Many workplaces, venues and businesses have already re-opened and more are planning to do so as restrictions continue to ease from August 1.

The Make Yourself at Home campaign is all about helping staff, visitors and customers to feel as confident as possible about returning.

Along with updates on new measures, policies and safety strategies, unLTD’s Jill Theobald and Eloise Feilden found out what businesses’ message of resilience and confidence is to their teams and visitors to ensure everyone feels reassured and ‘at home’

Nick Simmonite, The Frog and Parrot manager and Unight chairman

With many hospitality businesses re-opening in July, the Unight team – a Sheffield-based night-time community group – is looking ahead to re-starting the nightlife economy.

Unight started over a decade ago now, and is a collection of all the major operators in the city centre that are open in the evening, including Corporation, Tank, and Leadmill. But, as a not-for-profit organisation, Unight represents the whole night-time community and not just the economy. We work closely with Best Bar None and Sheffield Licence Watch as well as South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield City Council. We’re all committed to making sure we present an absolutely cracking offer to our guests.

The current crisis and lockdown has affected Unight’s practices in helping the community, but the group has been a great sounding board for individual operators to come together and help each other through this. A need for security was one of the first issues to come up as lockdown began, which has since been provided by Unight’s membership base.

To supplement police patrols, we’ve been keeping a watchful eye on a number of premises, a public initiative that gave some assurance our businesses were safe. We are also gifted to have John Gaunt Solicitors, the premier licencing specialists in the country, providing guidance to us since our inception. They’ve had a lead on government guidance and helped us pick through the very wordy government documents. As operators on the floor, we can interpret that more easily to take the steps that need to be taken across the bartending community.

Government guidelines for businesses getting ready to reopen include a necessary increase in sanitisation and at the Frog and Parrot, we have retained good practice in this area due to previous campaigns surrounding freshers’ flu and the winter vomiting bug. We’re going to be doing more of that now, and putting reassuring messages out to our customers that we’ve got it covered. With the increase in sanitisation, however, comes a rise in additional costs to businesses and operators as a result of the need for more staff members. Establishments may be forced to up staff levels to keep up with the need for extra cleanliness, and additionally to provide table service as a means of reducing infection rates.

There are positives, though, as we move into the summer months. The night-time scene in Sheffield has historically been a little bit dark during the summer – Tramlines was created to fill the void of no students and people on holiday. We’ve got an opportunity now to encourage people who are staying in the UK to feel at home in Sheffield city centre. The city has always been warm and welcoming, and certainly the biggest village in the world, and I hope we can make people comfortable coming back into town. Some of our customer base are only just getting used to taking steps outside as lockdown measures ease, and we hope that they’ll take those steps into our homes in the city centre and be reassured we’ve got it covered.

Shaun Sagar director and co-founder, Equsafe

Coming out of lockdown can be a tricky proposition for most companies. But directors and owners must be aware they owe a duty of care to their staff and members of the public. Not only should your policies be designed to be effective, your PPE should be, too.

We set up Equsafe in response to the alarming amount of substandard or even fake items that were being sold, sometimes at extortionate prices. Many ads or suppliers will claim an item is ‘CE certified’ or ‘Government Standard‘ without specifying having the certification they rely on or state that the products are WHO standard but the technical specification isn’t up to that required standard.

When we investigated some companies’ certification, the Certification Body wasn’t properly authorised. Further, the certification that other companies offered was granted to another company and they had ‘borrowed’ the certificate!

While we cannot go to the nth degree, we try to ensure that the goods we provide have been checked to a reasonable level to protect you.

Our mission is to provide high quality, fit for purpose and traceable PPE at the right price – products that mean you can sleep well knowing you have done all you can.

The hand sanitiser we sell is a minimum of 75 per cent alcohol, or non-alcohol equivalent. The face masks we supply are Type II R, which are the highest quality single use face masks available.

You should not skimp on the quality of the PPE and hand sanitiser you provide. Remember if you have an outbreak of Coronavirus at your business the cost can be substantial. These costs can take many form, for example, business continuity (your business could be shut down for some time), reputational damage (if you haven’t got this right what else are you not doing?), client confidence (if you’re shut down could they go elsewhere?), and employee confidence (you obviously don’t care about your staff!).

Further, there could be substantial legal costs in Employee Liability, Public Liability if it’s proved you were responsible for someone dying or being ill like a relative or friend of a worker, as well as fines and costs relating to Health and Safety at work investigations or prosecutions.

This is important – get the right kit for the job, just ‘any old one’ will not do.

Hayley Koseoglu, business consultant, Crystal Clean Service Ltd

A vast majority of our cleaners have continued to work throughout the pandemic. We have continued to provide them with all the necessary PPE to ensure they are protected as much as possible.

We have increased our outreach to cleaners to encourage them to talk to us or our support staff about any concerns they may have during these challenging times. That support will continue to be offered and will become a permanent part of our employee support programme as we increase our focus on mental health and wellbeing for all our employees.

