Who Is That Masked Retail Associate?

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Face coverings are now part of our attire. Here are tips for keeping your employees and customers safely covered

Forget cool boots and tweedy jackets. The hot accessory for autumn looks like it will be a face covering — just as it was in the spring and summer. 

With the novel coronavirus still spreading, the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Americans wear masks in public, especially when they can’t stay 6 feet away from others. (Note that we’re using the terms “mask” and “face covering” interchangeably. However, the CDC advises people not to wear surgical or N95 respirator masks so that supplies of those can go to medical personnel and first responders. In a workplace, like a retail store, office or distribution center, people should wear fabric face coverings, the CDC says.)

To ensure you and employees are getting the most protection from your masks, follow these recommendations:

O Donning your mask: Wash your hands before putting the mask on, and fit it so it covers your nose and mouth, is secure under your chin and sits snugly against your cheeks. If you touch the face covering later, be sure to wash your hands. To remove a mask, use the elastic bands — and wash your hands again. (Masks and hand washing go together like, well, a mattress and a mattress pad!) 

O Washing and drying: The CDC says fabric face coverings can be washed with your regular laundry in the warmest water appropriate for the fabric. You also can handwash them in a bleach solution of 4 teaspoons of household bleach to 1 quart of water. Soak for five minutes and then rinse. (Make sure the bleach you use is intended for disinfection; many color-safe bleaches aren’t.) Dry on the highest dryer setting or air dry (in the sunshine, if possible).

O Two is better than one: Some retailers provide employees with a specific mask style or color that coordinates with the store’s branding. If you do so, give each employee at least two masks so they always have a clean one available. 

O Fashion police: Creative mask suppliers and at-home sewers alike are crafting face coverings in a wide variety of fabrics, some featuring short messages and embellishments like sequins. Formalize a policy regarding what types of masks are — and aren’t — appropriate in your workplace.

O Policy postings: If you require face coverings be worn in your store or local authorities require them in public places, post that policy on your website, on social media channels and at the front door of stores.

O Supply side: Some customers may be reluctant to wear a mask — or may forget to grab one on the way out of the house. Stock up on individually packaged disposable masks to keep them covered.

O The virus — and going viral: At this point, you’ve probably seen viral videos of customers refusing to wear masks, or you may have encountered them yourself. Talk with managers and retail sales associates about how you want them to handle such shoppers and do some role playing so they can practice avoiding an escalation.