All posts by Jason Barnes

How to Inspire Your Team’s Creative Impulses

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Creativity is more than the ability to crack a clever joke or paint something beautiful. At work, it’s essential for growth and innovation. A team that thinks outside the box can solve difficult problems in new, cost-effective ways. 

The trouble is, genuine creativity is tough to incentivize.. Simply telling your team to be more creative certainly won’t work. But rewarding creativity can also have adverse effects. It can stifle a creative process that should be rewarding in and of itself. 

Because of this, some take an “either you have it or you don’t” approach to creativity. But creativity can be cultivated, just like sales or leadership skills can be. 

With the right leadership and culture, creativity can flourish. Here’s how to be that leader for your team:

1. Diversify your team.

There are plenty of reasons to be inclusive at work, but there’s no question diverse teams are more creative. If everyone on your team comes from a similar background, you’ll likely approach issues the same way. That may make coming to a consensus easier, but challenges are necessary to refine ideas. 

Diversifying your staff involves bringing people from different cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds together. Gender, sexuality, and age are also important axes to consider. 

To deepen your team’s diversity, bring in a broad range of personality types, values, and abilities. This approach helps you appreciate the perspectives of a full person rather than a single demographic component.  

2. Empower fresh faces.

When people first start out at your company, they’re still getting used to your processes and culture. That doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t valuable, though. 

In fact, someone who isn’t fully integrated into your organization may be more valuable, creatively speaking. They can bring fresh ideas that aren’t hindered by the baggage that seasoned employees may have. 

Ask for their input during meetings. Run proposals and innovation ideas by them. Better yet, give them a project of their own to lead. 

A new employee’s creativity can also fuel the creative impulses of senior team members. In this case, a little competition can be healthy: Let employees of different tenures push each other to come up with new ideas and ways of working. 

3. Promote fictional media consumption.

The media we consume impacts us immensely. Fictional media, whether it be books, film, or television, positively impacts our creativity

Why? Because fictional narratives engage us in scenarios that aren’t found in the real world. They allow us to think through unfamiliar possibilities. Non-fiction and journalistic media simply can’t do that. 

The good news is, your employees are probably already watching TV and movies on their own. Encourage them to think critically about what they’re viewing. Consider following a series or franchise together and discussing it. Another option is to start a book club at the office to promote fiction reading. 

4. Support risk-taking efforts.

A primary reason people shy away from taking risks is they fear the consequences of failure. However, risk-taking is inherent to creativity. You can’t have one without the other. 

Ease the pressure of risk-taking for your team. Compliment people who are willing to take risks. And if an effort fails, don’t punish the people who gave it a shot. In fact, throw a party for the “biggest fail” each month.

A supported team is a risk-taking team. The more confident you can make people feel in themselves and their actions, the more willing they’ll be to try new things.

5. Don’t lead with limitations. 

When embarking on a new goal or plan, some leaders kill creativity by starting with the negative. Before the first dollar has been spent, they worry about costs. With no reason to worry about the team’s commitment, they wonder whether contributors are up to the task.

Don’t stifle your team’s imaginations. Give people the resources they need, empower them to try new things, and express confidence in them.

What if roadblocks come up? Worry about them at that time. When you set expectations around a project, what matters most is opening space for people to articulate their vision. Ground these ideas in practicalities later.

6. Visualize data. 

Words and numbers on a page can only do so much. Being more creative with how you construct and communicate data creates a flywheel effect, spurring more creativity. 

Mindmapping, flowcharts, diagrams, and hierarchical charts are great ways to represent information. They spark creativity by showing the relationships between sets of data and illuminating nuances.

Invest in a data visualization tool that even non-technical team members can use, like Tableau. Challenge people to come up with their own intriguing visualizations.

7. Enhance your office environment. 

A drab, depressing office environment doesn’t exactly encourage creativity. An inspiring office space feels fresh, exciting, and joyful. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Paint the walls a lively color. Bring in some plants and natural light. Hang your favorite art pieces up, and decorate your desk. 

