Saturday, April 18, 2020

Re-opening after shelter in place

  • As the US society prepares to come out of the heavy initial Shelter in Place restrictions, I have had many ideas and thoughts around how this may happen. I decided to put them on paper and share in case it helps others think through the next steps.  I feel this is a critical step to getting businesses moving again.  The ‘re-opening’ is coming soon, start your planning now so you are ready.

Disclaimer and terms:
  • These are just my guesses based on what I am reading and thinking about.  Don’t take anything in here too seriously, I may be completely wrong.  Please don’t be mad with anything I’ve included, there may be some politically incorrect items or societal generalizations.  These are in no way endorsed by my employer (or anyone outside of my head).
  • While much of this thinking can be utilized anywhere, some of my thoughts and timelines are more tuned to California as that is where I live.
  • Defining some terms:
    • SIP - shelter in place - I am using this as a general term for the lockdowns, stay home orders and guidelines related to Covid, whether they are governmental or private restrictions, enforced or not.
    • Short term - 1 to 3 months after SIP is lifted
    • Mid term - 3-6 months after SIP is lifted

Timeline (as of 4/18): I know the government won’t post timelines, so I’ll share my guesses.
  • Phase 1 - (2 weeks out, May 4th) we’ll see lightening of the restrictions at least some baby steps mainly in the items closest to ‘essential’ functions; 
    • Generally - people will still be staying home, but going out more for essentials
    • Re-opening parks (this is starting to happen now)
    • Hospitals expanding back to their normal services (i.e. non-emergency surgeries)
  • Phase 2 - (4 weeks out, May 18th) The next level of reduced restrictions will bring back the ‘non-essential’ but important commerce.
    • Generally - people will be working more, have more freedom to go out, but will still be at home a lot
    • Construction work will ramp back up
    • Retailers will open back up, at least to have people on site to do work, fulfill orders, support online, and potentially curbside.  Customers may not be allowed to enter the business, if they are allowed many limits and spacing restrictions will be in place.
    • Large companies will be allowed to have more staff on site, but still limited and low numbers (currently these companies have only the critical staff to keep the lights on)
  • Phase 3 - (6 weeks out, June 1st) - continued reduction of restrictions and society will be allowed to have small gatherings (bbq’s, visit family and friends)
    • Generally - this will start to feel more normal for people, lots more people workI get and out and about for work, businesses will be open, weekend activities will start to ramp back up including short vacation trips locally

