Many of us have wondered what business will be like in the “new normal.” During that time, so many of us assumed the new normal also meant post-coronavirus. As we continue to experience surges in the delta variant and wonder about future variants, I am beginning to wonder if living with COVID-19 is actually the new normal. Due to the need for regional, national and global travel, it is likely that COVID-19 and its variants are something that we will live with going forward.
That is a sobering thought for sure. A bit of good news is that we now have knowledge on how to slow down the spread of the disease, so future ongoing shutdowns are not likely. So, how do we prepare to run a business with COVID-19 being a constant presence?
I firmly believe that we first need to set our priorities. The health and well-being of our customers, families and employees is paramount. Nothing can come before that. The health and well-being of our businesses is second. Of course, having successful businesses and jobs helps to provide for the health and well-being of people, so the two are intricately entwined.
I suggest the first thing businesses should start doing is to stop thinking of the protections currently in place as temporary. I would now consider these changes to be permanent changes to the way we do business. Instilling this in your workforce will be critical, and open discussions should be had about it. Masks are always a hot topic, with a variety of opinions on them. It is clear that no one likes wearing a mask. Yet, the science is also clear that masks do slow down the virus. I recommend that firms make their employees wear masks anytime they are in a customer’s presence. First, this helps cut down on confusion with both your employees and the customers. Your employees will not have to worry about the current policy at the place they are visiting, and the customer will not have to worry about asking your employees to wear the mask. I realize this may be unpopular, but I believe that setting a norm and simply sticking with it takes a lot of confusion and frustration out of an already frustrating time.
A second reason for having COVID-19 safety standards as part of your regular protocol is to improve business. Many customers are still concerned about the spread of the virus, and with outside people coming into a place of work, they don’t know the protocols and safety standards of each person. If a firm wants to be on the top of a customer’s call list, advertising its safety protocols is a great idea. By making clear on your web pages or via links in your email signatures that you take these protection methods seriously, you are likely to be called upon by more customers, and you will not have to answer questions from customers about your protocols. I encourage you to list some of the following examples in your advertisements: if you require vaccinations from your employees, if you ask your employees if they are vaccinated, if there are different protocols for the unvaccinated and if you have standard health checks each day for your employees. This information on a simple fact sheet will go a long way with customers getting approval for your company to enter their premises.
Also, let’s not forget about people. That includes all the amazing people who work in this industry and their families that are supported by it. One of the most difficult parts of this pandemic has been uncertainty. How long will this last? How bad will it be if I or my family get sick? How will I feel if I get someone sick? Is my job going to be eliminated? The uncertainty goes on and on. When a person who has these questions does go into the workplace, they should feel as safe as possible. This is why your protocols should become permanent and should be very clear to your employees. Our industry provides many instances for people to be working very close to each other, whether that is riding in a work van with other people, wiring up a rack or working in a small AV closet. An employee who feels safe during these various times is going to be much more productive and make fewer mistakes.
By addressing these issues as a company and making clear these are not temporary changes, the confusion is eliminated. All of your employees and clients will then be able to make informed decisions about where they work and who they work with.