by Chris Goldman
Five Tips for A Mask-Free Future
As COVID restrictions are lifted in the State of Washington, business owners are working to adapt to the new environment. Some people are excited for restrictions to be lifted while others are concerned. There are many feelings and fears still impacting virtually everyone. But we all want to move forward. That’s why this topic is important.
Here Are Some Tips:
1. Avoid Arguments
Americans have strong feelings about wearing masks. Some feel strongly that they will continue to wear them for a time while others plan mask-burning parties. The truth is, you don’t know who is who. You may be tempted to say something like, “Isn’t it great to get rid of those masks?” While the person in front of you hears that positively, another customer within ear-shot may react by walking away. Make it your store policy to talk about something else…even if the customer brings it up. Here are some good responses to the, “…isn’t it great.” comments:
- “It’s always nice to breathe easier.”
- “Well, really nice to see people’s faces again.”
- Or, “It’s great we seem to be heading in the right direction.”
2. Change Your Signs
One issue impacting businesses and organizations is all of the signage you’ve had to purchase and post. Putting up a new positive (but intentionally neutral) sign is a good idea. “Masks Optional” is much more effective than, “Masks Optional…FINALLY!”. You may feel that way, but the added zinger can be a turnoff for some potential customers.
3. Take Time for Intentional Training
Your entire workforce would benefit from a brainstorming session on, “What else can we talk about?” People are tired of COVID but have talked about it for so long, they may need help learning how to chit-chat again. If your staff can brainstorm some topics that leave customers feeling like they didn’t have to revisit the neverending COVID conversation, they’ll leave with more positive vibes. Here are a few I can think of:
- It might be time to simply talk about the weather.
- If a customer brings up one of the many hot-button topics in today’s culture, being prepared to redirect is important. Here’s an example, “Well, we certainly are hoping the best for everyone everywhere.” This should be a true statement for everyone but doesn’t suggest one solution over another.
- Or if they’re insisting on talking about the restrictions, “How is your family planning on taking advantage of few restrictions? Any travel plans?”
4. Remember: People Have Something to Say
Once masks come off, chatty people are going to start consuming your time. Be careful of cutting them off too quickly (they could get offended). However, listening is one way to engender loyalty…within limits. Take notice of who else is in your store and don’t allow anyone to set a negative tone in your place of business for everyone to hear. Except for opposition to the war in Ukraine, almost any political or policy conversation is a minefield. If you have time, talk about your local community and the good things you see happening. If you don’t have time, be ready with a comment like this, “It’s good to see your face again and I can’t wait to talk more when we have time…but we’re all happy to see people getting back out. Thanks for coming by.”
5. Desire Deescalation
Our world is in need of de-escalation almost everywhere you turn. As business leaders, we can help by bringing the tone down around us. But you have to want it…to desire it. Here’s a challenge for everyone: Set a goal of de-escalating emotions in the workplace from now through Mother’s Day. Post it up in your office or break room and invite everyone to take a break from the constant high-stakes debates.
We all know that before January of 2020, COVID wasn’t even a conversation. For two years it’s been THE conversation. Getting back to business offers us an opportunity to reimagine life without the constant debates and arguments over something we’d never even heard of two years ago. Getting back to business will probably never be business as usual (in the way we think of it).
As business leaders, you mold and shape the fabric of culture more than you think. Leverage your influence to help create a better conversation in your local community. Begin with your workers. Get everyone to breathe, smile, and imagine how much better life could be if we can actually move forward. We may not be able to actually move on, but moving forward is something we all need.