Restrictions on the safe opening of retail agencies and offices including call centres have not proved a significant barrier to business, according to agents interviewed for a Travel Weekly Webcast.

Measures implemented by the agents questioned included the supply of hand sanitiser, the use of face coverings and plastic screens and restrictions on access to brochure racks and kitchen equipment.

Tony Mann, managing director of Idle Travel in Bradford, said the health and safety measures he’d put in place had not put customers off, and his re-opening had “gone much better than expected”.

“We’re in a shopping mall. We have gone to an appointment-only system for coming into the shop but if we’ve got no appointments, then we will let them in.

“We have a long mat outside telling people to social distance and I’ve got a big pull-up stand that says ‘we’re back; we’re open’. Inside we’ve got five desks, but only two of them are in use. And we will only allow two customers per desk so a total of four customers and a total of two members of staff in the office.

Mann said he had done a thorough risk assessment of the premises before returning to work.

“We’ve got the gloves, the masks, bespoke screens across the desks with Idle Travel all over them – anything for a bit of marketing; and we’ve got procedures for when people come in and how we let them in,” he said.

“We’ve got a bespoke hand sanitiser unit that I had made because it had to be a certain colour. I’m a bit OCD and I just didn’t want any old tat in the office; so we take customers to that, ask them to sanitise their hands and then sit them down. We’ve put tape on the floor to make sure they can’t go off to certain parts of the office.

“We still have our brochures out but the customers are not allowed to go to the racks to get the brochures themselves; we will pass them over.”

Mann has also introduced a plentiful supply of Idle Travel branded pens for customers to sign contracts, and then take away with them.

He said staff had so far decided not to wear masks while consulting at their desks.

“The screens are very big. They’re completely across the desks so that the phones and the computers are all completely behind them, so the staff have decided not to wear one. They have to when they go to the door though,” he said.

Mann added that Idle Travel now had a set procedure for when every client leaves the shop, and customers had adapted quickly to the new measures.

“We have a full clean-down of any points of touching, such as the door. Then we have a cleaner to come in every night when we’ve finished. There’s no hot drinks whatsoever, they all bring their own water and everything. So a completely different way of selling and how we run the office, but actually it’s worked better than I thought,” he said.

“[Customers] are quite used to it. If you think about it, when you go to the post office or you go to the bank, we’ve been used to them having screens. I mean, it is weird at first, but people are not bothered at all about it, and they’re happy to use the sanitiser.”

Phil Evans, owner of Swansea-based call centre agency Cruise Nation, said he had employed a specialist company to carry out a full health and safety audit of his premises.

“They came in and said any touch point has to have a hand sanitiser station next to it. We have wipes, screens, gloves, everything that you could possibly think of,” he said. “We even have the [full face] visors. They’re not mandatory, but if a staff member feels they want to wear an acrylic face visor, we have them. So far nobody does.

“We’re not allowing any hot food so the use of the microwave is out, and you also have to have a closed drinking cup. We’ve been told that staff weren’t allowed to have an open mug on their desks and everyone has been instructed that they have to wipe down the kettle handles, the tap handles, so on so forth every time they touch something.”

Evans said he had taken the decision to buy new desks to create more space between team members, but that had reduced capacity on the agency’s main floor from 60 desks to 32.

He said: “We took the decision, it’s not going to go away. This is something that we’ve got potentially till next year or the year after, until a vaccine is found. And we need to get it right. We need to have a working environment that the staff are comfortable in and they’re not worried about their health.

“For us, it’s about doing the right thing for the staff as much as for the business to get trading.”