Shop safe. Shop early.
That’s the mantra retailers are sharing with customers as the holiday shopping season approaches faster than Santa’s sleigh.
But keeping employees and visitors safe and merry is about to get even more complicated. Cooler weather is pushing people indoors. And we’re entering a phase where cases of coronavirus and influenza are expected to surge.
Brick-and-mortar retail stores are on the frontline of protecting their employees and customers from COVID-19 and other illnesses. How can they safely reopen for their employees and rebuild trust with consumers?
One of our EBI experts shares her strategies.
The National Retail Federation has reported its annual consumer holiday survey. 43% of holiday shoppers say they are waiting until November to start buying for the season. While 59% of survey takers say they are creating new holiday traditions by shifting more of their shopping online, there is still a need for retailers to prepare for a safe in-store experience for both employees and shoppers.
“As the holiday hiring season begins to ramp up for retailers, I’ve seen many of them broaden their candidate onboarding process to include preemptive measures such as COVID-19 testing,” says Olivia Gonzalez, Enterprise Account Manager at EBI who oversees several enterprise-caliber clients.
A comprehensive workplace safety platform can provide stores the risk mitigation structure they need while also maintaining successful operations at all locations. We outlined some of these re-opening guidelines and resources this summer with our post, “Christmas in July: Return to Work Considerations for Retail.”
But with the official holiday shopping season kicking off in a week, we feel it’s important to highlight what types of smart technology solutions can help retailers safely reopen now and protect employees and customers in the long run.
It’s important for all businesses to have a standardized protocol for being able to come to work as COVID-19 continues, but retail may need to take extra precautions because of how often its workers come into contact with customers.
“The retailers I’ve worked with understand it is critical to conduct Health and Safety checks at the beginning of every shift, in addition to installing sanitizing stations in high traffic areas,” says Gonzalez.
Most employees are increasingly aware of the common symptoms associated with COVID-19. But it is important employees report potential health concerns to key HR administrators. A daily questionnaire following CDC guidance that is administered through a mobile app solves this challenge.
Employees can fill out a CDC questionnaire about their symptoms and self-report their temperature before reporting for their shift. If the questionnaire spots an issue, the employee will be instructed to stay home. And an HR administrator is automatically notified to offer full visibility.
Public health experts have told us time and time again that one of the most telling indicators of a COVID-19 infection is a fever. That’s one of the main reasons why employers are adopting no contact health-tracking technologies, like thermal temperature scanners, to keep their employees safe while also keeping their businesses operational. Fortune Business Insights reports the global thermal imaging market was valued at $2.27 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $4.10 billion by 2027. A large portion of this increase in demand is in direct response to employer demand for thermal scanning, such as used in return to work safety solutions.
Adopting a no contact thermal temperature scanner keeps employees safe while also keeping facilities operational. With QR code technology, it’s possible to link a “passing” temperature scan to your stores’ door entry system. Some scanners can even detect compliance with face mask requirements. This automated process reduces the risks and costs associated with manually performing these tasks.
While leadership may rely on security cameras and spot checks to ensure mask wearing and proper social distancing are being adhered to, distance monitoring and contact tracing enables store managers to detect potential and existing risks more effectively and quickly reduces the likelihood of exposing other employees. Distance monitoring informs management who may be at risk based on location and identifies the exact location and duration of any exposures. This location alignment immediately assists management in contacting those at risk and carrying out proper sanitation measures.
Wearable devices offer an additional capacity to track employees’ movements, record the distance while monitoring the duration of interactions. And you can alert individuals in real-time when they are at increased risk.
“Retailers are leaning in the direction of contract tracing as a preventive measure as it allows managers to isolate incidents. Our retail clients are leveraging this new technology. It helps to mitigate risk and prevent locations from shutting down during the peak season,” says Gonzalez.
An HR dashboard can help leaders seamlessly track pandemic-related results throughout stores and warehouses. You can quickly review employee temperature checks and CDC questionnaire results, while keeping data private and secure. The system can analyze the data and issue notifications (text and email) based on information gathered. This is crucial for identifying outbreaks and notifying health officials of a potential hotspot.
With this insight, organizations can address staffing levels and improve workplace safety efforts. This includes improving foot traffic density and changing space configurations where appropriate.
EBI Workplace Health & Safety is a secure U.S. cloud-based, customizable platform providing modular options for retailers and all organizations to protect their people. The platform serves as a central data repository and analytics engine for data collected through employee mobile health apps, thermal scanners, and contact tracing systems. These analytics give employers the insights they need to make critical business decisions to keep workplaces open and operational. Most importantly, these products give employees the confidence they need to safely return to work.
By creating a comprehensive health and safety strategy, retailers can efficiently mitigate the spread of illness. And also reduce any costly disruptions to the precious holiday shopping season. A coordinated technological health and safety umbrella like EBI Workplace Health & Safety can help all of us get back to working – and shopping – confidently and safely.
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Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.