At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks were reserved for front-line workers treating patients. Access to masks was limited, so many people avoided using them and resorted to staying at home to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Today, masks have become commonplace—especially as communities begin opening up and strive for a return to normalcy. You can buy them online, in grocery stores, at gas stations, and even from high-end boutiques.
Many states and cities have mandated mask-wearing in public spaces to limit the spread of COVID-19. As a business owner, you can also mandate mask-wearing on your premises. Learn why you should—and how you can enforce it.
Why You Should Enforce Mask-Wearing
The main reason to mandate masks at your business is to protect the health of your employees, customers, and community. When everyone “acts like a carrier” and wears a mask, they can prevent the spread from one person to another.
It’s not always obvious that someone has COVID-19. People may have recently contacted an infected person and are not showing symptoms yet, or they may be asymptomatic. By making masks mandatory for everyone, you’re mitigating risks for all.
Enforcing mask-wearing can also become a marketing tool. Your employees will feel safer with customers wearing masks, and your shoppers will feel more comfortable knowing that you’re taking the pandemic seriously. How you enforce your mask rule will send a message to others in your area. In 2020, this position can be part of your branding.
Some businesses are better at enforcing masks than others. Consider following the rules below to help you enforce masks at your business.
Post Clear Signage
The first step for enforcing masks: let customers know that they need to wear them. Post clear signage on the front door asking customers to wear masks. You can also station an employee at the entrance to offer hand sanitizer and ensure each customer wears a mask.
To promote your mask policy further, write about it on social media, in email, and in other marketing collateral. Let people know ahead of time what they need to do—this proactiveness will prevent needing to turn away a customer for not having a mask to wear.
Lead by Example
You can’t expect your customers to take your mask policy seriously if you and your employees don’t. Make sure you always wear a clean mask at work and check to make sure your team members do as well. You can even provide your employees with masks and keep a box of disposable masks on hand for emergencies.
Wearing a mask means wearing it correctly. Your mouth and nose need to be covered fully and the mask needs to fit snugly around your face. You can’t limit the spread of the virus by wearing your mask under your chin or below your nose.
Enforce Your Mask Rules
Many companies have mask rules but don’t know how to enforce them. As a result, employees are left to ask customers meekly to put a mask on—and they often get ignored. Hold a team meeting to train your staff on how to enforce mask-wearing. This should cover topics like:
- How to approach customers and ask them to wear masks
- How to deny service and ask customers to leave if they will not comply
- When to get a manager or supervisor to help with a customer
If your other customers see that you aren’t enforcing the mask rule, they won’t feel safe in your store. They may not return while the pandemic is still going on—and you could even lose them permanently.
People are getting creative around mask loopholes, so they can walk around without a mask while still following a company’s rules. For example, Disney recently closed a loophole where customers could remove their masks to eat or drink. Some guests were carrying around soda throughout the day without wearing a mask, potentially putting other guests at risk. Now, customers need to stop in a designated area to eat or drink their food and then return their mask to their face.
You may encounter a few loopholes of your own as you develop your mask policy. When you close them, let customers know so they can adjust their behaviors.
Bust Mask-Wearing Myths
Some customers may try to push back against mask-wearing: they might claim they are exempt because of their health or that it is an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) violation to make people wear one. These are myths.
First, there is no such thing as a face-mask-exempt card. Furthermore, the ADA states that you need to provide “reasonable accommodation” to customers who cannot safely follow your shopping guidelines. Many stores offer curbside pick-up or delivery services as alternatives.
You are under no legal obligation to let someone shop without a mask and can deny service to customers who do not follow your rules. By busting these myths, you can empower yourself and your employees.
Everyone needs to do their part to wipe out COVID-19. Even if you don’t live in a pandemic hot spot, you can still fight the virus by practicing social distancing and establishing a mask-wearing policy in your store.