WHAT TO EXPECT DURING COVID-19
In-Person Qualitative Research (California)
Nichols Research (NR) has implemented numerous elevated facility standards, following California State and Santa Clara/San Francisco County Orders, to ensure adherence to local, state, and federal guidelines.
Our priorities and obligations are for:
- The safety and health of our staff, respondents, clients, and all visitors.
- The reduction of transmission among employees and visitors.
- Strategies that identify and allow implementation of changed operations.
- Heartfelt gratitude to and support of all essential workers.
Please remember that these guidelines will be subject to change and adaptation as public health information and needs shift. We work in the real world, where risk can only be mitigated, not eliminated.
ELEVATED FACILITY STANDARDS
Physical distancing protocols have been implemented across all facilities and offices with floor, counter, and table decals placed throughout our spaces to indicate acceptable physical distancing. These are changed in research rooms and elsewhere as indicated necessary for a variety of research setups/configurations. Research rooms, reception areas, and offices have all been reconfigured to ensure physical distancing. When needed, areas other than reception will be used as waiting rooms.
One-way signs are posted on walls wherever feasible to control the flow of people to either use separate doors for entering and exiting or to prevent congestion. Additionally, signs are posted strategically throughout all areas of our facilities to remind staff and members of the public of important Coronavirus risk-reducing behavior (e.g., frequent hand washing, mask wearing, protecting the projection of sneezes/coughs, etc.).
Respondents are advised during recruitment that upon arrival, they will need to have their temperature taken and that if it is above 37.8° C / 100.4° F, they will be not be permitted to enter the facility. This also applies to clients and staff.
Additional health and wellness screening questions are included in all screeners for in-person/in-facility projects, and again on the day of research prior to each respondent entering the facility space. Staff and clients also must answer these questions upon arrival at the facility. Any client or observer who has come into contact with someone who has been exposed to the virus, or is otherwise considered to be a potential health risk to others, is required to monitor the research online and not visit the office.
Wherever it is safe and possible, we will frequently open windows to allow ventilation. Further, all our air conditioning units have been examined by a certified expert and have been updated according to each county’s guidelines. In San Francisco, this equates to timely and regular replacement of filters and increased fresh air intake to minimize air re-circulation. In Santa Clara County (Sunnyvale); fresh air intakes on all AC units are set to provide ventilation per Code, and now that the cooling season has ended and the risk of smoke from wildfires is minimal, the outside air intake rates are increased to further dilute any contaminants in the building; the central AC units operate on “constant ventilation” mode, allowing enough time for proper ventilation before occupants arrive and after they leave the building; all units have been fitted with MERV 13 filters which are replaced quarterly and all units have factory-made filter racks which eliminate the possibility of filter bypass; all AC units have been fitted with a GPS ionization system to clean the air flow by reducing airborne particles, odors and pathogens in the airflow.
Acrylic sneeze guards are installed at our reception desks where appropriate as a protective barrier for check-in and ID verification. Note, however, that our standard policy is for ID verification to occur with social distancing, and that our offices all use a dedicated lobby area for respondents to sign-in and conduct all necessary paperwork, one at a time.
Respondent food will only be considered for participants who will be in the facility for more than 2 hours and will be limited to individually wrapped sandwiches or boxed lunches as delivered by our restaurants (if deemed food service is required at all).
General food guidelines include: NR encourages clients and respondents to bring their own water bottles; while we have water bottles available, we will not be providing coffee or hot water in carafes, nor any other cold beverages for respondents; candy dishes/treat baskets have been removed from facility reception areas and client lounges; any studies involving food will be risk-assessed; only disposable food and beverage service items (paper plates, plastic silverware, paper cups, etc.) will be provided—all glassware has been removed; client food will be individually packaged orders, handed directly to clients and served as delivered with no re-plating.
CLEANING AND HYGIENE
All facilities have an electrostatic hand-held EPA disinfecting sprayer for disinfectant cleaning in all rooms at the end of each day.
Each room and its high touch areas (doorknobs, tables, etc.) is cleaned with wipes or other disinfectant methods between research sessions. Chairs are removed and replaced with newly disinfected and previously unused chairs for the day. To this end, we require a minimum allotment of 30 minutes (preferably 45 minutes) between research sessions to allow time for sanitation. (This will be determined on a case-by-case basis–for example, 20-minutes may be enough time for IDIs.)
All areas of our facilities are well stocked with hand sanitizer, tissues, and disinfectant wipes. Clients and respondents, one at a time, will be provided access to our kitchens for use as hand washing stations.
Magazines and all other paper pamphlets/materials have been removed from our reception areas, notepads will not be reused, and all pens will be sanitized after each use (although respondents and clients are encouraged to bring their own pen).
FACE MASKS AND FACE SHIELDS
All will be required to adhere to the recommended CDC, State and County guidelines. Therefore, we require that you arrive wearing either a disposable or cloth face mask that loops behind you ears. If it is evident that a face mask is damaged or otherwise ineffective according to CDC, we will require you to use a disposable mask provided by NR. Please note that bandanas and gaiters are not considered adequate “face masks” for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and will also be replaced with a disposable mask provided by NR for usage while inside our premises.
Respondents entering the research room may be provided with a disinfected face shield to use during the research in place of a face mask (see picture below). Before exiting the research, respondents will need to switch back to wearing a face mask. There will be a collection container for face shield drop-off outside the room. Please discuss with your research director early on what your preference is (i.e., face masks or face shields during the research). Note that applicable Codes do not allow for sneeze guards in place of face masks or shields.
Per California and County Codes/Guidelines:
- Prior to entering any NR location, all visitors and staff must be wearing a mask.
