Here in the UK we are now a few days into another month-long national lockdown in response to the rising threat of a second peak of Covid-19. It is entirely your decision if you choose to work or not work during lockdown. This blog post looks at the steps you need to consider taking in order to continue trading and ensure your business is COVID secure should you wish to do so.
This blog post was originally written in November 2020 and updated January 2021 the latest guidance (Jan 2021) can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
Can you continue trading?
I want to start off by saying that it’s entirely up to you and your personal circumstances if you choose to continue trading during the lockdown. Where you live, the R rate locally and your personal commitments, circumstances, and beliefs will direct you in your decision about this. You may also want to consider what financial support may be available to you if you don’t trade… The purpose of this blog is to inform you of what the regulations and government guidance are and help you look at your business operating processes you should you decide to continue trading at this time.
According to the Government website, all non-essential retail outlets should close but can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect. They have also said that everyone who can remain at home should do so and only leave for essential reasons. In terms of travel, the advice is you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make but you can still travel for a number of reasons including, essential shopping, healthcare and work if it cannot be done from home. As always the Government guidance is open to interpretation, and changes frequently, so you should always check with your local trading standards!
You can read the full guidance here:
So what does this mean for you and your balloon business? Well, essentially my interpretation of this (and it is just my interpretation) is that you can continue trading on a contactless delivery or click and collect basis. You should where possible work from home to reduce your need to travel to and from shop premises. Customers can collect using click and collect processes and contactless deliveries can go ahead. Of course, in order to do so, you need to make your business Covid-secure and you need to put sensible practices in place to reduce the risk of spreading the infection. You should also get clarification from your local council/trading standards that this is the case in your area.
You may want to carefully consider if you should be trading if you are over 60 or clinically vulnerable as you could be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus and the guidance is for you to minimise your contact with others. It also goes without saying that you should not trade if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms, are sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms or have been told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Track and Trace.
For this reason, I strongly recommend you set up a support network with other local businesses in your area to be able to take on work for you should you find you cannot trade.
Making Your Business Covid Secure
You may hear people talking about making your business Covid-secure but what does this even mean? The Government have published 14 guides on how to make your workplace COVID-secure. Essentially they are aimed at ensuring safe working practices to minimise the risk from coronavirus to yourself, your employees, and the general public. The guides that generally affect balloon businesses are: Shops and branches, Vehicles, and working in other people’s homes but you may find your business is influenced by some of the other publications too. You can find links to all the publications here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
I have laid out some principles below to help you think about the processes you may need to put in place for your business but as always guidance changes, the information known about the virus changes, and the way we must operate changes frequently, sometimes daily, so please make sure you are referring to the best guidance available on the government website using the links above and checking in with your local trading standards as necessary.
Working from home taking orders
If you decide to work from home you need to understand that by doing so your home will in effect become your workplace (and you should inform your house insurer). In order to meet the regulations, you need to provide orders as a contactless click and collect or contactless delivery. Both of these require that you are able to do so without direct contact with a customer. You need to consider how you will do this in practice. When taking the order this needs to be clearly explained to the customer. You also need to take contactless payments in advance. You should not take cash on delivery or online payment on delivery as this increases the risk of contact and the time you spend with the customer.
Starting A Balloon Business: The Ultimate Guide
STEP 1: Preparing Your Customers For Collection
STEP 2: Reducing the risk of contaminating balloons with COVID-19 during creation.
There isn’t specific guidance for working from home. It is advisable to do a risk assessment to identify what your particular risks are in operating your business from home.
COVID -19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols, and through direct contact. Surfaces, fabrics and belongings can also be contaminated with COVID-19 when people cough, sneeze or touch them. The risk of spread is greatest when people are in close proximity to each other, in small and poorly ventilated areas, for example when people spend a lot of time together in the same room.
You can find full guidance on the Government website about general safe working practices but the things you need to pay particular attention to are:
STEP 3: Contactless Deliveries and Collections
Contactless deliveries and collections when done correctly are an essential component to allowing you to continue trading without contributing to the spread of coronavirus. It is also essential you get this right to reduce the risks to you, your family and your customers.
Good Practices include:
Face coverings – Principles of good practice
Face coverings have been shown to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. They are not a substitute for managing risk and other means of reducing the spread of the virus such as 2m social distancing, hand washing etc. There are also some key points you need to be aware of when using face coverings:
I hope this blog has been useful! As always the content included is meant to be informational and educational but never replaces the need to seek legal and professional advice for your business. It is designed to be thought provoking so you can start to consider what you need to do to make your business safe and fit for purpose. Your priority must always be to keep yourself, your family and your customers safe!
Hi there! It’s so great to have you here! Having grown my own balloons and venue decor business I now really want to help you grow a profitable and successful business too! I can’t wait to see where your journey takes us! Make sure you come join us in the FREE community
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Until next time… Stay Amazing!