Expert Insight: Facilities tips for coping with COVID-19

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate headlines worldwide, businesses in nearly every industry face fresh challenges each day, many of which will impact operations in the weeks and months to come. For retailers, the situation is particularly complicated: New research reveals that COVID-19 is disrupting the whole gamut of retail workflows, from sales and customer experience to supply chain and workforce management.

Though many retail operations remain shuttered, state and local authorities across the country are permitting essential businesses, including supermarkets, grocery chains, convenience stores, restaurants and pharmacies, to stay open and serve the public during the health crisis. This is good news for businesses’ bottom lines, but it puts considerable strain on their ability to keep shelves stocked while ensuring the safety of patrons and employees.

Looking for ways to keep up with demand and keep your facilities safe? Here are a few key strategies:

Know Where to Get Your Information

First and foremost, retail leaders need accurate, up-to-date information when making decisions that will affect business policies or protocols. Know what sources to turn to—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Labor—and only consume content from reputable organizations. Experts continue to uncover new findings by the hour, so be sure to check for updates regularly.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces Frequently and Thoroughly

Nope, cleaning and disinfecting aren’t the same thing, and it’s important to understand the difference. First, clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with soap and water—this step is necessary when dirt or grime is visible. To disinfect, use cleaning agents that contain at least 60% alcohol, or products that otherwise comply with EPA’s criteria for use against the novel coronavirus.


  • Provide workers with access to sanitizing products (soap, hand sanitizer, disposable wipes, etc.), and if they’re handling food, provide disposable gloves.
  • Prioritize environmental cleaning practices and conduct deep cleans each night when facilities are closed to the public.
  • Help reduce the chances of contamination and increase security by controlling how many people can occupy your facilities at one time. Advise customers to form a line outside to help limit the flow of foot traffic.
  • Encourage customers to use credit or debit cards to reduce the transmission of viral germs via cash.
  • Post clearly marked signs in high traffic areas and entrances detailing proper respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene.
  • Give employees stocking shelves or working at a register hand washing breaks once or twice an hour.
  • Increase ventilation in your facilities. If weather permits, keep your doors open to help circulate fresh air.
  • Keep staff levels low and ensure sick or symptomatic employees stay home to reduce the number of people gathered in one place.
  • Consider asking customers to place food orders via phone to curtail the amount of time they’re in the facility.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

It can be tempting in times of uncertainty to refrain from communicating, but honesty is always the best policy, even if you don’t have all the answers. Keep employees and customers alike informed by sharing what you know, what you don’t know and what to expect. Transparency builds trust and can keep employee morale high and stress levels low.

Focus first on your employees, their environment and their safety—by providing them with the tools they need to stay healthy, you can help your customers and community stay safe, too.

Sherry Matousek is senior account manager at NEST, an integrated facilities management company.

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