In respect of clients and visitors returning to their offices, we have always operated under a strict colour coding and safety policy while cleaning and this will continue. At the beginning of the pandemic, we increased our cleaning frequency for the touch points and common areas within every client site and this will continue. We have offered support, advice and guidance to all of our clients around how to keep their workplace hygienic.

We fully understand that there are concerns over returning to workplaces and this is to be expected. A return to work is essential for the life of our economy and it is important that this is done in the right way and that people are confident that they are not at unnecessary risk. We will continue to support our clients with their cleaning and hygiene needs and make any adjustments necessary to keep them clean, safe and confident in their return to work.

We have made adjustments to some client cleaning schedules and timings to accommodate the physical distancing rules set by the government. We have continued to increase awareness of good hand hygiene and have provided some clients with guides on the extra things to consider when it comes to keeping workplaces clean and safe.

COVID-19 continues to be a challenge that no-one expected or was prepared for. Its impact will continue to affect us all in some way for an extended period of time. It is important that businesses and individuals adapt to the changes and focus on moving forward with a positive attitude and, for some, with a new found level of resilience. Through support, advice and guidance, confidence will come in time, as things find a ‘new normal’.

Claire Reading, development manager, South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and The Humber Federation of Small Businesses

As restrictions are lifting, it’s more important than ever for small businesses to encourage customer confidence.  We’re all acutely aware there is still a significant risk, so business owners are doing everything they can to keep customers safe and it’s more important than ever to reassure them that every step has been taken to put all the right precautions in place.

Sharing the safety measures in place is the reassurance customers are looking for. Where people are aware of the new processes, like social distancing, hand sanitiser or any necessary PPE, confidence is higher and telling people about the risk assessment you have carried out to be COVID-19 secure, is reassuring that you’re following all the guidance.

Some of our members have put posters in windows and printed COVID-19 secure certificates to show that they’re complying with government guidance and updating cleaning procedures to manage any risk of transmission.

Clear communication through social media channels, websites or in windows of premises also helps set the scene and encourage customer confidence. It’s been important for many of our members to make sure that new opening hours, to allow for bubbles or cleaning practices, are well communicated to customers – updating Facebook and putting up signs letting people know when they’re open so people can plan their trips accordingly.  Adapting the tone, the method and the frequency of communication has been an important consideration for many of our small business owners.

Many have adapted and implemented new services or ways of working, such as selling online or offering deliveries or collections. Being flexible is something that small business owners have in abundance and customers appreciate this.

Now that summer is here and customers are more likely to venture out into our towns and cities, adhering to the ever-changing guidelines is paramount for everyone’s safety.  Staff and customers relying on business owners is a heavy burden, but one that is being taken very seriously.

As the local authorities carry out checks that the guidance is being adhered to and following up on any concerns from the public – communicating and sharing what measures are in place is the key to customer confidence.

For more advice and guidance about how you can keep your business compliant during coronavirus, visit the FSB Legal Hub, where you can download a risk assessment template and access the latest health and safety information.

Gary Hargraves, CEO Sport:80

Our COVID story has probably been a little different to others. We haven’t used the furlough scheme, we haven’t delayed any tax payments, we made the decision to work remotely early on, we have continued to pick up new business – and we’ve had two new starters. There’s no doubt the pandemic has forced a strange few months on us, but in many ways, we have continued as usual (as possible!).

I think our culture has been a big part of this. We are problem-solvers and we are used to challenges being thrown our way. On top of this, over the past few years, I’ve seen our team successfully manage relationships with a growing US client base from our office in Kelham Island. This is why I was quietly confident we could navigate this tricky period when we closed the office four months ago.

It has been great to see the positivity from everyone in the face of this challenge. However as time went by, I became aware of how important it would be to get honest assessment of life in lockdown from the team. This thought was triggered when I noticed a tendency for people to work longer hours than usual – maybe it was the monotony of lockdown or living and working in the same space. We actively discouraged this and countered it by introducing ‘Sport:80 Days’ – an extra day of holiday each month to enjoy a long weekend.

Following that decision, we asked everyone to anonymously respond to a questionnaire about working during lockdown. The responses have been invaluable in planning for a variety of changes to the office environment and the way we work. One of the most conclusive things from the questionnaire was a suggestion to blend office and home working. The more I think about it, it’s clear that this is going to become part of the ‘new normal’, particularly for businesses that have proven it works over the past few months.

We have now reopened Sport:80 HQ and a third of the team have returned to the new office etiquette. This includes new cleaning routines, keeping doors open where possible, paper towels instead of hand towels and plenty of hand sanitiser amongst other precautions.

Those that continue to work from home know they have the freedom to head back to the office when it’s best for them. I’m very conscious about how important it is that we don’t lose the closeness of our team to this pandemic. That’s why there’s an open invite to work from the office, even if it’s one or two days a week. There are also opportunities to get together for lunch or to have a beer or two at the end of the week (social distanced of course!).

I think we are going to continue to learn a lot through this pandemic, and from other businesses as well. It’s vital we continue to evolve and create a progressive working environment.