There’s a huge and increasingly-urgent debate taking place between governments and businesses still locked down because of Covid-19 over the ‘social distance’ they’ll have to operate when they can reopen.

Pubs, restaurants and others types of businesses have been saying they can’t survive with two metres remaining the guidance because it won’t allow enough customers per day or they have to be closer to customers.


Many have been calling directly, or via their trade bodies, for a relaxation to the one metre guidance favoured by the World Health Organisation.

As a result, it’s reported that the UK Government is planning to announce a relaxation of it in order to allow more businesses to reopen sooner.

But by only calling for the distance to be reduced, increasing the risk of infection to customers, businesses are actually endangering their chances of saving their business when they can trade again.

The reasons are found in four statistics in the Edelman Trust Barometer Spring 2020 Update:

  • 73% of the UK public think the priority should be saving as many lives as possible even if it means the economy will recover more slowly
  • 71% of those surveyed said if they think a brand is putting profit over people, they’ll lose trust in that brand forever
  • 65% said how a company responds to the coronavirus crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of buying from it in the future
  • They’ll also convince others to stop buying from you if you aren’t behaving correctly – “Large numbers of people have already convinced others to stop using a brand that they felt was not responding appropriately.”

So if you’re seen to be simply calling for a distance shorter than two metres to help you make money, trust in your brand will be lost by a vast percentage of current and potential customers. And they’ll convince others to avoid your business too.

The two metres may go, but so will your customers – disgusted with your putting profit before people and feeling your business is unsafe to use.

What to do instead

Instead of simply calling for a relaxation of the two-metre guidance, you should be suggesting ways to provide customers with extra protection in order to enable the distance to be reduced safely without exposing them to extra risk of infection, such as compulsory wearing of face coverings.

Showing you care about people as well as saving your business can actually help your bounceback – the Edelman survey found more than a third have started using a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way the brand has behaved since the pandemic began.

While you can share your suggestions via your own owned channels – email, social media, website etc – you should also amplify them by using earned channels – such as media – and shared ones – such as business organisations you’re a member of – to reach more of your current and potential customers, maximising your potential reputational benefit and business gain.

Maintaining trust and a good reputation will be vital if your business is to survive and thrive after Covid-19.

For other things you should be doing, see also my earlier blogs: