Entrepreneurs

Council Post: How To Prepare Your Business For Another Pandemic

By Shu Saito, Founder of All Filters | Every Filter for Every Need, Refrigerator, Air, Water, and More.

It’s not an understatement to say that Covid-19 was the defining feature of 2020. The pandemic changed the way we live our lives, meet people and do business — especially e-commerce. In many ways, we’re still reeling from the changes that the pandemic wrought. Yet, even as we recover from the current pandemic, it would be wise to look forward and prepare for the next one.

As the CEO of a water and air filter e-business during Covid, I made several changes that helped my business survive 2020 and prepare for the future. These tips can also help other businesses protect their own companies and employees.

Have face masks on hand for employees and guests.

One step an e-commerce company can take to prepare for a pandemic is to have face masks on hand. Yes, many employees can work remotely, especially in an e-commerce business. However, many e-commerce businesses still have essential in-house employees and other workers who may need to come in and out the building. 

While face-mask fatigue is real, research has shown that masks have helped curtail the Covid-19 pandemic. I credit keeping a supply of masks on hand to our successful Covid-19 response, and I still plan to have plenty of disposable masks for building guests.

Determine if any of your operations can be done remotely.

While it was easy for me to tell my office employees to work from home during the pandemic, I had to get a little more creative to keep my warehouse employees safe. 

Specifically, we created a new fulfillment process, which included improving our technology. First, we had our remote employees create our packing labels at home, and then we created software that could automatically upload them on the cloud server. A warehouse employee could then print a batch of labels online all at once rather than creating individual labels. To save more time, the labels were deleted from the server to prevent duplicate printing.

This streamlined our process tremendously, and even doubled our sales — all while we were able to keep our number of in-house employees below the CDC-recommended number. We now know that as a company we are adaptable enough to make major changes quickly and efficiently to keep our heads above water.

Invest in a secure password app.

Even when the world ground to a halt during the pandemic, hackers did not, and passwords were a big target. One of the most important ways to prepare for the next pandemic is to make sure your company has a password app that will streamline both productivity and collaboration while enhancing security.

For my e-commerce company, our password app allowed us to do several important actions. First, the app allowed me to control who had access to the company’s valuable assets, so only essential people could view, edit and share information. Second, my employees did not need to constantly remember and type in their passwords, a process that can slow an e-commerce business down. I was able to keep passwords safe while allowing employees to access information when they needed it.

Install a bidet (if you can).

Thanks to the Covid-19 crisis and the concomitant toilet paper shortage, the bidet could finally make it big in the U.S. A bidet not only reduces the need for toilet paper, but is more environmentally friendly and hygienic. Perhaps best of all, a bidet means the entire bathroom experience could be a hands-free event. 

If your company is not ready to commit to a bidet, that’s OK. You can still make it easy to install one. All you need is an outlet behind the toilet. If possible, I would make sure at least one toilet in the men’s and women’s bathroom has a bidet installation spot. We don’t know what may come, but a bidet means that it could be a slightly cleaner future.

Invest in a touchless thermometer and conduct temperature checks.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I made it part of the employee check-in process to take their temperature. As communities and businesses reopen, we are still using a touchless thermometer to check temperatures at entry points to identify and triage people who show symptoms.

Other ways to assess temperatures, such as oral thermometers, require more contact and an increased risk of spreading disease. As we saw during Covid, purchasing touchless thermometers was difficult for many due to high demand. However, now is the perfect time to get one. 

Provide meals to employees using a food delivery service.

One of my favorite steps that we took during the pandemic was eating together. In March 2020, I started providing lunch to all on-site employees. Providing meals not only limited exposure, because employees weren’t going out to a myriad of restaurants, but it also created a feeling of community and dialogue.

We enjoyed eating together so much that I’m still providing meals until all of us are fully vaccinated. If you choose something similar, try to order directly from the restaurant to improve their profits. While ordering lunch may not be viable, you can think of other ways to build community.

Stay up to date with CDC and health expert guidelines.

To minimize disruption during any pandemic or health crisis, businesses should be aware of CDC and expert guidelines. To help avoid misinformation and panic, we identified a workplace coordinator who was responsible for Covid-19 health updates and their impact on our business. We also set up an emergency communications plan that identified key contacts with backups, a chain of communications (that included customers) and a process for tracking and communicating employee status.

Providing masks for others, being willing to rethink traditional operations, creating checkpoints, fostering a sense of community and following health guidelines as much as possible helped my e-commerce business not only survive but thrive through one of the most disruptive times in our history. While these steps may not seem dramatic, they helped protect my business and, more importantly, my employees and customers.

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