While you’re at it, give employees more creative control over their personal space. Autonomy breeds creativity, which you can tap for work tasks. 

Creativity isn’t just for people in the arts. Just about everyone has a creative impulse that can be valuable to a team. The key is to invest in those impulses and bring them out whenever you can.

6 Ways to Make Self-Growth More Fun

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Can personal growth be fun? It certainly can be, but it can also be a struggle. 

When the focus is put on growing pains, people are turned off by growth opportunities. They get anxious and decide that the outcome simply isn’t worth the effort. 

Giving up isn’t a good idea, either for your personal well being or your professional life. Even though some try to keep these aspects of life separate, they tend to spill over into one another

It’s time for a fresh perspective on personal growth. To make the process not just manageable, but enjoyable:

1. Take a focused approach.

Before the fun begins, you have to narrow your focus. Thinking of personal growth holistically can be overwhelming because it comes in so many colors and approaches. For example, personal growth could encompass any of the following:

  • Becoming a more productive person
  • Building “hard” skills, like software development
  • Gaining “soft” skills, such as empathy
  • Kicking bad habits
  • Enhancing your physical body through exercise
  • Eating better
  • Pursuing your passions
  • Growing spiritually 

Chances are, you want to improve yourself in more than one of those ways. But in order to make the growth process enjoyable, you need to focus. Multitasking will not be effective: You’ll spread yourself too thin, and your growth won’t be as substantial.  

With that said, focusing doesn’t mean saying “no” to growth opportunities right in front of you. It’s about prioritizing what’s most important to you in your current situation. After that, look at what development processes contribute to your priorities. 

Developing a good habit, for example, may be the key to kicking a bad one. Likewise, spiritual growth could lead to mental clarity that enhances your productivity. There may be more overlap than you think. 

2. Bring a friend along on your journey.

Personal development should be about improving yourself, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Doing it with a close friend can make it more fun. Not only will you be able to build off of each other, but you’ll both enjoy it more. 

The key is choosing your partner wisely. Look for someone you trust who’s pursuing similar types of personal growth.

Then, it’s about collaboration and accountability. Start a book club together. Collaborate on a passion project. Check each other’s progress toward the goals you decide on.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whether you are on a personal growth journey with someone specific or individually, avoid comparing your growth to someone else’s. It’s better to measure yourself against past versions of yourself. 

Competing with yourself can be incredibly rewarding. Feeling like you’re better than you were yesterday is a great reason to get out of bed and work hard. 

Even when competing against yourself, avoid endzone thinking. You’re a work in progress, like everyone else. There’s no such thing as a “best” you, so don’t stress about it.

4. Get in touch with your inner child.

When it comes to personal growth, it’s important to discover things about yourself along the way. Remember how fun exploring a new subject could be as a kid?

Giving structure to your personal growth journey is good, but you need to leave room for surprises. There’s a lot of fun in self-discovery, which is a great incentive to keep growing. Expecting any one outcome from your journey is limiting and stressful. 

5. Travel to new places.

Traveling supercharges your self-growth. You can learn so much from being in another place and experiencing different cultures. 

But in order to grow from traveling, you need to interact with the people at your destination. Simply going somewhere to sit on a beach and sight-see is tourism, not true exploration. Meeting new people is a constructive way to challenge your perspective on life.

6. Try out new hobbies.

Hobbies are inherently personal. But don’t write off a hobby before you give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it forever; just try it. 

By testing out new hobbies, you flesh out your sense of self. Just as importantly, you grow in your understanding of the community that engages in the hobby. 

Say you’re a sports fan. Role-playing games may not seem like a natural progression, but who knows? Participating in them could give you a better sense of team dynamics, which can deepen your appreciation of physical sports. 

Engaging in new hobbies is an excellent growth strategy to cross with the second, collaboration. Trying something new together is both less intimidating and tends to produce faster growth. 

