As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, every day additional states, counties, and cities are announcing new stay at home orders which limits the businesses who are allowed to continue normal operations.
In this post, we offer suggestions for how to responsibly maintain operations when your business is considered essential.
What Qualifies as an Essential Service Varies by Location
The definition of an essential service varies state-by-state. Some counties and cities are also issuing their own guidelines for shelter-in-place.
Plumbers, electricians and other businesses that provide services to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and essential businesses are commonly included. But for specific details about your area, it’s important to get information directly from the government website that issued the initial “essential business” mandate.
Adapting Your Business for Essential Services
Even if your industry is included in the list of essential services, it doesn’t mean all of the services you offer are. Businesses should be prioritizing specific services that are considered essential right now, such as emergency and sanitation services.
In addition, service businesses are adding new lines of service that are essential.
Promote Existing Essential Services
If you are performing essential services and open for business, educate your customers about what services you’re still performing. For instance,
Trade and construction contractors can prioritize outdoor work or emergency services.
Heating and cooling companies can focus on air purification services while cleaning companies can offer anti-viral cleaning services.
Start a Temporary Line of Business
Businesses that are not considered essential are adding new lines of services that are.
In a comment on a post within the Official Coronavirus Discussion for Home Service Businesses Facebook group, Amy Matanich Ivey shared that her business Accu-Pressure Washing and Roof Cleaning has begun offering shopping cart sterilization services to local grocery stores.
Join the Facebook group for more tips and useful discussions among pros.
Other ideas to consider:
Reach out to new industries offering essential services. There may be a new demand for new contracts or subcontracting gigs during this time.
See what commercial, government, or industrial needs are in high-demand that you might be able to help with. For instance, adapting schools and other buildings into makeshift emergency healthcare spaces.
Put your resources to work in creative ways. For instance, don’t let you let your trucks sit idle. You can rent them out to other businesses or offer to use them for deliveries and other local services. If you’re performing volunteer services, this is free advertising for your business — something your community is likely to remember after the crisis.
How to Safely Perform an Essential Service
Businesses that are running in the middle of this crisis owe it to their customers and employees alike to carefully consider how to mitigate risk for everyone involved.
The CDC and U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration each have guidelines for businesses about how to protect employees and customers and prevent the spread of the virus. Read OSHA’s complete publication and CDC’s full guidelines.
It’s also important to inform customers about changes to how you’ll be conducting business. When customers set up a new appointment or when confirming an existing appointment, explain your new policies and what they can expect within an appointment.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Cleaning Supplies
Employees working in the field should be equipped with alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol for decontamination, gloves and face masks to limit exposure. Currently, the CDC is recommending the use of N95 respirators for healthcare professionals only.
Businesses should routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. For techs in the field, these surfaces include van or truck interiors and door handles. Surfaces should be cleaned by a list of CDC-approved disinfectants.
Screen Your Customers
Screen your customers before setting up or confirming an appointment and educate all employees on the symptoms of the coronavirus. They should be on the lookout for customers experiencing these symptoms and avoid contact.
Practice Social Distancing
Whenever possible, your team should maintain a distance of six feet from the customer. Your customers should be informed of this policy before their appointment and encouraged to maintain this distance or to stay in another room while your technician is working.
Social distancing includes employee-to-employee contact, as well. If you maintain an office, OSHA recommends increasing the physical distance between employees, staggering work hours, and discouraging workers from using each other’s phones, desks, and other equipment.
OSHA also encourages businesses to consider strategies that limit face-to-face contact with customers. Here are some strategies for home service businesses to consider:
Offer Virtual Options for Customers
Consider whether estimates or new service requests can be performed virtually through a video service such as Facetime or Skype. This can limit a team member’s need to enter a home.
Move to Paperless/Cashless Payments
Handling cash and credit cards can increase your team’s risk of exposure. Rather than swiping or keying in a credit card, you can offer payment through digital invoices. Housecall Pro can automatically send an invoice when a tech finishes a job. The platform also automatically sends receipts after the payment.
Special Considerations for High Exposure Risk Jobs
Your business may receive emergency service requests from individuals whose household has been exposed to the virus. If you choose to fulfill this service, your team moves from OSHA’s medium to high risk exposure classification and will require additional safety precautions.