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Navigating the New Mask Guidelines: Tips for Helping Your Small Business

by Ben Spradling | May 19, 2021 1:32:37 PM

Face masks reemerged as a national focal point last week after the CDC announced that individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine no longer need to wear face coverings indoors. The updated guidance seemed to signal a welcome step toward normalcy. For business owners and their customers, it likely also created some confusion.

Verifying that a customer or an employee has been vaccinated is not an easy endeavor. Businesses may ask to see a patron’s vaccination card, or a photo of it, but that act comes with complications. For one, vaccination cards are easy to forge, and some individuals are opting to fake it rather than get the shot. Plus, many aren’t comfortable carrying around their cards in a pocket or a purse from place to place.

Those issues have increased interest in vaccine passports – apps that can verify a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status. Some states, counties, and cities have already gone forward with the development of that technology, but other areas are more reluctant to introduce it due to the types of medical information it shares.

For now, businesses are largely left asking for paper cards, using the honor system, or keeping their mask requirements in place. Each of those options come with risks most companies are having to consider, and quickly. Because the CDC’s recommendations are likely in conflict with existing safety practices, both customers and employees are looking to business owners for clarity.

The BBB Standards for Trust are a reliable framework for how to proceed in circumstances like these, where uncertainty is at the forefront. For businesses needing more specific help, keep these considerations in mind as you navigate the updated guidelines:

  • Look local first. The location of your operation may supersede any national announcements. If your state, county, or city government has not yet lifted mask mandates in your area, then its necessary to uphold those requirements. Businesses operating in states that have lifted mask mandates can also lean on their local departments of labor and industries as well as hospitality associations for directions on how to operate.

  • Create a conversation. Comfort levels regarding facemasks vary. For customers, and especially for your employees, try to establish an outlet for sharing any concerns about the updated guidance. The decision to lift mask requirements in your business may not be yours alone. Host conversations with your team and engage your customers – maybe even send out a survey – to find out if a mask-free workplace is the right fit for right now. Plus, letting everyone help make that call may go a long way toward building trust.

  • Keep things clear. Wherever your business lands on facemasks, attempt to be as transparent as possible. Provide customers background on factors that impacted your business’s choice. And if you do decide to drop those requirements, arm employees with a clear plan for how they can verify customers’ vaccination statuses. If policies or procedures have or have not changed as result of the updated CDC guidelines, be open about the status of those items.

  • Stay responsive. You’re not going to please everyone. Facemasks tend to be a polarizing topic, so some customers or employees will likely disagree with your business’s position. Those differences may even make their way online. When that happens, respond. Even if the review, comment, or post feels especially negative, that feedback is an opportunity to publicly provide some necessary context. How you respond may even separate your business from your competitors.

How is your business handling face mask guidelines? Let us know what’s working for your team by leaving a comment below.

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