Personal growth shouldn’t be something you dread. Don’t overemphasize the difficulties. In fact, if you think about self-development the right way, it can be the most fun thing you do all day. 

How to Build a Relaxing Office Environment on a Budget

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Your staff may be stellar. You may be the best at what you do. But neither necessarily mean your clients are coming away happy.

One of the easiest ways to soup up your client experience? Sprucing up your office space.

The environment you create sets the tone for how clients interact with your business. A winning office can make customers excited to come in, reduce complaints, and build customer loyalty. 

You want your customers to feel comfortable and calm. This is especially true if you’re in a line of work that makes people nervous: law firms and doctors offices, pay attention.

The good news is, you don’t need a full renovation or an interior designer to make your office a more welcoming place. Take a look at the following ways to create a relaxing environment without breaking the bank:

1. Declutter the office.

In an office, things will pile up. And if you just keep stuffing things in nooks and crannies, you’re only creating a bigger problem for the future. 

Take care of clutter by dedicating time to clean up the office. Be thorough: When you work in the same space consistently, it’s easy to miss things that customers are sure to notice. Mess can make them feel uncomfortable at best and claustrophobic at worst. 

Once you’ve gotten rid of things that you don’t need, reorganize your office to give it a full reset. It’s an opportunity to try something new instead of sticking to the status quo. In doing so, you create space both physically and mentally for your customers.

2. Change your color palette.

Have you ever considered how much color impacts the way clients experience your office? It’s a big deal. 

You can cultivate a relaxed mood in your office with earthy colors. Try a warm white accented with green and natural-looking wood. If you rely on warm colors, like reds and oranges, you’ll create a more cozy/sleepy vibe. If you use dim colors, your space might feel depressing. 

Aside from painting, you can freshen up your office’s colors by:

  • Bringing in plants that complement your furniture
  • Allowing as much natural light into the office space as possible
  • Putting art on the walls that depict serene, earthy scenes
  • Rolling out soft, neutral rugs
  • Replacing old drapes with flowing, semi-transparent curtains

A relaxed atmosphere keeps people calm yet alert enough for an office. It’s like what people experience when they are in nature. 

3. Check the temperature.

It’s easy to forget how much of a difference adjusting your thermostat even a few degrees can make. With that said, temperature can be a tough thing to get right in an office.

Everyone will have a different opinion about how warm or cold it should be. Employees may want control, but customers should also have a say. Find a happy medium: Maybe your chilly team member can put on a sweater, if it means setting the thermostat where customers want it. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust your thermostat frequently. If someone comes in shivering, turn the heat up a notch. And if they start sweating, switch it right back down.  

4. Provide snack options. 

Snacks are delicious, but they also lend a certain ambiance to an office space. Even if they aren’t hungry when they come in your door, customers like to know they have options. Munching on a cookie or apple can be soothing while they wait. 

Speaking of, it’s important to have a variety of snack options. Leave out some healthy options, but don’t be afraid to squeeze in salty and sweet snacks as well. Particularly if appointments run long, customers will be grateful for the bite. 

5. Don’t forget a good demeanor. 

Your office environment includes the people in it. Don’t forget to smile and maintain a positive demeanor.

Some employees are naturally gifted at making people feel welcome. Those who don’t may need to work on their relationship-building skills. Add people with a good aura to a relaxed environment, and you’ll have a winning combination.

Just because you don’t have a budget to completely change your office space doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Do what you can right now, and save the bigger changes for when you have a little more play in your budget. 

6 Team Reads That Are Perfect for COVID-19

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Finding time to read is tough. One silver lining of COVID-19 is that many of us are spending more time at home — the perfect excuse to crack a book. 

Between that and remote work’s cultural challenges, an office book club might be just what your team needs right now. Reading a book together is both a bonding opportunity and a recipe for team-wide continuing education. 

