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Social distancing guidelines: 8 ways to encourage distancing

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We outline eight social distancing guidelines and strategies you can use to keep your business premises safe for staff and customers.

The pandemic has been challenging for most small businesses. You may have had to shut down multiple times due to COVID scares. Perhaps you’ve overhauled the way you serve customers. Many smaller companies are struggling right now and trying to figure out how to maintain safety while still bringing in revenue.

One of the most significant issues with stores operating on razor-thin profit margins is how to maintain cash flow and keep afloat until circumstances improve. You need to remain open, but must figure out how to do so while protecting employees and customers.

8 social distancing guidelines and strategies

Fortunately, you can take many steps to encourage distancing and prevent the spread of the virus while operating your business by implementing these social distancing guidelines and strategies.

1. Add curbside pickup

One of the quickest ways to limit contact is by adding curbside pickup. Limited contact brings peace of mind to those who are reluctant to enter a store and be around other shoppers. Your staff shops for them and delivers the items to their car.

The longer the pandemic goes on, the more accustomed shoppers become to stores offering pickup and delivery. You may want to add this service for the foreseeable future.

2. Put up signs

Not everyone can visualize six feet of distance without a bit of help. Since most people don’t keep a tape measure in their pocket, put up signs reminding them what two yards looks like. Compare it to a six-foot-tall person or the length of two shopping carts.

You should also post the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and local mandates to remind people of recommendations. While everyone should be aware they need to keep space between themselves and others, some may not realize how crucial it is to do so.

3. Mark the floors

Placing X’s on the floors shows people where they should stand in line and gives them a visual reminder of social distancing. The CDC currently recommends six-foot distancing, so measure every six feet and add tape showing where people should stand.

A safe distance might expand to as much as 12 feet during other professional interactions. Add markers anywhere a line might form and people tend to congregate. You may want to remove the floor signs later, so you’ll want to use something that doesn’t leave a residue behind.

4. Educate your employees

Take time to train your employees in the importance of sanitizing work areas and protecting customers. Decide how to handle it if people enter the store without a mask. If a customer balks at your safety policies, how will you respond?

Your employees can’t police every shopper, so you may need to rely on signs and management to try to get the message across. The last thing you want to do is alienate your customers by treating them rudely if they don’t follow the protocol. Plan what your policies are and how to handle conflict.

5. Create paths

Use ropes and markers to create paths through busy areas or limit the number of people entering a location that tends to get crowded. If you only allow three people at a time in a particular department, rope off a waiting line with distance markers to show people where to stand.

You might also want to create traffic flow through aisles, so people aren’t passing one another and sharing germs. While this is a bit inconvenient if someone forgets something on an aisle and has to backtrack, it also helps shoppers maintain social distance.

Again, it isn’t your responsibility to police customer behavior, so it’s probably best not to take a customer to task for missing the clearly marked signs of a one-way aisle. Add the tools to help them stay safe and trust your clientele to enforce it for themselves and others.

6. Invest in equipment

No matter how well laid-out your store is or how diligently you encourage social distancing, there may be times when an employee is symptom-free, but still exposes co-workers to the virus. Invest in equipment to help combat viral spread.

Some things you can look into for social distancing guidelines and strategies include UV lights for sanitizing tables and counters. Start a policy of wiping things down with an antibacterial cleaner between customers. Take temperatures at the door. Pay attention to areas with a high probability of exposure and think through how to safely navigate those issues.

7. Install barriers

Adding Plexiglas between cashiers and the public also encourages some distancing. If the customer or employee sneezes or coughs, there is protection in place in addition to masks and distance.

You can also install dividers between tables in a restaurant, between urinals in a bathroom or in other areas where people might not space as far apart as they should.

8. Space things out

Look at your current store setup. You need to allow enough room for people to correctly distance. For social distancing guidelines and strategies  in retail stores, this might look like removing some of your products to avoid congestion and reducing inventory.

Restaurants can arrange for outdoor seating in pleasant weather and space tables further apart. In bathrooms, close off every other stall to keep people spaced at least six feet apart.

While waiting for a table or in line for the bathroom is frustrating, customers should understand it’s for their safety. Hang up signs explaining why you’ve removed tables and separated stalls to help them understand your decision.

Take precautions, but prepare for the future

Take the necessary precautions to assure your customers’ safety should be your top priority. However, some changes may only be temporary. As vaccines get distributed and the infection rate lowers, there will come a time when you wish to remove some of the barriers and floor markers.

Think about what elements of the social distancing guidelines and strategies  might be permanent and what you’d like to remove one day and toss aside as an ominous reminder of a difficult time in our nation’s history.

About Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.

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