Definitive Guide to Social Distancing for Businesses [By Industry]

Your small business might be cleared to reopen by your local government, but this time, jumping back to it means more than simply opening the door and flipping the light switch. As states, cities and counties race to establish coronavirus industry guidelines, small businesses are rushing to meet them. Social distancing for businesses isn’t as simple as remaining six feet apart and wearing a mask, either.

Depending on your industry, there may be a number of social distancing measures you need to implement. In this guide to social distancing for businesses, you’ll find everything you need to know about the rules you need to follow, including a few tips. As always, though, be sure to research local and state guidelines before implementing new measures.

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social distancing for business

The Importance of Following Social Distancing Rules in Your Business

While it can be time-consuming, costly, and disruptive to your normal business, following the proper social distancing policy is crucial. 

In addition to helping customers remain safe, these guidelines also exist to keep you and your employees safe. Slipping up could mean that your business receives a fine. If many customers and employees are infected, then you may be forced to temporarily close.

With a little creative thinking about how to still deliver top-notch customer service, you can abide by the rules and keep everyone happy. You can also market your business over social media by sharing how you’re taking new safety precautions.

Guide to Social Distancing By Industry: The Basics

Physical distancing industry guidelines are different, but there are a few central points. Across the board, all small businesses must:

  • Mandate that all customers and employees keep a six foot distance from each other
  • Require that masks be worn at all times
  • Sanitize thoroughly and often
  • Screen employees before they come into work with questions that indicate they don’t have COVID-19, or have been in contact with someone who does

While your local guidelines may differ slightly, chances are, you’ll be required to meet these essential marks. In this social distancing guide by industry, you’ll find even more detailed information about how to keep your small business safe.

Restaurants & Bars

Now that restaurants have the all-clear to open in certain locales, many are eager to keep things moving. These are the social distancing guidelines your restaurant should follow:

  • When possible, prioritize outdoor seating. In the open air, germs are less likely to flow from one person to another. 
  • Keep tables six feet apart, at a minimum. If you can place tables eight or ten feet apart, then do so. Also, try to provide large tables so customers can keep a distance from each other while eating.
  • Utilize disposable condiments, menus, and other normally shared items. This helps minimize germs spread by touching items on the table.
  • Disinfect tables between meals. Create a system to ensure customers don’t eat at the same table without a cleaning. 
  • Create and enforce a face mask policy based on local regulations. Let customers know if they need to wear a mask while entering, ordering, and leaving.

As always, be sure to stay up-to-date on local trends and regulations.

Retail

Is your non-essential retail store reopening after months of being closed? This guide to social distancing will help steer you in the right direction toward creating a safe environment for shoppers and employees.

  • Provide a place for employees to wash hands thoroughly. While this might be a basic requirement that holds true outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important now. Also, ensure that employees have access to hand soap, or alternatively, high-grade hand sanitizer.
  • Deep clean frequently touched surfaces. This includes any area in your store that employees and customers frequently touch.
  • Offer contactless payment options. Reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by handling cash, or through frequently used credit card terminals by utilizing a POS that can handle contactless payment options. Common examples include Apple Pay and Square.
  • Define customer waiting areas with tape. Place tape on the ground at six foot intervals so customers have a visual aid for social distancing at checkout points. This can also help prevent confusion.
  • Install plexiglass at cash registers. This social distancing tip for businesses helps protect cashiers, who come into contact with countless customers daily, from encountering germs. 
  • Continue offering drive through and curbside pickup options. Some customers may prefer the normalcy of going to stores, but others appreciate the safe alternative of shopping online.
  • Train workers about new guidelines. Be sure that all employees are aware of any new resources available, or procedures they must follow.
  • Consider implementing a seniors-only period. Offering a block of time to seniors and others who are immunocompromised helps the community obtain what they need, while minimizing risk.
  • Set up sanitizing stations. It may not be required, but this can help customers feel even more safe.

Office Spaces

Any guide to social distancing for office-based businesses will include the obvious: desks in office spaces must be placed, at minimum, six feet apart. Beyond that, though, there are a few other measures you can take.

  • Hire a deep cleaning company for frequent sanitization. You can determine the exact frequency based on the number of people coming into the office, as well as local regulations. Keep the necessary supplies on hand, too.
  • Consider the flow of traffic around the office. Are there any tight hallways that people must pass each other in? Try to create a traffic plan that eliminates the possibility of people crossing paths.
  • If necessary, establish an alternating “in-office” schedule. To implement social distancing for your large business, create a unique schedule that helps limit the number of people in the office at a time.
  • Distribute the appropriate equipment, including masks and gloves. You can request that employees bring their own, but if you can, try to provide employees with what they need.
  • Purchase disposable supplies like cups. Rather than reusing equipment, provide disposable supplies for things like drinking water and coffee. Avoid communal items like shared coffee pots and milk.
  • If you can, continue working from home. For some offices, working from home might not be too much of a challenge. If that’s the case, continue having your team work from home, while only entering the office to utilize supplies or hold meetings.
  • Request (and listen to) employee feedback. If employees feel that social distancing policies for your small business could be improved, then do what you can to acknowledge that.