With all the books out there, though, settling on one can be overwhelming. Narrow it down by suggesting the following options to your team:

1. “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Live in a Busy World” by Cal Newport 

In a world of constant updates and notifications, it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why a book like “Digital Minimalism” is so important: Not only does it bring awareness to digital time-wasters, but it suggests strategies for breaking free from them. 

Newport goes beyond the typical tech-detox advice. Instead, he argues for a complete rethinking of how we interact with digital technology. Especially on a remote team, it’s a topic worth talking about. 

Distractions destroy productivity. Use this read to get your team talking about what a more focused digital life might look like for each of them. 

2. “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

For good reason, leaders are taking a hard look right now at racial biases and tensions that might be affecting their team. Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” is an unapologetic look at how and why those things often get swept under the rug. 

DiAngelo comes from the world of corporate diversity programs. Throughout her book, she refers to that experience when explaining why white people struggle to talk about racism.

Your team needs to read things that challenge and inspire them. Use “White Fragility” as a jumping-off point for a heart-to-heart chat about how inclusive your company really is. Having a book to refer to can open space for people to acknowledge others’ experiences and right wrongs.

3. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

At times, the pandemic can feel positively apocalyptic. Why not lean into that? Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” offers a lot of parallels.

A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, “Station Eleven” tells the story of a traveling group of performers twenty years after a devastating flu pandemic destroys the world. After making their home in an abandoned airport, the group tries to reconnect with what’s left of humanity. 

“Station Eleven” bucks the myth that only nonfiction books are valuable team reads. In fact, reading fiction can sharpen employees’ emotional intelligence and creativity. Plus, they tend to be engaging, fast reads. 

4. “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” by Charlamagne Tha God 

For a great book about mental health, look no further than “Shook One.” This memoir by Charlamagne Tha God traces his emotional challenges as an adult, as well as his success in media, to the traumas he experienced as a child. 

To add depth to Charlamagne Tha God’s story, the book also includes insights from Dr. Ish Major, a clinical psychologist. These sections provide a professional edge and tips for managing anxiety to the radio star’s story. 

Why read this one with your team? Because mental illness is still stigmatized in many workplaces. Maybe it could encourage someone on your team to ask for help in these trying times. 

5. “Acting with Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe” by Deborah Gruenfeld 

COVID-19 has made many of us feel powerless. Fight that sense on your team by reading Deborah Gruenfeld’s “Acting With Power.” Gruenfeld manages to be radically positive in a way that’s authentic and original. 

The best part about Gruenfeld’s book is that it’s steeped in her own research. By analyzing the techniques of actors, she redefines personal power as the part you play in someone else’s story. “Acting With Power” encourages the meek to embrace their power by adopting an actor’s mindset.

6. “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker 

At risk of repeating a worn-out joke, this book will put you to sleep in all the right ways. That’s because many of us could benefit from getting some more sleep. 

Sleep is one of the most underestimated and least understood parts of life, but it’s also one of the most important. In “Why We Sleep,” Walker explores the things that sleep does for our bodies and our brains. After reading it, you’ll definitely think twice before staying up past a reasonable bedtime. 

These books touch on different concerns and topics. Put your team’s heads together, and decide what you need most right now. And if the one you’re interested in isn’t chosen, remember: There’s always another read down the road. 

How to Make Group Counseling Work for Your Team

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Even the strongest team sometimes hits a rocky patch. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, but rather that a group conversation is in order.

Group activities are critical for whole-team wellness. If group dynamics are an issue, however, a basketball game isn’t going to solve them. Group counseling may be just the ticket to get things back on track.  

Similar to individual talk therapy, group counseling involves unpacking things together in order to create space to grow. The beauty of this approach is that it can be used regardless of the team’s challenges. 

But you can’t simply sit everyone down and hope they figure it out. To make group counseling work on your team:

1. Discuss why you’re doing it.

The word “counseling” can be scary. Don’t blindside members of your team. When people don’t know why they’re being asked to engage in group counseling, they may approach it with apathy or even hostility. 

