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What Should Your Office’s PPE Policy Be?

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As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, offices everywhere are reopening. Work has to get done. With that said, there’s no reason to subject your staff or customers to unnecessary risks. 

There are many things to consider when reopening your business. You must reorganize the office to allow employees to work at a safe distance. You need to be vigilant about cleaning. You also need to adjust the way customers interact with your business by restricting things like drop-in appointments. 

The biggest challenge, however, might be effectively utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the nature of your business, masks, gloves, and employee-customer barriers may be necessary.

Not sure where to start? To figure out your next steps, take a look through the following questions:

1. Do I need a PPE policy?

Yes, you do. COVID-19 is contagious, and you have a responsibility to keep your customers and employees safe. That starts with a clear policy on PPE usage. 

Policies provide a level of accountability that recommendations can’t. A cancellation policy for appointments can lower no-show rates more than “soft” guidelines ever could, for example.

The same is true when it comes to wearing protective equipment. Don’t leave something so important up to chance or choice.

2. How common is COVID-19 in my area?

No matter where your business is located, having a PPE policy is worthwhile. With that said, it’s important to build yours around conditions on the ground. 

More drastic types of PPE, such as face shields, should be used in hotspots. If you’re in a place where the coronavirus is under control, regular cloth masks may be plenty.

The bottom line is, you can’t throw caution to the wind. But you shouldn’t go whole-hog if there are only a few cases in your country. 

3. How will PPE affect productivity?

There’s an argument to be made that PPE can be distracting. But when people use it long enough, it becomes the norm. The real productivity drain, in fact, comes from anxiety caused by a sense of unease at work. From that perspective, wearing PPE might actually help employees be more productive at a time like this. 

What if employees claim their PPE is getting in the way? Look for workarounds. Perhaps someone who finds a face covering to be distracting would be better off working at home. Simply getting him or her a softer mask could solve the issue. 

4. How will I get employees to comply?

When introducing new policies, there’s always a question about how workers will respond. If they don’t buy into your plan, then it isn’t going to be effective. The key is to involve your team in crafting the policy.

Solicit their input when putting together your PPE policy. Keep them in the loop about your decisions related to how and when to re-open the office. Transparency boosts engagement and encourages compliance. 

Most importantly, listen to your employees’ concerns about returning to work. Take steps they suggest to make everyone feel more comfortable. 

5. What should I provide?

According to OSHA, employers must provide the PPE necessary for employees to do their jobs safely. That guideline, however, has a lot of room for interpretation. Arguably, no customer-facing job is perfectly safe right now. 

The basic piece of equipment is a face mask. While employees may opt to bring their own, it’s important to provide backups if necessary. Keeping gloves and hand sanitizer stocked and accessible is also a good idea. 

If your employees interact intimately with customers, plexiglass shields should be provided. At high-risk companies, such as nursing homes and doctor’s offices, full-body protective coverings may be necessary as well. 

6. What consequences should I impose?

The toughest part of creating a PPE policy is figuring out what to do if employees break it. Not every infraction is intentional, and not all sanctions work with all employees. 

What will you do if someone forgets their PPE on accident? What if it slips off in the course of their work? And what if the same team member keeps violating your policy?

For first-time accidents, a verbal warning is plenty. Perhaps repeat offenders are required to work from home for a certain length of time. Intentional offenses should be punished more seriously.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last. It’s probably safe to say, however, that the virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Using PPE at work may become the “new normal.” Design your policy thoughtfully, and get buy in across your team: You may need it for the long haul.

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.

Leading With Empathy From Home

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10 Deliberate Sacrifices You Must Make if You Want to be Successful

As you’re all well aware, the world is going through a pandemic. As a result, people are anxious, frightened, and suffering. And, they’re looking for answers on how this crisis is affecting them and when things can go back to “normal.” Here are a few suggestions about leading with empathy from home. Recently, I returned to the quote listed below.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  — Leo Buscaglia

While you can’t address all of their concerns, as a leader, you can at least be empathetic with your team. Even before COVID-19, empathy was often seen as one of the most important leadership skills to possess. After all, empathy is in our DNA and can create a more loyal, engaged, and productive. Empathy can also increase happiness, teach presence, and foster innovation collaboration.

However, empathy is more important than ever before. But, how can you be there for your team when this virus has forced you to be apart? Well, you can fix that problem by leading with empathy from home using the following ten techniques.

1. Support your team’s emotional and mental health.

I don’t think that I need to pull up any figures that highlight just how stressed and anxious everyone is right now. With that in mind, you don’t want to put any additional emotional or mental strain on your team. So, ditch the “tough love” approach and offer your support during this trying time. Social support has been found as the best way to alleviate stress.

How can you be supportive right now? The most obvious place to start is merely letting your team members know that you are there from them. Make it known that they can reach out to if they need to discuss any issues — even if it’s not work-related. In a way, this kind of like having a virtual open-door policy.

