CO— Blueprint: Operating a Socially Distanced Business

Jeanette Mulvey of CO— by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce interviews small business owners about how they've adapted their operations to meet social distancing guidelines.


Air Date: August 26, 2020

Featured Guests: Jay Bandy, President, Goliath Consulting Group, David McKinley, United States Representative, West Virginia

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses that have reopened their doors to the public have had to reassess their operations to ensure the health and safety of their customers and employees. One big piece of this puzzle is social distancing in physical storefronts and offices, which may be challenging for businesses with a small space.

To help businesses adjust and move forward safely, Jeanette Mulvey, content director of CO— by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, interviewed a panel of business leaders and entrepreneurs on how to operate a socially distanced business.

Restaurants and Retail Businesses Should Leverage Social Media to Communicate Safety Protocols

Many retail and restaurant businesses used social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram throughout the pandemic to communicate their reopening plans to customers. Now that many of these businesses are operational again, social media is the best way to let your customers know how you're keeping them safe when they come to your place of business.

"Safety is No. 1 in the consumer's mind, so it's important that that is a message that's upfront," said Jay Bandy, president of Goliath Consulting Group. "It should be...posted in the lobby … but also, it's taking that message and posting on your website, posting on social media — actually doing posts about, 'here are the safety measures.'"

Overcommunication Instills Confidence When Employees Come Back to Work

If your business is preparing to bring remote employees back into the office, make sure everyone is on the same page. Your employees may be skeptical about returning, so keep them in the loop about your safety plans and reiterate what you and the building will be doing to protect their health.

Ken Biberaj, managing director of Savills, believes in overcommunicating with employees during this time and welcoming their feedback on the current situation.

"You want to make sure your employees can share their frustrations with how things have worked with a remote working situation [and]...their concerns about going back to the office," Biberaj told CO—. "You want to communicate to them with some confidence and you're taking steps and holding the building accountable."

Businesses Should Explore New Ways to Engage With Customers at Home While Social Distancing

As consumers continue to stay home and avoid public spaces when possible, businesses should actively seek new ways to engage with them, keep them informed and stay top of mind. For example, Dr. Lana Joseph-Ford, founder and CEO of High Level Speech and Hearing Center, engaged with her community from afar with a recurring video feature.

"We started a news segment on Great Day Louisiana called 'Healthy Habits with Dr. J.'," Joseph-Ford shared. "Now my patients are able to tune in … and see my face and hear about our company. We're constantly ... at the forefront when it comes to the evolving ... healthcare system here in the city of New Orleans."

Joseph-Ford also noted that many businesses are still underutilizing their websites as a tool to convey information, conduct business and stay in touch with customers.

"I really think that we can … continue to develop our website and [utilize] it as a good platform for communication," she said.

HR Managers Must Define and Circulate COVID-19 Policies in a Formal Handbook

As your business develops COVID-related policies to keep everyone safe, Teresa Lawrence, owner and CEO of Delta Administrative Services and CEO of Delta Personnel, recommends that your human resources department create an official handbook to communicate those new policies to employees.

"Get with an HR manager to create a policy and make sure you're very circular about it — the mask, the distancing and what it will cost them [for noncompliance]," Lawrence said. "A lot of employers forget that they don't have that in place. We need to have ... companies rethink their position and make sure they put that in their handbook and implement that as part of the policy moving forward until things change."


Speakers

Jeanette Mulvey,

Editor-in-Chief at CO—, U.S. Chamber of Commerce