To create a sense of safety, give your team an honest “why.” Although there’s no wrong reason to invest in group counseling, common reasons for doing so include:

  • Resolving tensions that have been building on the team
  • Promoting harmony through stronger communication
  • Building a stronger sense of community in the office
  • Giving team members tools for conflict resolution
  • Ensuring a new hire gets a great team experience

2. Destigmatize counseling.

Unfortunately, mental health services are still stigmatized in some circles. Things are changing, but years of assumptions are difficult to break. And those assumptions can lead employees to resist the idea of group counseling.

Do your best to normalize the concept of counseling. If you go to therapy yourself, that would be a good time to bring it up. If not, mention a few celebrities or other cultural icons who’ve benefited from it. 

Make clear, too, that group counseling isn’t designed to diagnose anyone with any disorder. Nobody is going to walk away with a prescription or in a white coat. The goal is merely to promote harmony on the team. 

3. Be clear about who needs to be there. 

A group counseling session is similar to any other team meeting in at least one way: If someone doesn’t need to be there, then they shouldn’t be. You’ll want to limit attendance to the individuals who need it. 

If it’s just the sales team that is struggling to get along, don’t add marketers into the mix. If just three salespeople seem to be at odds with each other, you might not even need the whole sales staff. 

What if multiple departments could use counseling? Start with the most interested one. Let them show the rest how productive group counseling can be. 

4. Get a professional to facilitate.

Counseling is a skill. It may look easy, but that’s because facilitators spend years practicing it. 

Because many group counseling sessions look like any other conversation, business leaders are sometimes tempted to take it into their own hands. But having a certified counselor lead the session both ensures a better outcome and takes pressure off the leader. 

Look for a counselor with a Master’s in the field and an active license. As a neutral party, that person can come into the situation without the baggage that employees and managers have.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask for referrals. Chances are, someone in your entrepreneurial network has tried team counseling. 

5. Consider the when and the where.

Part of getting everyone on the same page involves scheduling. Before choosing when and where to hold the group counseling session, ask yourself:

  • Will the session happen during or outside of regular work hours?
  • What day of the week works best for everyone? Are weekends an option?
  • Will you use the office space or go to a more neutral location? 
  • How long should the session last?
  • Might a follow-up session be needed?

If someone on the team isn’t comfortable with a certain time or place, listen to them. It’s vital that everyone involved is ready to open up. 

6. Decide what to do afterward.

After the group counseling session, bring everyone back to discuss their experience. Assessing how helpful the session was will help you decide whether to schedule a second one. 

There’s nothing wrong with a one-off counseling session. If the team found it valuable, however, it might be worth setting up a monthly or quarterly conversation. If budget is an issue, consider attaching an annual session to a team development day.

Group counseling can help not just struggling teams, but also thriving ones. Simply being more comfortable around your co-workers is reason enough. When in doubt, talk it out. 

6 Remote Volunteering Opportunities That Are Perfect for the Pandemic

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Volunteering doesn’t just do good for the world; it’s also good for a team. 

Giving back reminds everyone to be grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. It also gives them something to talk about other than work. Volunteering is a great way to bring a team together around a shared purpose.

Over the last few months, teams have had to find new ways to bond. No longer can they eat lunch together, work side-by-side, or meet up for an after-work happy hour. 

Unfortunately, the same goes for volunteering opportunities: You can’t simply waltz into a children’s hospital to read to kids during the pandemic. But if your team wants to help, there are still plenty of ways to do it. 

Giving Back From Afar

If you’re willing to get creative, you’ll see that there are almost as many opportunities to volunteer remotely as their are in-person:

1. BeMyEyes: Lend your sight to people with visual impairments.

As long as your team members have their eyesight, they can volunteer for BeMyEyes. People with vision impairments use BeMyEyes to check expiration dates, read instructions, look for lost items, and more.