You should also schedule frequent check-ins with them to see how they’re doing. If they’re taking care of family members or busy homeschooling their children, you may even want to suggest that they take some time off. Most importantly, if you notice signs of distress, please have them contact outside sources like a support group, crisis outline, or mental healthcare professional.

2. Ease-up on rigid schedules.

Not that long ago, having a regimented schedule was one of the drawbacks regarding flexible schedules. Right now, though, that doesn’t matter.

Yes, for many businesses, they still need their team to be accountable and meet deadlines. But, they can still achieve these without putting in a specific set of working hours each day. As long as they’re getting stuff done, it doesn’t matter when they’re working or for how long.

In the past, studies have found that flexible schedules leade to happier and more productive employees. And, considering that they currently have other priorities, like taking care of themselves and loved ones, this is the best gift you can give them. And, they will reward by continuing to deliver quality work.

3. Rethink how you ask questions and listen.

Actively listen to your team. While that may sound simple, it’s going to take some effort. For instance, listening means giving the other person 100% percent of your attention when they’re conversing with you via Zoom, the phone, email, or Slack. Listening also involves making yourself as available as possible without wearing yourself out — I suggest sharing your calendar with your team so that they can see when you’re free to chat.

Additionally, you also need to ask empathy-building questions, like:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s distracting you?
  • How can I support you?

If they respond with a short answer, like “fine” or “nothing,” don’t accept that. Be honest with your team, and encourage them to open up so that you can get to the root problem.

4. Model healthy work habits.

Although you need to be available for your people, the truth is you also need a break. So, set regular “business hours” and lay down some guidelines. For example, suggest that there’s no work-related contact after work hours or during the weekend.

And, even though you can’t go out, let your team know how you’re spending your downtime. Maybe share with them a project you’re doing around your home or a new hobby you picked-up. And encourage them to let you and the rest of the team know how they’re enjoying their downtime.

5. Train yourself to be more patient.

Whether if everyone is adjusting to working from home or meeting virtually, expect some growing pains. We’re all trying to adjust and get through this together. And, one way to handle this is by training yourself to be more patient.

Personally, this is something that I’m still working on. And, according to studies, it depends on your personality, history, and situation. But, it is possible by:

  • Identifying when you’re impatient and what emotion you’re feeling.
  • Reframing how you think about the situation.
  • Thinking with purpose in mind.

6. Normalize the new normal.

If you’ve ever sought advice about effectively working from home, you were probably told to get dressed and set up shop in a quiet, dedicated workspace. Both suggestions are correct in working at-home procedures. But, that was a different time and place.

Take that home office you’ve carefully set up. It’s now being shared by your spouse for their work stuff and likely even your kids while they are on the “learning virtually” track. At this time, because of the non-virtual sharing — your team might have to use the kitchen table to work, or even meet on a video chat. Don’t chastise them for choices that they have to make that may be totally out of their control. Space is limited, and they need to work whenever they can.

Problematic choices have to be made right now — even down to getting dressed. Obviously, if a team member is on camera they’ll be wearing clothes, but let it slide if they’re in sweats or jeans and a T-shirt. The last thing that should be on their minds is getting all dressed up like they would if they were in the office.

7. Educate your team.

There are several ways you can do this. Pass along information on how your team can stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. Advice from the CDC and WHO are reliable sources for this. You could also let them know what your insurance plans do and do not cover.

What’s more, keep them up-to-date on your business and the industry so that they’re not left out in the cold. And, while you’re at it, provide them with resources on how they can be more focused while working from home.

8. Give them something to look forward to.

It’s impossible to make too many plans right now. But, you can still give your team things to look forward to besides work. You could start a virtual book club or host a number of events remotely. Ideas could be a happy hour, movie night, or online game tournament. Another idea could be sending them a care package containing handwritten notes, healthy snacks, or items that could make them more productive at home, such as headphones or a standing desk.

9. Meet more frequently.

Yes. Meetings are usually dreaded because they are boring, pointless, and distracting. But, right now, connecting with others is crucial — particularly for your team members who live alone.

Schedule more meetings than you normally would, like a brief 10-minute daily huddle or weekly progress meeting. Besides offering your team to interact with others, it also gives you more of a chance to monitor how they’re doing with their work and life.

Just remember to follow some basic virtual meeting etiquette guidelines. These include picking the right technology, speaking clearly and concisely, not multitasking, and muting your mic when not speaking.

10. Help others.

Finally, lend a helping hand to your team. If you have the means, this could be financially assisting them. But, you could also purchase an app like Calm or Downward Dog to help them relax.

You could also ask each person how, as a team, you can help each other. Maybe you could purchase gift cards to local businesses, put together with care packages for health care workers, or volunteer virtually.

Helping others isn’t just a welcome distraction. It gives back to the community, builds camaraderie, and puts you and your team in a better mood.

What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life?

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To-Do List

Regardless of whether you’re looking to climb your way up the corporate ladder or grow your business, we need to have priorities for our professional life. Without establishing your priorities, we won’t be as effective at our jobs or meet goals and deadlines. Priorities are also needed to protect resources like time and money. Essential to business and personal growth — are priorities.

But, you already knew that, right?

