How to align your business with the need for social distancing

Flatten the curve

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has created uncertain times for just about everyone in South Africa, including business owners. Though many sectors are now allowed to reopen their doors, the virus is still with us and social distancing is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus.

9 tactics to adapt your business for social distancing.

Whether you’re a small services business like an accounting or consulting firm or a high-traffic business such as a retail store, here are 10 actions that you can consider to help keep you, your customers, and the community at large safer.

  1. Inform customers and employees about social distancing.
  2. Avoid direct physical contact.
  3. Replace in-person conversations with virtual ones.
  4. Allow remote work.
  5. Enable flexible scheduling.
  6. Create additional physical space in brick-and-mortar locations.
  7. Lean on online services when possible.
  8. Reduce cash handling.
  9. Stagger customer flow.

Let’s dig into the most important tactics you can use to practice social distancing in your business.

1. Inform customers and employees about social distancing

First, arm your customers and employees with more information. You can get informed and find guidance on the national COVID-19 portal. Consider printing signage to inform people about the need for social distancing, hand sanitiser and masks, as well as how diseases like COVID-19 are transmitted.

2. Avoid direct physical contact

Physical contact is the fastest and most common way for viruses to spread. Do what you can to limit physical contact between people at your location. Do not shake hands. Do not hug. Find another way to greet people that involves no direct contact.

3. Continue to replace in-person conversations with virtual ones where possible

Instead of meeting face to face, continue to meet virtually. In most cases, it’s not too difficult to replace a meeting with a video conference or a conference call.

Pick a platform that will suit your meeting needs. If it’s a small committee meeting, Google Hangouts will fit the bill. If you need to host a webinar or large meeting, try Microsoft Teams Live Events or GoToWebinar. And if you want to hold a virtual conference, check out ViewStub.

4. Allow remote work

If any of your employees are doing their jobs from home, let them continue to work from home. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon (and GoDaddy) are just some of the companies implementing more flexible work-from-home policies in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

For some roles, remote work even leads to an increase in productivity  — so don’t worry right now about productivity loss. The need for many businesses to operate as dispersed teams also presents an opportunity to go paperless. You don’t have to go into the office for a form or report if you can access it remotely.

Make sure you have security measures in place for all your data and access. If possible, have your remote employees use a virtual private network (VPN) to log into the company servers. This helps to prevent hackers from trying to intercept the traffic between your employees’ computers and your servers.

5. Enable flexible scheduling

 For employees who must be physically present, consider staggering your work schedules. This way, you can have a smaller number of employees present at your location at any given time.

6. Create additional physical space in brick-and-mortar locations

 If you have a business that serves people physically (like a shop), increase distance between your customers. For example, you could widen shopping aisles.

7. Lean on online services when possible

 If possible, transition to online-only or remote service options. Starbucks recently transitioned to a “to-go only” model to reduce foot traffic. By law, restaurants may currently only allow pick-up and food delivery, not allowing anyone to dine in.

Retail stores, including some liquor stores and grocery stores, could adopt a similar model. Encourage people to call you or use your website to order products and pay online. You can also adopt a pick-up only model, where you have their products ready for collection and hand them over to their cars when they drive up.

8. Reduce cash handling

 As a temporary measure for brick-and-mortar locations, reduce or eliminate cash handling. Instead, use tap-based payment systems or digital payment systems whenever possible. Consider solutions like QR code payments and contactless cards to avoid handling money.

9. Stagger customer flow

 You can also incorporate social distancing by staggering customer flow in some way. For example, you may choose to serve customers only one at a time, or you may funnel them through a different mode of service, like through a drive-through window. You can also look into having customers schedule appointments ahead of their visit to better manage store footfall.


 Even if you aren’t a member of an at-risk population segment, your commitment in social distancing can — and will — save lives. You may not be able to follow all these strategies, but the more active and aware you are, the better.