We’re living in a new normal comprised of social distancing, face masks, and sanitation, but how do you apply these safety measures to your unique business? Across the globe, people have been cranking up their creativity to overcome the barriers COVID-19 has saddled us with. Here are just a few examples that may inspire some ingenuity in your business.
In our ever-changing landscape, a lot of rules have gone out the window. Consumers aren’t quite sure what to expect from one business to the next and are actively looking for guidance. This uncertainty can cause tensions to rise and create a stressful atmosphere. Why not break the tension with something delightful, clever, and a little silly? Angel’s Burger stand in Manila was able to add new meaning to the term “burger slider” with an actual slide! Customers delighted in this novel and clever hand-off method and were able to bond with employees over its inherent silliness. Much needed smiles were brought to customers and employees alike.
Furniture arrangement can greatly impact how we behave within a space. In stores or restaurants where the public is still allowed to enter, physical cues and barriers are much more effective than tape on the floor. We’ve all seen people at the grocery store ignoring the “one-way” aisles (or are guilty of it ourselves). By assessing what pieces you have, and arranging them thoughtfully, you can create clear, safer foot traffic for your customers and employees. Or take a page from Blush Dry Bar in Colorado and simply lock the door to prevent walk-ins while still staying open for limited appointments.
In fact, Coronavirus might be changing the future of office arrangement. Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield developed a concept called the “6 Foot Office” while working with about 10,000 companies in China to help people return to work. According to Cushman & Wakefield, in recent years the amount of square footage allotted per employee has gone down from 211.4 sq. ft. in 2009 to 17.6 square feet in 2017. This has created a rise in complaints about noisy neighbors and a lack of elbow room. Their idea is to use visual cues, such as bold colors and large circle designs in the carpet, to remind coworkers to maintain a six foot distance. They also recommend staggering schedules so everyone is not arriving or leaving at once. A crowded elevator is definitely something to be avoided.
No doubt we’ve all attended virtual meetings or webinars, but what else has technology got to offer? CurryCollege in Massachusetts was able to think outside the box and used a drone to personally deliver a four-year scholarship to a high school grad in Boston. This created a special moment for her and her family, especially in the absence of a graduation ceremony. Some museums (such as the third U.S. president Thomas Jefferson’s historic home Monticello) have even found a way to go beyond the typical virtual online tour. For those who prefer the presence of a tour guide, it is now even possible to take a live guided virtual tour at some museums asking your guide questions and receiving answers in real time as you tour. This creates a more connected and meaningful experience for both parties involved. With a little brainstorming, businesses can go beyond the common tech solutions and become creative leaders in this new climate.
No matter how your business is adapting, it’s important to stay as consistent and communicative as possible. We’re all navigating this “new normal” together and it’s important to listen, respect, and have patience with each other. Thank employees and customers for their effort adapting to new policies, and encourage employees to speak up if they have an idea or have identified a problem area. Even though we are trying to keep our distance, it’s important to know we are all working together.
When updating company policy, make sure it is consistent on all platforms, and properly enforced. This will cut down on confusion and frustration from both employees and customers. United Airlines recently found themselves in hot water for going against their own policy. An email blast stated tickets for middle seats would not be sold to encourage social distancing, but sent a completely packed plane from NYC to San Diego shortly after. It took two tweets from an unhappy passenger to make it national news. When in doubt, always show people that you are thinking about their safety first, even if it means sacrificing convenience.
This global health crisis has affected us all in various ways. Beyond physical isolation, health, and financial burdens, mental health is likely to suffer from the stress, uncertainty, rapid change, and fear that permeates our world today. It’s a good idea to check in with your HR department and see how they demonstrate great soft skills. Additionally, diet, exercise, and helping others are all known to improve mental health; consider a virtual workout club, recipe sharing group, or fundraiser to get employees involved in their own mental recovery.
Human ingenuity knows no bounds, and together we can overcome this crisis with grace.
By Aubrey Dion
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.