Even if you are aware of the importance of priorities, what are the main ones for you to focus on? Well, here are six main priorities that are required if you want to thrive in your business life.

Determining your “big three.”

Here’s an experiment. Write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month. I have no doubt that it’s quite the list. And, it probably contains several high priority items. But, in reality, this list could be drastically trimmed down.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t trim down my list; it isn’t possible because everything on my list is a top priority.”

“If you review your list carefully, item by item, you will find that only three items on your entire list account for 90% of your value to your business,” writes Brian Tracy. So, how can you determine your “big three”? “Make a list of ALL your work tasks and responsibilities, from the first day of the month to the last day, and throughout the year,” suggests Tracy. “Then answer these three magic questions.”

The first question would be, “If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?” Because it’s so important, it will probably stand out from the rest of the items on your list. If you’re uncertain, it should be the one thing that will have the most significant impact on your business or career.

The second would is, “If I could only do two things on this list, all day long, what would be the second activity that would make the greatest contribution to my business?” These items should also jump out at you. However, they may not seem as apparent at first.

The third question is, “If I could only do three things on this list, all day long, what would be the third activity that would contribute the most value to my business?” As a general rule of thumb, only focus on completing three tasks for the day. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to accomplish any more than that.

Enhancing your time management skills.

Time management should never be overlooked. Sure. It’s nice to have some downtime. But, managing your time is a surefire way to improve your business life.

The most obvious reason is that you’ll be able to achieve more in less time. Because you’re more productive, you’re ready to meet deadlines. You will also earn the reputation of someone who is never late and is reliable. I don’t know about you. But, that is someone that I would want to business with or retain if I were a business owner.

Additionally, time management can be beneficial to your health. Since you have the time to attend to your well-being and aren’t working excessive hours, you’re less stressed. You’re also able to find time to exercise, make healthy meals, meditate, or get enough sleep. And, because you aren’t behind on your work, you’re not as anxious.

To get you on the right path, here are the necessary time management skills that you should develop:

  • Work the hours that best suit you.
  • Keep a time log.
  • Focus only on what you do best.
  • Implement the “two-minute” rule.
  • Break your activities down into simple problems.
  • Don’t fall into the “urgency” trap.
  • Schedule “me” time.
  • Cluster similar tasks.
  • Identify and eliminate distractions.
  • Arm yourself with the right tools.

Feeling in-balance.

Work-life is often a perk that employees demand. Some studies have previously found that this was a top priority for demographics like millennials. But, it’s also top of mind for small business owners.

It’s easy to understand why. Even if you’re a workaholic and love what you do professionally, you also need time away from work.

The reasons vary from person-to-person. But, mainly when you don’t let work bleed into your personal life, you have a chance to rest and recharge. You can also spend time doing things that are truly important to you. As a result, when you return to work, you’ll be more focused and rejuvenated enough to persevere.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Thanks to technology, we’re expected to be on-call 24/7/365. Sometimes you need to be kept in the loop, especially when you have to address an emergency.

Some ways that this is possible is by maximizing your time at work, stop overcommitting, and not bringing work at home. You should also establish boundaries. For example, if you’re spending time with friends or family on a Saturday night, then don’t respond to any work-related correspondence.

Innovating, learning, and growing.

If you want to advance your career and stay ahead of your competitors, then innovating, learning, and growing must be the main priority for you professionally.

For example, you should always be brainstorming ways to improve a product, service, or process. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. But, you should be on the lookout for ways to update or upgrade these areas. It may make you more efficient and stand out from the pack.

What’s more, you should seek out opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. As an example, if you were to enhance your skillset, you would be more proficient at your job. Not only will this make you more valuable, but it will also help you work smarter and not harder.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and external factors that may influence you professionally. Again, besides making you more useful, this will also help you adept.

And you should also find ways to grow. For instance, you may want to improve your communication skills by taking a public speaking class. You can use this new talent to make your meetings more effective. You could also apply to seek out speaking engagements to help you become an authority figure.

Getting to know the people in your neighborhood.

You don’t have to get to know everyone in your neighborhood — unless you want to. But, when you’re surrounded by kids, sometimes you have to do things like watch the 50th anniversary special of Sesame Street. I’m not complaining. But, I do have this song stuck in my head now.

Anyway, your neighborhood, when it comes to your business life, would be your business partner, employees, customers, or investors. The reason? Well, it will help foster a more positive and collaborative work environment. You’ll also be able to ease the pain points of your customers. And, if you need funding, you’ll know which investors to connect with.

Growing your network.

Whether if you do this online or in-person, growing your network is a priority that I feel many of us neglect. After all, networking is another way to improve your skillset or stay abreast of the latest trends. It can also help you find mentors, partners, or clients.

If you’re job searching, networking is a great way to mingle with potential employers or get hooked up with a referral. And, if you are self-employed, networking can be used to build your brand.

Do a little digging and find local meetups or conferences that you should attend for the upcoming year. And block out specific times in your calendar to schedule a phone with an industry expert or interact with your audience on social media.

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