On a recent conference call with individuals on the leading edge of battling the new coronavirus, I learned a new term. “Virus safety behaviors” was the term that was shared. Of course, the term includes and encompasses many behaviors like washing your hands with as much frequency as needed, utilizing hand sanitizer and practicing safe social distancing. With each passing day, the term takes on new meaning for many, as we continue to see an increase in decisions being made for the greater good’s health and wellness. Communities all over the world are making decisions and asking the public to change many of their behaviors.
For quite some time I have watched businesses and public spaces adding more and more access to hand sanitizer dispensers and anti-bacterial wipes. In last week’s Business Currents we covered hand washing and made a simple suggestion to increase signage beyond restaurants to remind people to do something as basic as washing their hands.
That brings us to “social distancing.” Historically, the idea of social distancing has not really been a concern of businesses or a potential weakness when planning for, growing or marketing a business. However, in our current situation and for some unknown portion of the foreseeable future, social distancing is a real concern and needs to be considered and worked into all face-to-face business models.
I am a rules follower, and I have not only been observing the current suggested restrictions and rules being put in place, I am also actively encouraging others to do the same. The reality is we can tamp down the curve and numbers of those affected and ultimately the number of those whose health is severely affected by following the guidelines and rules being created and enforced day to day.
I see businesses using tools to ensure social distancing rules are being followed. On a recent trip to support a local restaurant by picking up take out, I saw a perimeter set up 2 feet away from the counter that takeout customers were asked to stand behind. Added to the 2 to 3 feet of counter and workspace along with a foot between the employee and the other side of the counter, the 6-foot suggested distance was met.
However, the transaction of the sale still required a closer proximately between the employee and those taking out their order. Clearly in a cash transaction, money changes hands. Whether one of those hands is gloved or not, the idea is the cash money changes hands. Even a credit or debit card that is swiped by the employee changes hands.
There are more than a few examples of witnessing recent transactions that include none or very little direct interaction between employees and customers. Here are some examples and thoughts that could be elements that, considering virus safety behaviors, might make more sense to consider in how we conduct business from now on:
• Self-checkout: For years now, this element of retail shopping, specifically in larger supermarkets and wholesale clubs has been a reality.
• iPad or other tablet for payment: Newer in recent years, thanks to technology the customer-controlled checkout at the service or food counter has been a reality.
Note: In both of these “self-checkout” environments, the transaction is only as safe from possible transmission of possible viruses as the diligence of the business to keep the equipment being used clean or the customer to use sanitizer or wash their hands after the transaction.
• Online ordering and delivery: This may seem like an easy solution, but if we focus on the local and regional ordering of products and services with online ordering and then delivery, it would require some businesses to incorporate new or less traditional methods or equipment to make this transition a reality.
I am aware that many people, based on circumstances or beliefs, prefer to use cash instead of debit cards and credit cards. I am not suggesting that we attempt to remove cash from the equation of our economic future, however cash is made out of approximately 25 percent linen fibers and 75 percent cotton, and both of these are potentially capable of carrying forms of bacteria. I am not sure if plastic holds the same amount of bacteria or transmission potential, but it is much easier to wipe down or wipe clean a plastic card than a stack of cash or coins.
I am a person who constantly thinks about a balance of the importance of public health along with the needed economic stability that supports a community and the people within it. If people are not healthy, the business workforce and customers are not healthy, if the business community is not healthy and vibrant, then what supports the economic well-being of the people within the community? It is, I have always believed, a balance.
Just one more note to businesses within our community. As a business owner and long-time supporter of business, I get it. Revenue is critical to business and positive cash flow is one of the most important elements to running a profitable business. I only ask that we follow the rules and do our best together, with help from one another, and do what each of us can do to get back to a sense of normalcy and “business as usual” as soon as possible. Stay current, stay safe, stay healthy and stay in touch (but please do so by observing the social distancing guidelines).