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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.


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 anyone who can work effectively from home should do so. 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 travelling to education, essential shopping 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: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november#businesses-and-venues

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 Test 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

Preparing your customers starts at the point of taking their order. You need to set their expectations that the way you do business may have changed from previously and you now need to operate using COVID secure methods ie. contactless click and collect or delivery.
Before the day of collection, you need to make sure you explain to your customers EXACTLY how the collection or delivery needs to be done in order to keep everyone safe. You may also want to consider checking with the customer that they and none of their household are currently self-isolating or ill with coronavirus and have not had any contact with someone they know to have coronavirus.
You should also prepare them in terms of balloon care, storage and any other instructions they need so you do not need to spend time doing this on collection or delivery. As customers often forget what you have told them, in advance, you might want to prepare some balloon care cards to also give on delivery and collection.
All payments need to be made in advance of delivery or collection and you should avoid the use of cash.
You may want to consider whether you need to prepare your customers that any persons involved in the collection/delivery should be wearing a face covering and have sanitised their hands or you will refuse to go ahead with the delivery/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:

Never ever make balloons for a customer if you or someone in your household is feeling unwell and may have coronavirus, you are awaiting a test result, or if you have been asked to self-isolate due to contact with someone who has coronavirus.
In order to reduce the stress of cancelling customer orders, should you find yourself in this situation, you might want to look at what networks you can build now with other balloon businesses in your area, whereby you could pick up each other’s orders should any of you be unable to meet customer commitments.
Try to order stock well in advance so that you do not have to use it in the first 48 hours – whilst evidence is still inconclusive as to how long coronavirus can live on surfaces the Government recommends a minimum of 48 hours for returned products, etc so this would seem sensible in terms of handling stock that comes from the wholesaler.
Regular handwashing using soap for at least 20 seconds (this is how long it takes to sing happy birthday to you – often longer than you think!) is effective to reducing contamination from coronavirus so make sure you are washing your hands frequently.
Keep the area and surfaces clutter free and remove difficult to clean items
Increase the frequency of cleaning using standard detergents and bleach paying attention to all surfaces but especially the ones that are touched frequently including tools used to make balloons, helium tanks, electronic devices, work surfaces, light switches and door handles.
Increase ventilation in your workspace. Keep windows and doors open where possible but bear in mind that even the slightest breeze can cause balloons to pop and they hate drafts so try and store the balloons away from the draft.
Where possible limit the contact from other members of your household when making customers balloons
Immediately bag customers balloons where this is feasible without impacting float times etc and store them in a clean area away from other family members
The regulations limit the use of professional PPE (such as surgical fluid-resistant facemask) for when you will be working in an area where you are having high-risk contact with other people e.g. healthcare facilities. From a customer assurance perspective and to reduce the customers worrying about acquiring COVID from the balloons a lot of companies are also advertising they are wearing face coverings (which differ from professional PPE but still reduce the risk of spreading the virus) whilst making their balloons.

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:

All balloons should be paid in advance through an online payment system and collection and delivery MUST take place without direct contact with the customer.
You must agree a time with customers for collection that does not overlap with other customers.
It is also good practice to encourage people to collect when they are going out to do other “essential” activities where possible to reduce traffic.
You need to sort out a system of how you will transfer the balloons over to the customer without coming into contact with them. Some systems already in use by other companies include:
a) the customer ringing to say they are outside and opening the boot, then remaining inside the car whilst the balloons are placed into the boot.
b) balloons left in porchway with the door open and the customer comes in to collect without you being present.
c) Ringing customer to say you are outside their house and they come out to remove the balloons from the boot of your car
d) Ringing your customer to say you are outside. They open the front door and go into another room whilst you place the balloons inside.
Avoid ringing the doorbell as this is a frequent contact point used by multiple people, instead call on your phone to let them know of your arrival.
During contactless collections and deliveries, both parties should wear face coverings and sanitise their hands before and after. Gloves can also be used if you are going to be touching surfaces of the customer’s car or home but these should be disposed of immediately after use, otherwise they increase the risk of spreading germs.

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:

Face coverings should cover your mouth AND nose
Sanitising/washing your hands is essential!
– Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitiser before putting on a face covering.
– Wash your hands after removing a face covering.
Avoid touching your face or face covering whilst wearing it as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands to your face.
Change your face covering if it becomes damp or you have contaminated it by touching it.
– Change your face covering daily
– if it is made of washable material then wash it according to washing instructions.
– If not washable dispose of carefully with normal household waste.;
Practice social distancing wherever possible even whilst wearing a face covering.

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!


ABOUT SONIA

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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and accelerate the growth of your business – The Quick and Easy Way!
Until next time… Stay Amazing!
Sonia x

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