Following the government’s updated guidelines, many of us are working on plans to make our places of work COVID-secure to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers. However, talking to fellow business owners it became apparent that we are concerned about what impact physical barriers and screens might have on both staff morale and the all-important customer experience within our workplaces. The distancing measures are clearly vital and must be adhered to, but there are many ways that our workspaces can be safe whilst retaining the feel of our brand.
An added pressure and concern is that most businesses don’t currently have spare cash to fork out for sleek museum-grade barrier systems, but that doesn’t mean the only other choice is plastic tape.
So what can we do as business owners?
As an interior designer, I believe that how our environment looks impacts hugely on our mood and productivity, our experiences and our overall wellbeing. I’ve compiled some creative low-cost ideas and solutions for putting the safety measures in place, whilst keeping our workspaces pleasant AND inviting places to be for employees, customers and clients;*
Queue management & one-way flow barriers
Think outside the box in terms of what you can use for barriers, both inside and out. There are other affordable options to ugly plastic hazard tape;
- Long planters full of herbs or spring flowers
- Intertwined ribbons, strong woven tapes, rope or bunting attached to posts. Go for bright rainbow colours, or stick to colour schemes reflecting your brand
- Fabric panels with eyelets in corners threaded with rope and attached to posts
- Display baskets, shelving or buckets full of items for sale
- In an urban, modern space you could use chicken wire attached to simple wooden frames to create barriers, spray paint it to add colour
- In more rustic settings like farm shops or plant nurseries use painted or sanded pallets on-end
- Perhaps make the queue barrier a fun interesting space to amuse customers while they wait, with notes of encouragement painted or stuck on the barriers (“nearly there…we promise our coffee is worth the wait”), funny sayings, quotes relating to your brand or sector, lyrics from songs, motivational words, poems…whatever would appeal to your customers or staff.
Social distancing tools
Stickers and tape on the floor to show customers where to stand in a queue, or the direction of traffic flow are really important, but need not be unsightly, and the same with signage. Everything must be clear and give good instructions, but you can inject your business personality into the safety visuals, either through customization or just being a bit creative;
- Floor stickers – use colourful stickers, customize and add your own brand/business name or logo
- Paint positions on the floor – perhaps showing different shoes (flip flops, trainers, slippers), or a set of bare footprints in different colours
- If you are marking or painting boxes on the floor for people to stand in – think about using odd shapes, speech bubbles, hexagons, something relating to your brand, for example, the outline of a house for an interiors shop
Point of sale and desk screens
Perspex “sneeze screens” are essential for keeping staff and co-workers safe, but as consumers, we are only used to seeing such screens in banks and post offices where it is a distinct barrier rather than a welcoming space. If your business is using them at the point of sale, order point or information desk, consider adding something to make them more friendly and personable;
- Customized brand stickers just in the corners will give the screens a smart lift
- Search through the many wall stickers on the market to add to the screen; so you could use kites or balloons for a children’s clothing shop, floral motifs for a garden centre or florist, quotes from literature for a book shop and so on.
- Large picture frame stickers would look great on the screen to literally frame the staff member serving. In a relaxed setting, you could use hairstyle stickers or hats to “sit” on their heads
- Paint, or use letter stickers, to add messages to the screen “Thank you for your support”, “How can I help you today?” etc
So making your workspace inviting and inclusive for both staff and customers need not be onerous or expensive. It may, however, help improve staff morale, productivity and sense of belonging, ensure customers feel welcome and safe, and make sure your business remains on-brand, looking smart, and above all a safe and happy place to be.
Author – Mary Ward
Mary Ward is a residential interior designer, her business Mary Ward Interiors is based in The Midlands, and she works UK wide. She can be found at www.marywardinteriors.co.uk https://www.instagram.com/marywardinteriors/ and https://www.facebook.com/MaryWardInteriors/
*Mary Ward Interiors accept no responsibility for the safety measures put in place by businesses. These are ideas only and anything used by business owners must be risk assessed, be in line with the health and safety regulations for that individual workplace, and must comply with the advice from the government (gov.uk), June 2020.