Start by downloading the BeMyEyes app. Once you’re matched with a user who needs to see something, you’ll receive a video call. All you have to do is describe what you see on the screen in order to help them out. From the comfort of your own home, you can join over 3.8 million volunteers in giving a gift it’s entirely too easy to take for granted. 

2. Amnesty Decoders: Dig into international human rights violations.

With easy access and tons of opportunities, Amnesty Decoders makes it easy to become a digital activist and do meaningful human rights work. To get to work, all you need is internet access and a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

Amnesty Decoder volunteers help researchers sift through large data banks of social media messages, images, video, and other documents for evidence of human rights abuses. Decoders help researchers avoid information overload so they can focus on the root issue. 

Since its release in June 2016, Amnesty Decoders has tackled seven projects for the betterment of humanity, including digitizing a large data bank of oil spill investigation reports, identifying misogynistic social media content targeted at female Indian politicians, and more. 

3. Crisis Text Line: Support people experiencing mental health crises.

If you’ve never experienced a mental health crisis before COVID-19, odds are that you have a better sense of how difficult they can be. Turn that into positive energy by volunteering on behalf of Crisis Text Line. 

Remember, a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean someone is thinking about ending their life. In many cases, it means that someone simply needs an attentive ear to listen to their challenges. Just be prepared to talk about tough topics, including abuse, anxiety, suicide, loneliness, bullying, and self-harm. 

With just a four-hour-per-week commitment and free training — valued at over $1,000 per volunteer — you can change someone’s life. You’ll become a more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding person, not to mention learn strategies for addressing your own mental health needs. 

4. Project Gutenberg: Transcribe print literature into digital documents.

Project Gutenberg is a free digital library with more than 60,000 e-books and cultural works. To improve access to information around the world, Project Gutenberg has a range of volunteer opportunities available:

  • Proofread an e-book.

Joining as a member of the Distributed Proofreaders team means that you can proofread as few or as many pages as you want. That way, readers don’t have to deal with transcription errors. 

  • Procure eligible paper books.

Producing new e-books for the site means getting a hold of paper books with expired copyrights. Because most content published before 1923 is no longer under copyright, the site mostly contains older works of literature. 

  • Burn CDs and DVDs for people without internet access. 

Even within the U.S., not everyone has access to the internet. Share information and materials with those who otherwise might not have it. 

5. Ancestry World Archives Project: Build a publicly accessible genealogy database.

Genealogy sites like Ancestry are not only fun and sentimental, helping people find long lost relatives and learn about their family’s history, but they also benefit society. Family history data can be used by detectives to solve crimes, while medical experts can leverage it to understand a person’s predispositions to certain diseases. 

Ancestry’s World Archives Project houses free searchable records gathered from historical documents. Volunteers review scanned documents and make the material searchable by typing out its contents. They not only get a firsthand look at historical documents, but they may also be eligible for discounts on Ancestry’s premium services.

6. CareerVillage: Answer students’ career questions and share work experiences.

Landing a job is all about who you know. Unfortunately, a lot of talented students don’t have industry connections. Worse, some of them don’t even know what working in the field is like.

CareerVillage volunteers give promising students that leg up. Ranging in intensity from full-on mentorship to casual question-answering, volunteering opportunities come with no specific commitment or training requirements. CareerVillage’s network of volunteers advise more than 4 million learners, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Just because teams have to work together differently during the pandemic does not mean that they can’t still come together to do good. Try it: There’s never been a better time to get involved. 

7 Questions to Ask Before Accepting Drop-Ins During COVID-19

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When you run an appointment-based business, scheduling clients beforehand is key to your efficiency. At the same time, you’ll inevitably have to contend with drop-ins. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, accepting drop-ins had its pros and cons. They may have netted you more business, but they might also have upset your staff. It was a question of how drastically drop-ins affected your efficiency. 

