Businesses all over the world have had to adjust to lockdown measures. Whether you’ve been running a restricted service, your employees have been working from home, or you had to close completely, it’s essential to be prepared to restart the engines and get the cogs turning again. With several nations now taking tentative steps to ease measures, company owners can start to focus on rebuilding and recovering. If you’re preparing to reopen for business, here’s a useful guide to help you plan for the future.
Many companies will continue to encourage employees to work from home, but this is not always an option. If you run a business, and lifted restrictions mean that you can welcome employees back to work, health and safety should be your number one priority. Follow updates, make sure you comply with the latest regulations and provide clear guidelines and revised policies for your staff. Initially, with the virus still active, and no vaccine available, many businesses will have to adapt the way they work to keep both workers and customers safe.
Social distancing measures have played a vital role in recent months, and experts believe that they will be with us in some capacity for months to come. As an employer, you can implement several techniques to encourage people to stay away from each other, including reducing staff numbers, drawing up shift patterns and using social distancing floor graphics. You can also provide employees who cannot always avoid face to face contact with others with face coverings and PPE and install protective barriers, for example, screens in warehouses and shops. All employees should be made aware of updated safety guidelines. Providing training and organising regular virtual meetings is an excellent way to help workers to stay safe and to protect others they come into contact with.
Keeping customers safe and informed
Some businesses will be welcoming customers back, while others may not be able to invite buyers to shops, cafes or salons just yet. If you are opening the doors to a store, for example, you’ll need to apply similar measures to those used to protect employees to keep your customers safe and reduce the spread of the virus. Providing hand sanitiser by the entry and exit points, marking out spaces and zones to keep people apart and limiting the number of customers in the shop at any given time are effective steps. It’s also important to provide customers with clear advice when they enter the store and to minimise contact with others by offering services like click and collect and contactless payments.
Even if you can’t open to the public yet, it is so important to keep your clients informed and make sure they are in the loop. Provide information about the safety measures you’re implementing if you’re already open, and those you plan to enforce if you’re restarting in the coming weeks. Offer detailed descriptions of policies and procedures to ensure that clients feel safe if and when they choose to visit. You can send emails, provide updates on your website and post on social media to keep communication lines open.
Offering a diverse range of services
Life after lockdown is going to be very different for a while, and businesses must adapt and be as agile and flexible as possible. Diversifying the services you provide and offering customers a choice of buying options will help to keep orders coming in at an uncertain time. Even if people have the freedom to leave home and go into a shop, there will be customers who would rather err on the side of caution and stay at home for longer. To cater for this group of clients, it’s a great idea to offer home delivery and online ordering. You could look into setting up a click and collect or an appointment system to enable customers to pick up orders without coming into contact with other shoppers or worrying about standing in queues.
Managing your money
Balancing the books is challenging enough without having to contend with the aftermath of a global pandemic. As you move towards reopening your business and trying to recoup lost income, it’s hugely beneficial to explore funding options and to make sure you’re aware of any financial schemes and initiatives that could benefit you. There is a raft of incentives and programmes in place in many European countries to help businesses stay afloat and manage cash flow. Tread cautiously as you start to reopen, and keep a firm handle on your finances. If you’ve lost money, it may be wise to look for ways to lower expenses and reduce overheads. You may have found that having staff working from home has worked well, for example, and this could help you to cut costs in both the short and long-term.
Spreading the word
If your business has been closed, or you’re preparing to reopen more stores or launch a wider range of services, make sure you spread the word and let people know. Communicate with existing customers and use marketing methods to target new clients. Provide information about your opening hours, the products and services you’re offering and the steps you’re taking to keep staff and customers safe and consider running a promotion to kickstart sales. You could offer a discount on the first post-lockdown purchase or offer an incentive for recommending the business to a friend or sharing a social media post, for example. Social media is a fantastic platform for sharing news and updates and creating a buzz around a sale, a competition or an event. You can reach thousands of people in an instant and encourage your followers to share your posts for you.
Opening for business after the lockdown might not be plain sailing, but there are steps you can take now to prepare, to protect your customers and staff, to boost sales and orders and to engage with existing and new clients.