During these unprecedented adverse times, the focus of SMEs should remain on staying safe, supporting their customers to keep the wheels of earning turning.

The novel Coronavirus has forced the entire world to adapt to change quickly. After a considerable lockdown period, workplaces in India are taking a large number of precautions for their employees in the unlock phase.

COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the renewed need for hygiene and overall facility management to deal with new set of challenges.

While large businesses have the infrastructure and funds to put safety facilities in place, it is the small businesses that face the existential threat and cannot remain closed for long. They are often financially fragile, with little cash or resources.

For small businesses to resume operations, and once again serve as an engine to economic growth, they need to take some precautionary measures for the safety of their staff.

  1. Sanitization and regular cleaning of offices, factories, restaurants, shops, or business facilities is important. For this, following cleaning and disinfecting measures can be followed:
  • Wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect.
  • Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use disinfectant.
  • Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
  • Surfaces and objects in public places that are touched frequently, such as shopping carts and sale counter keypads should be cleaned and disinfected before each use. Apart from this, high touch surfaces at workplaces include railings, tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
  • While disinfecting hard surfaces, keep solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
  • Electronic equipment at the workplace, such as tablets, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines should be wrapped with a wipeable covering.
  1. Make sure that you staff washes their hands at regular intervals, wears gloves and masks, especially if they are facing customers.
  1. Seating arrangement at your facility should be such that two employees have at least 6 feet distance. For shops and stores, ensure that your staff is available for assistance, and customers touching the products is minimal.
  1. Ascertain that the clothes or uniform worn by your staff is washed and sanitized every day, and their temperature using infrared thermometer is checked before they enter the facility.
  1. If your staff is delivering goods to households, practice a no-contact delivery, wherein the delivery executive should be advised to keep the goods at a distance for the receiver to pick them up.

However, disinfecting the more-exposed surfaces is just not enough. Exercising easy communication to educate workers about identifying the symptoms of COVID-19 is equally important. Explain the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and gloves, and cooperating with ASHA workers who visit the house or store to conduct tests for coronavirus symptoms. Also, instructions on what to do if they develop symptoms within 14 days after their last possible exposure to the virus must be provided.

On Premise precautions

It cannot be denied that one of the prime sources of exposure to COVID-19 for small business owners could be their buyers, sellers, or supply chain staff. It needs to be understood that it is not just one person but the whole ecosystem at the back end around the individual, which consists of their family who have to be safeguarded.

To do this, business owners can take the below mentioned steps:

  • Monitor delivery and supply chain staff: Temperature check or thermal-scanning before entering the facility should be made mandatory for staff and customers.
  • Protective gear: Masks and hand gloves must be worn by the staff that is into customer facing roles. Customers must also be asked to wear masks covering their nose and mouth. Also, shoe covers should be provided to the customers while entering the malls, marts or supermarket.
  • Sanitization booth: A supermarket or a mall that allows customers to help themselves should install sanitization booth with foot pumps for people to pass from or place contactless sanitizer dispensers in order to minimize the spread of virus. Also, a PPE clad security person can be appointed to ensure that people are adhering to the guidelines, post which, used PPEs should be responsibly disposed.
  • Social distancing: Healthy distance of at least 4 to 6 feet should be maintained from the customer by creating a sealed area right in front of your counter/sales staff facing spaces.
  • Make Arogya Setu App installation mandatory for people entering your premises: Aarogya Setu App is a COVID-19 tracker launched by the Government of India. It keeps the user informed if they have crossed paths with the positive COVID-19.
  • Promote online payment: Instead of using cash for receiving or making payments, modes of digital payment like mobile banking, internet banking, cards, etc. should be encouraged.

Precautions while dealing with customers