Business as “Un”usual: Maintaining Effective Workflow During COVID-19

Picture of Gina Blitstein Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.

Business as “Un”usual: Maintaining Effective Workflow During COVID-19

If your business is among the lucky ones that can remain open during COVID-19 mandated closures, there’s no doubt about it… things are not “business as usual.” Restrictions to physical proximity and contact and the need for extra sanitation practices have required businesses to make some significant changes to the ways employees interact with their coworkers and customers alike. In other cases, it’s the customers themselves taking on roles normally performed by an employee. I’ve been particularly observant in my limited outings from home and in my online travels over the last several weeks, noting how businesses who have remained open are keeping their workflow as effective as possible during this challenging time. Here’s some of what I’ve noticed:

Masks, social distancing, health monitoring and sanitation practices

Instead of selling from a retail location being a fairly simple, straightforward procedure, it’s now necessary to take extra safety measures to help ensure that employees and customers remain healthy while they continue to do that which is necessary. Businesses are stepping up and requiring (or at the very least strongly suggesting) that employees and customers wear facial masks. Employees’ health is screened daily for signs of illness which includes questions about how they feel and a temperature check. Stores are limiting building occupancy; they’re providing information and guidance to aid in maintaining physical distance. Plexiglass barriers physically separate checkers from customers. Returns are temporarily not being accepted and reusable bags are not allowed into stores. Shopping carts and baskets, shelves, counters, tables, seating, doors, windows, bathrooms… surfaces with which people frequently come into contact are being regularly and thoroughly disinfected.

Restaurant meals, no longer served in dining rooms, are only available from drive-thru, take out, curbside pickup or from contactless delivery. It is mandatory that food workers wear gloves. Many companies are not requiring customers to sign credit card receipts, so no pen is changing hands.

Remote work - While other workers can no longer gather under the same roof, some companies have remained operational by switching to remote work. Necessary equipment has been delivered so everyone has what they need to perform their work as well as possible from home (or from wherever they are quarantined). When necessary, meetings are conducted via video conferencing.

Jobs that require physical contact have had to change things up. An occupational therapist I know is now conducting sessions with her children clients over video. She uses screen sharing for reading books and singing songs. Since she’s not physically with her patients, she employs the aid of family members for the parts of therapy that require physical touching.

Traditional in-person encounters are no longer in-person either. Businesses who teach, consult and coach are embracing remote solutions as a means to carry on effectively during this time as well. Training classrooms are pivoting from in-person sessions to video courses.

Brand new, creative solutions - A jewelry designer I know usually sells a significant number of her designs at spring, summer and fall arts and crafts shows. These events have all been cancelled for the season, which necessitated a major shift in her sales methodology this year. Without the shows, customers wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience her jewelry in person - which is a very important selling feature for her pieces. To help alleviate this sales hurdle, she devised a clever marketing measure which offers her customers a very tempting offer. Customers are encouraged to order as many items from her website as they want to see in person. They’re sent everything, decide which they’d like to keep and send back the rest with free shipping both ways. This enables them to try on the pieces for themselves, like they would if they were at an art fair. She also provides virtual consultations via video conference so she can continue to deliver the “personal touch” to customers that her business requires. Keeping a brand alive and well in such disruptive times is challenging. In an attempt to keep her persona out there when she can’t be, she’s also hosting some fun, informational Facebook Live events for her audience.

For the time being, business as usual…isn’t. But there are practical, creative and infinitely implementable measures you can take to maintain effective - and safe - workflow for your business’s employees and customers. Who knows, the changes you make because of COVID-19 may become standard practices in the way you run your business in the future.

What has your business been able to do to maintain effective workflow during the pandemic?

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