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Giada Pezzini | 19 March 2020

How to keep your retail employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

How to keep your retail employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

Health crises are confusing and frightening. During uncertain times like these, customer-facing businesses such as retail stores must implement clear, stringent measures to ensure their staff members’ and customers’ safety and peace of mind.

Drawing on the official guidelines and advice set by the World Health Organization (WHO), we have put together some tips to help you maintain service while limiting the risk of spread of the virus.

Ramp up your hygiene policies

Clean every surface and object accurately and regularly with disinfectant. Provide training and informational materials to all staff and suppliers, so they are up to date with standard personal preventive measures. Consider whether you should make any changes in your store to ensure that no contamination occurs. You may have to close water fountains, remove sampling and demo areas where contact may occur (such as food samples or make-up testers), free up space so people can maintain a safe distance, etc. For official advice and the latest guidelines, refer to instructions issued by your health authorities and the WHO.

Encourage frequent handwashing

Distribute information on effective handwashing procedures to your staff and customers: health authorities have created posters you can print and put up in your store, such as this one by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Make sure you stock good amounts of antibacterial soap and gel in public and staff restrooms, and that the cleaning routines are frequent and extra thorough.

Offer hand sanitizer wipes or dispensers

Set up stations with disinfectant, at the entrance and exit and throughout your store. To avoid the risk of contamination, select contactless dispensers. Many retailers have also been supplying their employees with masks and gloves. Some retailers are also offering customers single-use gloves to give them greater peace of mind while shopping.

Keep track of traffic

Activate measures to ensure that there are not too many people into the store at the same time. Make sure people can maintain a safe distance as advised by your health authorities.

Keep staff and customers informed

Stay up to date with your health authorities’ advice, and communicate clearly and regularly with your staff on how the situation is evolving, and what measures you are taking to tackle risk and ensure their well-being. It’s important to be open and transparent, and answer any question or doubt your employees might have. You should also communicate your strategy to your customers, in store as well as on your website and social pages. Keep them informed of the measures you are implementing, and of possible limitations and reductions of service that might take place to ensure their safety.

Avoid unnecessary travel

Many companies are already banning personal travel, and requiring staff to self-quarantine after travelling. Encourage employees to work from home whenever possible, and provide them with all the hardware and software tools, from computers to communication apps, that they need to perform their job effectively and safely.

Actively encourage employees to stay home if they experience any signs of illness

If an employee displays any sign of illness, they should be sent home immediately, the US-based CDC (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) advises. Staff members with underlying health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus should also be allowed, and encouraged, to stay home.

Update your sick leave policies

Offer flexibility when it comes to sick leave in accordance with public health guidance. Make sure that your employees are aware of these policies, and that they know how they should report sick leave or quarantine. Some employees may need to stay home to care for a sick family member: make sure these staff members are not penalized.

Show solidarity, and be kind

There’s a lot we can do to support each other during these difficult times. You can offer free home delivery for customers who are in quarantine or self-isolating. Check in with employees who are sick, or are caring for someone sick. Share clear information to help decrease anxiety and fear, including tips on how to handle stress. Show empathy to people who are affected by the illness. Research says that it’s human nature to be kind and helpful when others need us. These are the times to show the best of us to our coworkers, customers, neighbors. We’ll talk business tomorrow.


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