Retail Reopening: What Does it Mean to be a Clean Facility Now?
Over the last 4 months, the public has suddenly become more aware than ever before about the work done by the cleaning industry. Not only are they recognizing the (often unseen) efforts and importance of cleaning workers, they are highly aware of the cleanliness of a facility and prioritizing frequenting clean businesses. For those who own, manage, operate, or clean retail facilities, this means extra scrutiny and having to ask yourself the question, 'what does it mean to be a clean facility now?' By this point, all 50 states are in some stage of reopening. But before you reopen your retail store, make sure you recognize the importance of rebuilding trust with staff and customers through both cleaning and communication. By educating yourself and making a few changes to your cleaning regimen, your business can reopen safely and successfully.
Do Your Research
Before reopening your business, make sure it is safe to do so in your area. CNN has compiled an easy-to-search list of which reopening phase each state is currently in. After determining you can legally reopen your business, you'll need to update your cleaning plan to do so safely. You can find the CDC's steps to safely reopen public spaces here. You may already be following many of these guidelines, while some may require you to make major changes to your cleaning protocols.
Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Executable Cleaning
Something professional cleaners know that retail managers may not is that proper germ removal actually requires a two-step process of both cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is the process of removing soil and particulate, while disinfection is the process of killing pathogens. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have been doing an incomplete process of disinfection. Over-using harsh chemicals such as bleach, and assuming those chemicals will kill and remove any threat of pathogen spread and magically create a safe environment. However, you cannot disinfect a dirty surface. In many cases, correct, thorough, and scientifically based cleaning can reduce the need for harsh disinfectants.
There is a myth that you can poison your way to safety. In this current culture of fear and uncertainty it's easy to believe that to be the right course of action. But what is really needed are good, thoughtful, executable cleaning strategies.
Switch to Science
While COVID-19 has disrupted every industry, the silver lining is that now there is an opportunity to make a conscious shift to science-based cleaning strategies. For those who are used to cleaning with a mop and bucket, the term 'science-based cleaning' may sound overly complicated and time consuming. In reality, science-based cleaning can make cleaning easier and more efficient. When you approach cleaning as a science, you are able to measure cleanliness, collect meaningful data, and prove results to stakeholders, staff, and customers. For example, cleaners using an ATP device, which measures Adenosine Triphosphate, can identify germ hotspots and take extra measures to address those areas. When combined with innovative cleaning equipment designed for removal, cleaners can both remove unwanted microbes and prove they have done so.
Communicate with Staff
Once you've determined you can reopen your retail store and have created a cleaning plan for reopening, the next - and arguably most important step - is to communicate with your staff. Ultimately, your entire plan will be flawed if your employees aren't onboard and don't understand the mission change. The first step in successful change management is explaining the why. Explain to your employees the importance now, more than ever, of science-based, hygienic cleaning and that the goal is to keep them and your customers safe. Provide them with proper training so they feel empowered to complete their tasks to the best of their ability. And be sure to reward the hard work and dedication of a staff that is going above and beyond their previous duties. My philosophy all comes down to communication, starting with tight internal communication. Mission alignment internally makes external communication easy, and your customers will feel the impact.
Communicate with Customers
Reopening your retail store doesn't mean a return to normal, but an acceptance of a 'new normal.' Realize that this new normal will mean a change in consumer behavior. The moment people walk into your store, they'll be looking for signs of cleanliness. Make sure your entryway reflects the cleaning standards you have created, and your customers expect. Customers will be less likely to use the restroom, but make sure additional cleaning extends to those areas as well. They will also be more wary about what they touch and how close they get to salespeople and cashiers. Show your customers that you are taking precautions by providing PPE, hand sanitizer, and increased cleaning throughout the day to restore their confidence. Your customers will notice if you aren't doing these things and will not return to your store if they don't feel safe shopping there.
Be Prepared to Adapt
The final step to reopening is being prepared to adapt. Recognize that the situation you and all retailers are in is fluid and constantly changing. But if you stay informed and educated, don't fall into old bad habits, and maintain open lines of communication, your retail business can reopen and remain open.
Learn more about ATP testing with Allen Randolph and Sergei Lepeshinski from Hygenia on the Coming Clean Podcast.
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