 working group, emphasises adhering to government guidelines that will change over time and geography. “Things will look different in each state or jurisdiction,” says Fasolis, who points to the Safe Work Australia site for detailed advice about COVID-related duties of care for businesses, including disinfecting. She stresses safely cleaning “those high-traffic areas, the high-contact areas. Some things might require wiping down after each individual use.”
It hasn’t taken long to get used to clear plexiglass sneeze guards at point of sale that separate customers and staff from sneezes and coughs, even when social distancing. “It provides protection both ways,” says Fasolis. “You can still have face-to-face interaction, people can be heard and the gap is sufficient for product to go through.” Fasolis also acknowledges the comfort barriers bring: “It’s important to not only talk about health and safety but to deliver things that make a real difference for the team.”
You might have used down time to spruce up the premises and fix that thing that has always bugged you. Pull up banners are the portable, retractable signs you see in trade shows that are the eye-catching support act to your business’s “open” sign. They can be placed to influence customer traffic flow in ways that support social distancing.
Health advisory posters “are to remind everybody that we’re all in this together and all have a responsibility to comply with government requirements,” says Fasolis, whose background was in workers compensation and injury management. “The posters are a reminder about social distancing or about treating others with respect, maintaining patience and being kind.”
“Leadership is really important here,” says Fasolis. “You’re not preparing for a zombie apocalypse but make sure there’s safety equipment and PPEs [personal protective equipment] – sanitisers, gloves, cleaning products – that are appropriate to the nature of the work and the risk.”
Fasolis recommends these are “front and centre… customers will use them if there’s no doubt they’re intended for them.”
It’s a business owner’s job to create a healthy workplace and provide tools to return to work. Recreate that first-day-back-at-school feeling with some sharp pencils and colourful new kit. Now is a time to celebrate the first steps back to reopening.