Businesses in New South Wales are preparing for Monday’s reopening, with tight restrictions in place.
With the NSW Premier promising more guidance on things like vaccine passports and QR codes within the next few days, businesses are still facing some uncertainty with mere days to go.
As re-opening day draws closer, what can businesses do over the weekend to make sure they’re prepared for Monday morning?
Check in with your business association
Hospitality business consultant Ken Burgin notes that keeping up with the latest information and announcements can feel like a full-time job in itself.
For those who haven’t already, he recommends business owners sign up to their relevant industry body or association, which will often collate the most important information in email updates.
Often, industry association updates will include the latest COVID-19 requirements for your industry, frequently-asked questions, and advice, as well as links to government resources.
As a general rule, email updates are also not reserved for members.
“They’re doing just a fantastic job,” Burgin says.
Make use of signs
Burgin also advises businesses to update their signage in order to clearly convey the new rules and messaging to customers as soon as they enter.
Business NSW has today released a toolkit of posters, signs and stickers for businesses to download and put up in their windows, highlighting check-in, proof of vaccine and face masks as a condition of entry.
But Burgin also points to Canva, which offers hundreds of vaccination-themed templates for use as posters, signs or social media assets.
The message businesses need to get across to their customers is one of safety, he says. It’s making it clear from the offset that they just can’t risk breaking the rules.
“Get the printer revved up, recharge your colour cartridges,” Burgin advises.
Get your staff ready
This couple of days also gives business owners the opportunity for some staff training.
That means not only making sure that everyone knows the rules when it comes to who they can serve and who they can’t, but also making a clear plan for what staff should do if they encounter confrontation.
Burgin advises going through some roleplay situations for various scenarios, allowing staff to practice what to say, and when to escalate an issue to their manager or supervisor.
“Cafe owners and all their staff, they deal with hundreds or thousands of people a week,” he says.
“They’re used to people with all their moods.”
People refusing to comply with the rules are just another kind of difficult customer, he says. The trick is simply making sure staff know what to do when they encounter them.
In the hair and beauty sector, things are a little different, with salons only able to reopen to five customers at a time, regardless of their size.
Take care of staff members’ mental health
Speaking to SmartCompany, business owner and chief executive of the Australian Hairdressing Council Sandy Chong highlights the importance of looking after employee mental health.
The five-customer cap in the hair and beauty sector has put a lot of pressure on businesses and their staff already, she says, with some practitioners booking themselves in for 12-hour days to try to meet demand.
Her own answering machine can no longer fit any more messages, she says.
Chong advises steering clear of asking staff to work such long days to accommodate clients.
Rather, she advises they treat the next two weeks as a “soft, careful reopening”, booking in only the highest-priority customers.
Otherwise employees will become physically and mentally exhausted, and fast, she says.
Chong also advises that, once a customer is all checked in, “then the words ‘COVID’ and ‘vaccinations’ should not be discussed”.
“Continually having a toxic conversation about someone’s vaccination or COVID-19 experiences, or any kind of negativity, in a conversation will just really wear them down.”
Your best efforts will (probably) do
While there are still questions left unanswered, and the threat of a $5,000 fine for businesses who do serve unvaccinated customers, on the whole Burgin believes if businesses do their best to abide by the rules they will probably be fine.
He draws a parallel with responsible service of alcohol. When those rules first came in, people didn’t know how they would enforce them.
“Now it’s just part of the scenery.”
While stressing that he is not a lawyer, he believes that if a business has all the appropriate signage, keeps records of any disagreements or altercations, and can prove they have made their best effort, he can’t see fines being handed out too readily.