Keeping Employees and Customers Safe During COVID-19

April 10, 2020

When I’m on the phone with growers around the country these days, the conversation always comes back to our most challenging question: how do we create cash flow to pay our staff while also keeping everyone safe through this pandemic?

We, as business owners, understand that the best thing for our employees is to remain profitable and stable. And yet, during these times, we all feel the added responsibility of keeping people safe.

Here’s a roundup of ideas we’ve gathered to help you reduce the risk to your own staff and customers as you conduct business.

Control the Number of People in a Given Space

North Carolina has an executive order going into effect Monday, April 13 that says stores must limit the number of people inside to no more than 20% of the stated fire capacity–or 5 people for every 1,000 sq ft. The underlying principle here is to create space for people to shop while maintaining six feet of distance.

If you happen to be under this mandate or just want to limit people for safety’s sake, think of it like a hostess at a restaurant. Regulate people coming in the door, but don’t have them congregate in a line. Once your space is at capacity, take down cell phone numbers of waiting customers and have them wait in their cars until enough people have left the building to let them in.

customer shopping with mask

Other ways to reduce the number of people in your store:

  • Push people to order online (Facebook messenger, Google forms, texting their order, etc.) or have them fill out an order form at the front door
  • Offer curb-side pick-up to reduce traffic in your space
  • Have people pay electronically to minimize interpersonal contact
  • Designate certain hours for only seniors or other high-risk people to shop (like the first hour of a certain day of the week)

Directing Traffic

Create simple signage reminding people at the front door and at checkouts to maintain a safe six feet of distance at all times:

For the safety of our customers and our staff, please maintain six feet of distance from other people while shopping.

Create a traffic pattern inside your store to increase the distance between customers. You may have seen it already in some of your major retailers, but floor markers and/or strategically placed signage to direct traffic one-way down an aisle will help facilitate social distancing.

Mark six-foot spaces at your checkout stations to help people know where to stand in order to maintain proper social distance.

Protecting Staff and Customers

Antibacterial wipes at the front of the store and hand sanitizer at checkout will help customers feel safe (if you can acquire them). If wipes are not available, many stores have an employee wipe down carts for their customers using a bleach solution of 1/3 cup bleach (5 Tbsp) per gallon of water.

sanitizer mask protect customers

Mandate that staff and customers wear facial coverings as recommended by the CDC. I know the greenhouse is a hot place to work already, and masks make life more difficult, but we at North Carolina Farms have provided our employees with masks and put a policy in place this week based on the new CDC guidelines:

North Carolina Farms staff must wear facial coverings when the work environment makes proper social distancing difficult to maintain.

Put in sneeze guards at checkout. A simple plexi-glass barrier will create another layer of protection for your staff.

Don’t forget the simple step we shared in a previous post: place a table or other barrier in front of the cash register to force distance at check out.


Being an “essential” business in the middle of a pandemic comes with a great weight of responsibility, but with a little creativity, you can help your customers and staff feel secure and navigate your business safely.