Thankfully, it looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight for businesses as restrictions are set to lift soon in many places.
But even after state and local governments give the green light for businesses to reopen, the recovery period might be slow. Most people are going to mentally categorize places as, 1) places they will definitely not visit any time soon or 2) places they may visit … but not for a few more months, and 3) places that they already think of as safe and will visit … with the proper assurances.
Where does your practice fall in the mix?
Safety Is Job #1
Personal safety is at the top of everyone’s mind right now. We all know it won’t be “business as usual” when you open.
You need to create a step-by-step plan for everything you are going to do to ensure safety. Putting up a few signs in your practice is not going to work. A visit to your local grocery store where people can’t seem to follow the taped arrows on the floor or the markers for social distancing in line will tell you that.
It Starts With Your Team
Let’s say you get the green light to open. You’re super excited and can’t wait to tell your patients your door is open, but first you need to communicate with your team about what day to be back at work. Before you rush to tell your team when to report to your office for duty, take some time to really look through your team’s eyes at the current situation. Your team needs to know that you are committed to their safety, and you will need to think through how you communicate with them.
What are your team members thinking about? What are their priority concerns? And what steps have you taken to ensure their safety when they do come back to work?
Your team may be worried about their own immediate safety, but many of your team members may have a child or loved one who is particularly vulnerable right now or actually ill. They may worry about the risk of bringing home germs. How will this affect their ability to return to work? And what about your older team members who are themselves at high risk for contracting the coronavirus? Are they mentally prepared to come back?
Please remember that facts have a way of being shut out by strong emotions, and let’s face it, FEAR is one of the strongest emotions there is. Think about a small child who is afraid to go to sleep at night. Does simply telling the child that there are no monsters under the bed make them fall asleep quickly? Not a chance. You have to look under the bed and in the closet with them. You might take them on a whole tour of their bedroom to show them it’s free of monsters. You will likely tell them a happy story or sing to them. And then maybe, they will drift off. The point is your team is going to need more than just blanket statement assurances to feel safe.
One more thing to consider is the morale of team members who have been furloughed and/or have been struggling to pay their bills during the crisis. Anxiety can cause resentment to build, so how will you address those issues?
Be Prepared to Convince the Toughest Helicopter Mom
Just because you’re fired up about reopening, don’t expect that patients are going to be lining up to go to the doctor or dentist. If they have been postponing non-urgent treatment for several weeks, they may adopt a “wait and see” attitude about coming to your practice.
Take the time to try and see things through from your patients’ eyes. Think about your toughest helicopter mom, and what you will need to do to convince her. She is likely the gatekeeper to her entire household – don’t underestimate her needs. What about your older patients who may be at risk?
Vague assertions that “everything is under control” are not going to cut it.
It’s Sink or Swim Time
This pandemic is a time when the strong are going to get stronger, and the weak are going to get weaker. Now is the time for you to be fully engaged and step up to the plate in order to protect your business.
Many of your competitors are going to struggle to stay above water and get things together well enough to handle the “new normal” of patient care. Take advantage of that and do the strategic planning necessary so that you are ready to hit the ground running once you do get the green light to reopen.
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