Now, however, drop-ins are also an issue of safety. Even if your state’s prohibitions have been relaxed and everyone is wearing protective equipment, drop-ins could still pose a danger. Not only can they make social distancing more difficult, but they increase the chances that you’ll accidentally interact with someone who’s sick. That can make customers feel uncomfortable, whether they tell you or not. 

These days, you can’t decide on a whim whether or not to allow drop-ins. There’s a lot more to consider than your bottom line. To choose, ask yourself the following questions: 

1. What are the conditions in my community?

In the U.S., the federal government’s approach to managing COVID-19 has been to put state and local governments in charge. So, before deciding whether or not to accept drop-ins, be sure you consider the conditions in your city and state.

There are two parts to this: laws and cases. First, you’ll want to look into what’s allowed in your community. Are there occupancy restrictions you might run afoul of? Must everyone wear masks in public places?

The second piece of the puzzle is active cases. Rather than checking any one day, look at trends for the truest picture of conditions on the ground. Across the last three days, week, and month, have cases generally been rising or falling? 

2. How much space do I have?

Your operating capacity has to factor into your decision. Even if you’re nowhere close to fire-code limits, you may not have enough room for people to stay 6 feet apart. 

If that’s the case, it’s important to serve the people who booked an appointment first. Customers will feel cheated if they’re denied entry because someone off the street stole their time slot. 

The larger your space, the more likely it is you’ll have room for drop-ins. If you’re working in cramped quarters, don’t take the risk. 

3. How much do I rely on drop-ins?

For some companies, denying drop-ins is no big deal. If your customers are religious about making appointments, there’s no reason to take the risk of letting random people in. 

If you’ve been keeping track of your traffic, you can get a good idea of how many drop-ins you’ve had in the past. Compare that with data from your scheduling software. Determine what proportion of your business comes from each source. 

What if your customers are mostly drop-ins? You may need to encourage more people to use your scheduling software. Offering a slight discount for booking online is a good way to do it. 

4. How much do my clients value a drop-in option?

Some clients are more likely to drop-in than others. Know your regulars, but realize that things may change due to the pandemic.

In order to gauge your clients’ feelings, send out a survey. Offer a gift card to encourage responses. In your survey, ask about:

  • How frequently they plan to come in during the pandemic
  • How concerned they are about safety
  • Whether they’re able to make appointments using your software
  • How much they care about flexibility

Surveys are great for at-a-glance feedback, but you may want to get your top clients on the phone. Set up feedback calls to get more detailed insights. Your customers are critical to your business, so they should have a say. 

5. Do I have a drop-in policy?

If your company already has a drop-in policy in place, take a moment to review it. It may be time to start enforcing it. What if you haven’t set guidelines on drop-ins? Now is the time to create them. 

Drop-in rules run the gamut. Some companies accept them unconditionally, while others forbid them entirely; most fall somewhere in between. 

An “in between” answer might be a waitlist. That way, if someone cancels an appointment, a drop-in customer could  take their slot. 

Figure out how much time drop-ins will have to wait if they show up.  Set expectations with a sign on your door. You don’t want to surprise people with an hour-long wait. 

6. How will I publicize my policy?

If you have a drop-in policy, it’s important that customers can find it. A sign on your door isn’t sufficient because some of your customers likely drive dozens of miles to do business with you.

Be sure to post your drop-in policy online. Add it to your social media sites. Consider using a business SMS service to share it with your most loyal customers. Proactively informing people of your policy doesn’t take much time, and it’s important for a sticky customer experience.  

7. Should I do it immediately?

Just as states are reopening in phases, so are many companies. It’s up to you: You could choose to disallow drop-ins until cases drop to a certain level, or until you can look deeper into your foot traffic. 

For financial and personal reasons, you probably want to get back to normal as soon as possible. The trouble is, throwing caution to the wind could make things worse than they already are. It may not seem like a big deal, but how you handle drop-ins could have big consequences for your company.

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