Opening Up – You can’t afford not to plan – even in a pandemic
It’s hard not to react to all the news and information during a pandemic. The word itself incites and includes the word “panic”. The world’s initial reaction to the rapid spread of COVID-19 was and still is to close down and stay home, waiting for the threat to pass. But we know that staying closed is not sustainable so we must learn to navigate the pandemic world.
There is a lot of information out there right now. Articles and newscasts are constantly talking about social distancing practices and experiments – that have gone right and wrong. You can download free pandemic communications toolkits from government entities. You can purchase pre-designed signs from sign shops. However, the interpretation of how to use it all is up to you and if you don’t think about how it is best applied to your people (residents, visitors, patrons) and your place/space it will waste your time, money and risk the health and safety of your people
Planning simply means to decide on or arrange something in advance. It’s difficult to think about planning in conjunction with the ongoing pandemic because it is already wreaking havoc on our lives, our businesses, and our global economy. You feel like you have to act NOW. In knowing that, you can also understand that there is a lot at stake if we don’t plan carefully for opening up and staying open.
- You risk the health of your staff, students or patrons. Staying apart and reducing our exposure to other people is the recommended method for reducing health risk when out in public. The following considerations are important to reducing that risk.
- People are social creatures and desire interaction – now they must be instructed on how to do that safely at a distance. Have you planned out how people will safely interact in your space? How they will move around to stay the minimum safe distance apart?
- People won’t know what instructions to follow – if people were familiar with your place, pre-pandemic, how they interact with it will look very different. Have you determined the right messages that communicate clearly how you want people to move and interact with your space? When are you telling them? In a communication prior to the visit? With signs once they have arrived? Both?
- People need constant reminders to navigate public spaces under normal circumstances –during a pandemic when normal behaviors are no longer safe people need to be instructed and reminded multiple times and be prepared before these interactions. They are more likely to comply if they know what is expected of them before they arrive, when they arrive and during their visit. In normal signage and wayfinding scenarios we often warn against over signing. In this instance, using the same message consistently and often within your space is necessary.
- People need clear and consistent instruction at all touchpoints – Planning for communications and signage ensures you are cueing people in the right way, presenting information in the right place and that your messages are clear and consistent whether these instructions are shared in an email before they arrive or on signs during their visit.
- You risk your business or organization. After the initial re-opening we are seeing orders to shut down public places and businesses because COVID-19 cases are on the rise and people are not complying with instructions to social distance. For your business or organization and the overall economy it’s critical that we stay open during a pandemic. Its important to keep in mind the following scenarios to reduce the risk to your business or organization:
- Implementing new guidelines, procedures and signs cost your business or organization money – We know that it’s a large investment to redesign, reorganize, re-sign and continually sanitize your places and spaces. These extra costs are a strain on an organization — but so shutting your doors because you can’t manage people safely. Your time and money is a precious resource right now and planning will help ensure you spend it wisely on methods that will help keep your doors open.
- Guidelines that are shared require interpretation– There are a lot of great resources available that instruct you on what you should be doing to ensure social distancing compliance and reducing health risk. However, these guidelines must be interpreted for your particular situation, place or space. They won’t tell you how many signs you need, the right way to communicate to your particular audience, or how big the message needs to be. Planning will help you customize those guidelines to your situation
- Planning will give you a better idea of what you need and what you don’t – With limited resources its important to invest in the messages and methods that will make the greatest impact. There are a lot of ready-made signs related to COVID-19 and social distancing that are out in the marketplace – but before you place that order its important that you understand exactly what you need to be effective in your place or space.
- Planning will help you manage resources – through federal funding programs and grants there is financial help available to help you make the changes necessary to ensure a successful re-opening. A plan for those needs will help you manage those additional resources and protect your bottom line for other important needs.
We know that so many of you are putting a lot of time and energy into your opening up plans. We also know that they way you communicate your plans and expectations will have a great impact on whether people follow your instructions – ultimately keeping you, your staff and your patrons safe and your place open. Protect your investment of time and money as well as the health of your people and make sure that communication and signage needs an important part of your reopening plan.
If you have found yourself struggling to determine which information is best for your place or still see people not following the social distancing signage and information you have put out, Guide is here to help. We have put together a fast-turnaround sign plan service that will help you translate these new protocols specifically for your organization and situation and identify the most effective traffic patterns and set up of the space to maximize physical and social distancing. These sign systems allow you to use signs and graphics that you have already purchased, or if you desire a more custom approach and/or permanent pandemic social distancing signage, we have messages and sign templates ready to customize so you can open with confidence.
As the country reopens, businesses and organizations have been diligently following the new processes and protocols to keep people at a safe social distance in their spaces. But this proves difficult to do because it’s not simply about managing traffic flow; it’s also a matter of changing behaviors…