For those of us who have been fortunate enough to avoid experiencing the Coronavirus first hand or through a loved one, the lockdowns started out as a novelty. Everyone in the country was on the same page for the first time since 9/11. There was a feeling of diligence and nervous excitement in the air; we all had to do our part to do, and we were doing it to protect each other. We had to turn our daily routines upside down to “flatten the curve.”
Five weeks into the lockdowns and the novelty has worn off. Perhaps, people thought the changes would be temporary, and we could get back to normal within a month. That no longer looks likely. What’s more likely is we will have the specter of corona hanging around until we get a vaccine, which could take months or years. However, life will still go on, it has to, but in order to do so, we will have to get used to a new sense of normal.
Businesses across the country are itching to open up, and this means many of us will soon enter the first phase of returning to normal. But what will we come back to? What the return feel like for those of us in different industries?
That’s what this weeks article will be about. I’ll be diving into what the return could feel like in a number of industries so people can get ready for the new normal!
Imagine owning a department store in 2020! The outlook was already bleak as each year, you get to watch more of your business slip away to Amazon or another eCommerce vendor, and now, a pandemic sweeps through the country and has forced you to shut down until now.
How do you bring the people back and convince them they’re not taking a risk by entering your venue? It will take some new hires, new procedures, and even some new equipment.
Meet your new employees: The Line Spacing Coordinator, the Disinfectant Applicator, and the Customer Counter!
Social distancing has flattened the curve and saved our hospitals, for now. At this time social distancing and disinfectant are the only things we know work for sure.
The Customer Counter and Line Spacing Coordinators’ jobs will be to make sure that social distancing guidelines are followed in your store. The customer counters will sit at the entrances and exits, counting people as they leave and enter to make sure the limit of 5 customers per 1000 square feet of venue is not exceeded. While the line spacers will ensure that people in queue to check out of following the six feet social distancing guideline. Once a guest has checked out, the POS Disinfectant Applicator will wipe down the POS and make it ready for the next guest.
N95 masks, disposable gloves, and disinfectant wipes or sprays will find their way onto your expense reports and will not go away until all is corona is behind us for good. The masks, gloves, and new procedures will serve as visual cue to your patrons that you are taking this virus seriously, and will be a key to your reputation for the next few quarters.
Imagine having to furlough more than half of your staff and close down dining areas until lockdowns are lifted? Employees you’ve had for years are now wondering how they’re going to pay their bills just like you’re wondering how you’re going to pay yours.
Legally opening up the dining areas is one thing, but getting people to trust your establishment will be another entirely. Guests have always been leary of what goes on in a kitchen. A pandemic will only add to those concerns.
So what does the return look like? It’s not fun to dwell on, to be honest.
Even though it’s open, your dining capacity is going to be at a fraction of its former maximum. Depending on your square footage only a certain number of tables can be operational at once in order to keep people at a safe distance.
You’ll need more equipment and some new tech.
Customers are not going to want to wait in a crowded, cramped waiting room to get a table. But, they also won’t want to share a physical pager with the people who’ve been waiting before them. Text paging services like Ready Text, will become popular, and your customers are going to have to get used to waiting for a table in their car.
Busboys will need to be equipped with approved disinfectants in order to flip tables. All servers should be equipped with N95’s, which will make ordering more difficult as well as take away from the eating experience as a whole. The idea of someone in a medical mask dropping off my plate of food does not sit well either.
The fine-dining industry will not bounce back from this pandemic as fast as others. The limited capacities will make for tough decisions as restaurants won’t be near as profitable as before the pandemic. There will be fewer tables to cover and fewer seats at the bar, which will mean some of the servers and bartenders that have been furloughed will not come back. Fewer tables will mean fewer orders, which will mean fewer cooks, food runners, and busboys as well. Possible food shortages could push up the prices or even cut-out sections of the menus entirely. And finally, a generally uncertain economy will push down consumer spending, making it less likely people go out to eat at all.
Restaurants are one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy. My heart goes out to the 11 million employees who’ve had their lives turned upside down due to no fault of their own.
On a happier note, most office environments around the world are currently getting off light. Portable devices, along with cloud technologies, have made it possible to maintain productivity from home and may even have some businesses wondering why they should put up with the commute, rent, and related brick-and-mortar expenses at all. However, even though most businesses get to choose when to make the return, they still will eventually have to come back.
Interestingly enough for these businesses, the decision on when to return will be just as important as what safety procedures to follow when they do return. Unless person-to-person contact is essential to the job, there really is no sense in taking unnecessary risk here. If your office turns into a COVID hot spot on a second wave, it would have been a completely unforced error. So I imagine office settings will wait for as long as possible before they consider moving everyone in together.
Once the decision to come together has been made, the changes will have minimal impact on the day to day, with a few exceptions.
In-person meetings will be cut back in attendance and number. Just as restaurant maximum capacities will shrink, I expect the maximum capacities of conference rooms to drop as well. In-person meetings will only take place when required (Cheers to those who always find themselves in pointless meetings) and will only involve people who are absolutely necessary (Cheers to those who always get roped into irrelevant meetings).
Hand-sanitizer and disinfectant sprays will be everywhere! Employees should be able to wipe down their workspace every morning when they get in and every evening before they leave.
Cafeterias and other common rooms will be no-mans-land for the first few months. Office comradery could take a hit here as employees who normally got to know each other and blow off steam at the lunch table will no longer be able to do so. Instead, workers will eat lunch at their desks to avoid contamination.
Public restrooms will be the tricky, and a big reason for a delay in bringing people back into the office. Most other forms of congregation can be solved; however there is nothing that can stop nature’s call. Hand-sanitizer should be placed outside of the bathrooms and washing hands should be strongly encouraged.
We Can Do This
The challenges some of us will face on the return will be unnerving and unnatural, but what is the alternative? Corona may have caught us by surprise, but now that we know what we’re dealing with, we must take the challenge head-on.
The front-lines of the coronavirus conflict are about to shift from the hospitals to the economy. We are still responsible for each other, just in a different way. If we can open up safely, we can minimize the damage to our health and our economy. This fight will last for months, but good hygiene and common sense can keep us secure and in control!
Americans have always been able to adapt. I believe we are up to the challenge and will find a way through; we are ready to embrace the new normal!
Jeremy McCourt is an content producer in the enterprise software industry that focuses on NetSuite and related cloud-based software solutions.
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