- Staff are always required to wear masks while indoors except when eating or drinking. They are also required to wear gloves when handling food or conducting touchless temperature taking, etc.
- Likewise, all clients and respondents are always required to wear a face mask or face shield, not just when in common areas. As a workaround to traditional face masks where expressions cannot be observed, we provide (and all respondents must agree to wearing) face shields such as the one pictured below for use during research sessions.
RESPONDENTS AND STAFF
All respondents and visitors will notice signage on entry doors and throughout the facility as reminders of how to stay safe and reduce health risk. NR staff has all completed a 2+ hour training on the State, County, and CDC guidelines, as well as our Risk Assessment and Infectious Disease Plan.
Our staff will return to our facilities only once they have passed COVID-19 screening guidelines, and if an employee displays even the most minor Coronavirus symptom, they must stay home or will be required to go home (if symptoms present while they are working in-person). Team members who are not required onsite for research studies will continue to work from home.
Research participant arrival times will be staggered as often as possible and new sign-in and check-out procedures have been implemented to ensure physical distancing.
Upon arrival at any NR research facility, respondents must sign a release of liability which they will be informed about and have agreed to during recruitment.
We kindly request cooperation from our clients with the following:
- Please review our Research Occupancy Guidelines (last page) and discuss with your research director at the time of study confirmation.
- Where respondents visiting our facilities have not been recruited by NR, the client will be asked to ensure these respondents have been pre-screened for COVID risk during outside recruitment and have been informed of our policy for health re-screening and touchless temperature taking onsite.
- Clients are also responsible for communicating NR/State/County guidelines and policies to their clients.
- Pre-ordering of any/all individual meals for delivery service.
- Only one client at a time to visit the front desk and only when absolutely necessary. Instead, please use a cell/telephone or email for communication.
- Speak with your research director about possibly over-recruiting.
- If a project must be rescheduled, cancelled, or moved to another market due to an unexpected State or other mandatory re-closure, facility fees will be waived—only recruiting to date will be charged. Additionally, in this case, we can also move the research to our OnlineQual platform and have experienced moderators on staff to help if needed.
Our team is here to help and consult with you in the planning and execution of your research. Please speak with your research director or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding NR’s safety processes during this new way of conducting important in-person research.
Research Occupancy Guideline
Depending on the configuration and market (Sunnyvale/San Jose and San Francisco), groups will generally be limited to the following number of respondents/observers by location, but does not consider special setups such as living room, breakout sessions, closed circuit observation for breakout sessions, etc.:
- Large research space (two rooms with airwall open), theater style = 12 respondents + moderator (and podium/AV side table/technician space, if needed)
- Large research space (two rooms with airwall open), conference style = 12 respondents + moderator
- Four research spaces/rooms, theater style = 6-8 respondents + moderator
- Four research spaces/rooms, conference style = 1-4 respondents + moderator
- Four research spaces/rooms, classroom style with smaller tables = 6 respondents + moderator
- Four observations rooms = 4-7 observers depending on research room
- Lobby/reception = 10 respondents (we can also use research rooms for overflow above 10)
- Large research space (two rooms with airwall open), theater style = 15 respondents + moderator (and podium/AV side table/technician space, if needed)
- Large research space (two rooms with airwall open), conference style = Up to 8 respondents + moderator
- One research space/room, theater style = 10 respondents + moderator
- One research space/room, theater style = 8 respondents + moderator
- One research space/room, classroom style with smaller tables = 6 respondents + moderator
- One research space/room, classroom style with smaller tables = 4 respondents + moderator
- One research space/room, conference style (for IDIs) = 1 respondent + moderator
- One observation room = 6 observers
- One observation room = 4-5 observers
- Lobby/reception = 10 respondents (we can also use research rooms for overflow above 10)
Dear Clients, Partners, Providers, and Respondents,
It is with gratitude and a great sense of responsibility that Nichols Research’s owners and personnel engage in practices that anticipate the needs of our stakeholders by supplying marketing research that inspires and delivers solutions.
With the infusion of a fun new culture and a revitalized strategic plan, Nichols Research provides the premium service the brand name has demanded for almost four decades, while also expanding our services, investing in technology and looking to the future to ensure more valuable answers than ever for decision-making.
These are a few of our favorite words which are pinned in many of our internal creative spaces serving, in part, as a foundation for our company’s culture: Ethical. Curious. Insatiable. Edgy. Creative. Strategic. Destructive. Ambassadors. Inspiring. Masterminds. Fun. Positive. Solution-oriented. Storytellers. Non-complacent. Sexy. Collaborative. Diverse. Fair. Vigilant. Transparent.
To the benefit of all of our stakeholders, we promise to:
- Be a pathway to decisions.
- Be mindful, transparent and humane in our business — with clients, personnel, partners and each other.
- Be a company who encourages, supports and participates in philanthropic community activities.
- Care about the satisfaction and growth — personally, professionally and financially — of our team.
- Maintain an infrastructure that supports people being excited to come to work every day and making a difference.
- Start with yes and talk each other out of it.
- Believe the problem is never the problem — state the problem but focus on the solution.
- Have fun even on hard days — some ridiculousness and laughter are mandatory!
- Be insatiable and crush everything we do. Take risks, some of which are more successful than others, but failure is not in our DNA. There’s always a lesson.
- Look to the future for short- and long-term growth and not be complacent through yesterday’s success.
- Feel like a family but be managed as an innovative business, with operating and marketing plans, budgets, growth strategies, etc.
- Never forget who we are or what our vision is; stay true to our integrity and mission.
- Be equal opportunity collaborators, not too good or afraid to get our hands dirty.
Thank you for entrusting us with helping you on your path to gaining or sharing insights and strategies.
Amy Shields, PRC