Random Thoughts:
  • What sort of guidelines should we expect:
    • The state government will provide guidelines at a high level, the counties may have their own customizations of that.
    • Follow social distancing guidelines, these may adjust over time, potentially to be less restrictive or more restrictive (see Swarms section below).
    • Large companies will have their own guidelines.  You may notice national chains being slower to open up their policies until many states are in sync.  I noticed large chains rolled out their policies nationwide when SIP started, so am expecting similar on the ‘open up’ end.  Note: this may give an advantage to the smaller local companies to be quicker and more adaptive to current guidelines. (As an example, Chik-fil-a closed all lobbies of their restaurants even in areas not under SIP, so it will be hard for them to say we are re-opening our lobbies in California but not Nevada.)
  • Leverage learnings from other industries
    • Social distancing practices; spit shields, masks, curbside, tape on floor, indoor traffic patterns, waiting outside, indoor capacity limits, leverage new traffic patterns (i.e. leverage the back door)
    • Online Ordering - those companies with good online tools were able to quickly shift their business from brick and mortar to online/mobile.  I imagine this will continue to be a much larger part of business (especially brick and mortar businesses) than pre-Covid.  As a business owner, if you haven’t invested in this area, you should, or at least have a thought out strategy for what you are doing or what you aren’t doing and why.
    • Curbside (Drive Up) - society seems to be liking curbside pickup.  When done right, it is a great alternative to waiting 1 day for Amazon Prime to deliver (or 7+ days for Prime during SIP, P.S. if Amazon reads this I’d like a partial refund of the annual membership I pay for Prime as they are not fulfilling on my expectations to receive items overnight, half-way kidding)
      • Now that consumers have found curbside to be easy, in the future they may not want to walk through your store to find the 1 or 2 items they need, they’ll want you to do that and just stop by to pick up the item.
      • Businesses need to develop good process around this.  This can go really bad and drive a lot of consumer frustration if not done right.
      • Businesses will also need to find efficiencies for solving this.  It may need to be a loss leader (i.e. not very profitable) as this takes a lot of staff expense to support.
      • Some businesses have supported this during SIP with very low volumes, but after SIP I could envision the volumes increase 10x.  Is your process going to be able to keep up with that?
      • Even if you don’t have a great online/mobile app, you can create ways to support this:
        • Text us - leverage one of the many text services to be your inflow of customer orders
        • Google form - throw up a quick form on your website with a datasheet of all the orders coming in
        • Fake it till you make it - even letting customers call in, write down their order on paper (create a ticket), then prepare the order, call the customer back to say “it’s ready”, have them pickup.
  • Re-opening in society will be slow, and gradually adjust over next 9 months.
    • Group Activities - 
      • Social gatherings will be limited to a low number
      • Limited community events through summer
      • Large community events (greater than 500 people) will be very rare until 2021
    • Health and Fitness
      • Traditional gyms will remain closed through end of 2020.  They will continue to leverage video/remote training and find alternate sites (i.e. park) to enable social distancing
    • Close Contact Industries
      • Dentists, barber/hair stylists, nail salons, doctor offices, chiropractors
      • Will consumers want people working close to them?
        • Maybe, but maybe at a lower rate and not visit as often
      • Will guidance for these industries be different than others like retail.
    • Children
      • School won’t start up again until Aug/Sept, this will mean kids will have been at home for 5 or 6 months.  
      • Parents will be looking for ways to get their kids out of the house (safely) and ways to keep them occupied while at home (due to limited group activities.  Are their products you can develop or target towards this audience?
    • Workers
      • White Collar Work - corporate workers will continue to stay home (this may also push down into the mid-size and small companies, at least for the short and mid-term)
        • Large companies have built up their remote work practices, and many jobs can now be done from home (previously wasn’t accepted, i.e. phone banks, operations agents).
        • Large companies may not want to risk swarms within their workforce, so will implement their own policies for going back to the office.  
        • Very likely there will be alternating days to space employees out (i.e. Jimmy is in office Mon, Wed, Bobby is in office Tues, Thurs, everyone is remote Friday)
        • This may have a huge impact on the SF Bay Area as they have a high number of technology companies.  Will software developers want to sit on the crowded corporate bus from SF to Palo Alto?
      • Blue Collar Work - service related industries will ramp up pretty quickly and workers will go back to much more normal work than White Collar.  They will have changes based on social distancing, but much of this work requires the employee to be on site.
    • Travel
      • Air travel will be limited, both personal travel and business travel over the mid-term and probably through 2020.  I don’t imagine myself getting on a plane to go visit any of my vendors to see their latest small change to their product (ship me a sample), unless it is very high priority.  Same goes for meetings, I’ll only fly if it’s very high priority.
      • Local travel may increase as people aren’t going on the big trips, they may take shorter more local trips.  (side note; many people have not used any vacation time for start of the year, so will be concentrating more vacation in summer or later in year)
    • E-commerce - things have been somewhat up and down in this space during SIP, low inventory, long shipping delays, new users
      • Some people tried online ordering for the first time, they may now be more interested in using your online services
      • Some people were frustrated with e-commerce during SIP, they may be more in favor of purchasing from brick and mortar
      • Some people will have a stronger sense of community, and local community specifically, driving them to purchase local and from small businesses.
    • Elderly and pre-existing conditions - folks in these groups may be forced to follow additional extensions to keep social distancing.  This is largely on honor code (or up to the individual), so some of these people may be heavily affected and others may ignore the guidelines.
  • Swarms - Be prepared for future lockdowns, may see local level increases and forced SIP
    • If testing increases, we’ll get a better data driven approach to SIP.  If the data shows increasing numbers in a city or county, the local area may go into SIP.
    • Closing schools will happen really quickly (what downstream impacts does this have?).  
    • SIP may be on a gradual scale in the future. For example there may be something like a high/med/low scale, and this may adjust weekly (think about Smokey the bear and fire danger).  My gut says governments won’t change this quickly, but we should be prepared for monthly changes in SIP guidelines.
      • Businesses will need to be ready to shift quickly if the guidelines change.  Be ready with your backup plans for how to shift to online ordering, curbside, etc. if the lobby/inside of your business is closed.
  • Think differently - business owners need to be more strategic and challenge their current knowledge and how things used to be done.
    • Customer/consumer views will be different in the short term (from Day 1 through 3 months) and will gradually get back to normal over multiple months.  No one really knows what this ‘new normal’ will be like and may be very different for all people.
    • Look for new revenue opportunities - the ways you used to market and make money may no longer work (at least in short/mid-term)  

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