Follow this guide to social distancing at work.
For many businesses and organizations that sent employees home during the COVID-19 pandemic, heading back to the workplace might feel a little strange. Thankfully, there are ways you can proactively create a safe and socially-distant office space through smart planning and new equipment.
Social distancing, or physical distancing, is one of the most important things we can all do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this means staying at least 6 feet (about two arms’ lengths) away from other people who don’t live in your household, wearing masks, and frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Here are four tips for a social distancing office layout:
- Identify risks
- Rethink the workspace
- Reimagine break time
- Support virtual communication
Use our guide to social distancing at work to help employees stay safe and feel comfortable away from home.
The first step is to evaluate your workspace and identify potential hot spots where infection might be more likely to occur. These could include common areas where employees could be in close contact with each other (within 6 feet), such as meeting rooms, break rooms, cafeterias, and waiting areas. It’s also a good idea to have a specialist examine the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as this can impact air circulation.
You may want to stock up on personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, in case employees arrive without the proper gear. You can even be environmentally conscious while keeping safe with biodegradable nitrile gloves, now available in limited quantities (as all nitrile glove are right now) in our online shop.
Rethink the workspace
Even as we head into colder months, keep your windows and doors open as much as possible (weather and safety permitting) to keep fresh air circulating. You’ll likely need to adjust seating arrangements so employees can work at least 6 feet apart. There are many ways to achieve this with some creative thinking and space planning.
- Rearrange common seating areas by moving chairs 6 feet apart or by blocking off alternate seats with tape or rope so they can’t be used. You might also replace large couches with individual chairs.
- Use signs, tape, or decals to demonstrate how to socially distance. You might put colored tape on the floor to act as a measure of 6 feet, turn high-traffic walkways into one-way routes, or use crowd control stanchions to block off certain areas.
- When social distancing is not possible, use transparent face shields or safety barriers to separate employees, contractors, and visitors. Even a rolling easel can help separate spaces between cubicles. For safety, be sure any barriers do not block emergency exits.
Reimagine break time
Employees will also have to adjust how they catch up at the watercooler or take a lunch break.
The CDC recommends replacing communal items, such as coffee pots and bulk snacks, with pre-packaged, single-serving items. Encourage people to bring their water bottles from home and consider installing a no-touch water fountain or providing eco-friendly single-use boxed water.
If the weather permits, you can suggest that employees eat lunch outside. Some workplaces have also established staggered break schedules to keep crowd sizes down.
Support virtual communication
Even with employees working in the office, there may still be a need for virtual meetings, especially if it’s impossible to safely gather in your usual conference room. In addition to laying out clear expectations and guidelines for collaboration and productivity, employers need to make sure their team has the right equipment for socially distant communication.
There are many options for collaboration and project management software that can help improve efficiency. Check out this review of some of the best team tools available.
When it comes to equipment, anyone expected to participate in virtual meetings should have access to a web camera, a built-in microphone, and a headset, as well as a personal desk phone. Laptops and wireless networking can also help establish a socially distanced office space, freeing employees from the traditional hardwired desk.
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