Today is the big day - shops all across the UK are re-opening after months of lockdown closure. Retail managers are wondering how they can tackle the challenge of adapting their space to be ‘COVID-19 Secure’, so we’ve broken down the steps you should be taking to keep your workplace safe for both employees and customers.
Assess the Risk
All businesses with more than 5 workers must complete a written risk assessment. This doesn’t need to involve a mountain of paperwork- it’s about identifying COVID-19 hazards and creating sensible precautions.
Communication is key though- inform your workers and the public about your plans. Listen to their feedback and ideas. It’s also worth noting that the government still advises against the use of PPE outside of clinical settings.
Safeguard Your Employees
Managers should ensure that those who are vulnerable or needing to self-isolate stay at home. Ideally, employees should still work from home if at all possible. Work environments are going under a massive transformation, so it’s important to make sure your space still considers the needs of those with protected characteristics, such as a disability.
For those able to work in retail, the following precautions should be taken:
•Increase of hand washing and surface cleaning, ensuring hand sanitiser and disinfectants are easily available for workers at all entry/exit points.
•Re-organise work and break spaces to ensure social distancing.
•Use screens or barriers if workspace doesn’t allow for 2 metre social distancing.
•Continue using remote work platforms- such as Zoom and Teams- for meetings wherever possible.
•Use back-to-back or side-to-side working, rather than face-to-face.
•Stagger shift times- such as start, end, and break times- to avoid contact. Be mindful of workers’ individual schedule needs.
•Group workers into teams or partners to reduce contact between many people.
•Encourage employees to walk or cycle to work, wherever possible. Provide bike racks to enable this.
COVID-19 is having a big impact on people’s mental health, so check on your employees’ wellbeing as they return to work. After being isolated for so many weeks, some may understandably have anxieties about coming back to the workplace. The charity MIND and NHS’ Every Mind Matters Campaign both have useful information and practical guidance.
Protect Your Customers
Customers may be eager but anxious to return to busy public spaces, so it’s vital to help put their mind at ease and protect their health with these steps:
•Re-calculate your store’s capacity, being mindful of available floor space ad any busy spots.
•Make hand sanitiser easily accessible at your store’s entrance, and encourage visitors to use it upon entry and exit.
•Implement a one-way flow system.
•Use floor stickers and clear signage to direct customers.
•Reorganise your store layout to prioritise social distancing and ease of use; grocery-store style aisles may be the best option.
•Use an outdoors queueing system, with a member of staff to monitor the flow of visitors and provide direction.
•Work with local authorities to consider how your shop processes impact the surrounding infrastructure, such as public transport in rush hour.
•Check ventilation systems are providing adequate and proper air flow.
•Close fitting rooms unless necessary for fitting medical clothing, in which case the space and garments should be cleaned between each use.
•Sanitise commonly used areas, such as baskets, checkouts, and door handles.
Each shop will have unique requirements and will therefore need a plan tailored to their own environment. The government have provided in-depth guidance so that retail owners can feel confident about opening up their stores next week.
The anxiety surrounding the novel coronavirus may initially reduce your visitor numbers upon re-opening, but don’t be disheartened as there are other ways you can adapt your business to the COVID-19 era.
Photo by Anna Shvets