Manufacturing

Social distancing for manufacturing businesses might be a little more complicated than most, but it’s not out of your control. This guide to physical distancing in the shop will help you prevent the possibility of transmissions.

  • If necessary, rethink your manufacturing floor. Distance machines and/or stations to ensure that no two people must be in the same spot at once. At minimum, they should be six feet, but farther is better.
  • Secure a new, larger space for improved distancing. If you can’t abide by physical distancing industry guidelines in your current space, then find a new one. You may even be able to satisfy other needs in the process.
  • Clean surfaces and machines frequently. Never allow two people to touch the same machine without cleaning it first.
  • Create a new schedule to reduce contact. Try creating a morning and night shift. If necessary, request volunteers for each shift.

Doctor Offices

Now, doctors are beginning to see patients for regularly scheduled visits. Social distancing for businesses in the medical field simply requires coordination.

  • Offer telehealth visits. Transition from in-office visits to telehealth visits, which instead utilize video chatting. It may not be possible for every patient, condition or specialist, but some patients may be open to this alternative.
  • Limit your office to a set number of patients at a time, and have patients check in before entering. Ask patients to call from their cars when they arrive and wait for the go-ahead before entering. This allows your office the time to properly disinfect the space, and ensure any other patients have left.
  • Simplify the check-in process. Ask patients to fill out necessary forms online, before coming in. This prevents them from touching communal pens and staying in the waiting area longer than necessary. Also, remove magazines and similar communal items from waiting rooms.
  • Change gloves for every patient. Be sure to continue thoroughly cleaning instruments, or adopt a new cleaning process.
  • Ask patients screening questions and take their temperatures. At minimum, ensure that patients don’t have a cough, fever, or other common symptom of coronavirus by screening them. For extra security, ask that patients take a test before coming in for an appointment.
  • Allow admin or back office staff to work remotely. Some tasks, like data entry, can be accomplished anywhere—try offering employees this option when possible.

Construction

Social distancing for your construction business is different when the work takes place outside. Nonetheless, you’ll have to follow many of the same guidelines.

  • Continue using appropriate PPE for the job. While preventing COVID-19 transmission is crucial, don’t lose sight of other risks on the job site.
  • Refrain from physical contact with employees, contractors and visitors. Discussing new tasks and changes might be essential, but in many cases, can remain a socially distant conversation.
  • Ensure trailers accommodate social distancing policies. If your job site has a trailer for workers, be sure that tables are distant.
  • Clean equipment. Sanitize any shared equipment, which could otherwise lead to spreading germs.
  • Provide handwashing stations or hand sanitizer. Encourage employees to take advantage of these, especially after touching new equipment. Also, clean toilets regularly.

Shipping

Social distancing for businesses in the shipping field isn’t quite as complicated as most other industries, considering most drivers are alone. However, remember that equipment and trucks may be shared. For this reason, it’s important not to turn a blind eye.

  • Offer contactless deliveries when possible and approved. Many deliveries are already contactless, but try going the extra mile and limiting in-person conversations.
  • Keep a distance while delivering. If speaking to the recipient is necessary, then maintain a 6 foot distance, if not further.
  • Ring doorbells with a shoulder or elbow. Rather than using your fingers, which touch most other equipment, use another part of your body to ring doorbells.
  • Don’t share equipment with other drivers. Provide all employees with their own delivery equipment, including tablets. If sharing is necessary, then thoroughly sanitize at the shift change.
  • Clean truck interiors thoroughly. Hit all spots that drivers frequently touch, including the steering wheel, handles, knobs, dashboard, and more.
  • Institute a flexible sick time policy. Give drivers the ability to decline working if they’re sick.

Stay Aware of Local Updates and Industry News

As small businesses move beyond quarantine and into social distancing, there will be updated guidelines and regulations. In a week or month, social distancing for businesses might be a totally different game. Stay alert of new changes and be ready to make adjustments.

Additionally, stay open to the idea of new social distancing ideas in your industry. If somebody finds a better way to comply with regulations, then try it out.

Get The Credit Line You Need to Make Important Changes

The pandemic itself will eventually lapse, but the frequent change it brings to our public health procedures will last. Abiding by these changes isn’t always cheap, either.

A business line of credit gives you the flexibility to draw funds whenever you need them, and put them towards any new changes in your business. You’ll only pay interest on what you take, and as you pay down what you owe, you can draw more.

At National, we can help you learn your options in minutes, and get funding in just a few hours. Apply now to get the ball rolling!

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About the Author, Matt Carrigan

Matt Carrigan is the Content Writer at National Business Capital & Services. He loves spending every day creating content to educate business owners across every industry about business growth strategies, and how they can access the funding they need!


Dislcaimer: The information and insights in this article are provided for informational purposes only, and do not constitute financial, legal, tax, business or personal advise from National Business Capital & Services and the author. Do no rely on this information as advice and please consult with your financial advisor, accountant and/or attorney before making any decisions. If you rely solely in this information it is at your own risk. The information is true and accurate to the best of our knowledge, but there maybe errors, omissions, or mistakes.