Social Distancing In The Office
Face coverings, plastic face shields, latex gloves, one-direction aisles, 6-foot floor stickers, HAZMAT suits. A year ago — for many of us — these concepts probably resembled more of a science fiction movie than reality. Yet here we are, dealing with the effects of COVID-19, which have drastically altered the way humans interact with one another.
Offices are no exception to social distancing. While many employers have had to creatively rethink how personnel work, productivity and safety should go hand in hand. Below, we’ll cover office social distancing best practices.
Workspace Social Distancing — Revamping the Office Layout
We’re likely used to seeing offices crammed with as many cubicles as possible. Narrow aisles and open-floor plans with nothing more than short dividers separating one employee from the next. Amid COVID-19, however, the traditional office simply won’t cut it.
How can one social distance in the workplace? Effective social distancing at work begins with an office “makeover.” Here are some ideas:
- Stagger work schedules: Maintaining a separation of at least 6 feet might be challenging in a typical office arrangement. Start by limiting the number of employees reporting to the office on a daily basis. Divide staff into groups. For example, have group A work from home Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Have group B report to the office on the days group A is working remotely. Then flip-flop the following week. Also allow for varied shifts, to further reduce employee capacity at any given time.
- Install barriers: We’ve probably all seen this type of concept when checking out at a grocery or retail store. Replace standard cubicle dividers with taller screens or plastic dividers (sometimes referred to as sneeze guards). If maintaining ample space is difficult, this is a smart way to help keep personnel protected from others sneezing or coughing.
- Use one-way arrows in the kitchen: Make social distancing in the workplace easier by directing traffic. If your company has an office kitchen — big or small — limit the number of employees allowed to use this area at one time. Place one-way arrow stickers on the floor. This way, team members won’t be shoulder to shoulder.
- Try “hot desking”: This concept does away with a seating chart. Instead, workers are allowed to sit at any desk of their choosing. This approach was gaining popularity before COVID-19, but employers may now shy away from the idea of encouraging communal desk use — especially with stringent hygiene practices top of mind.
The good news is, hot desking is still feasible. Try to space desks as far apart as possible, or limit the number of employees in the office (as mentioned above). Start by reinforcing firm desk-cleaning policies. For example, have employees sanitize their workstations before and after use. Define which areas need to be cleaned (e.g., keyboards, phones, desks, monitors, mouses, etc.) or consider hiring cleaning personnel. Have disinfectant supplies readily available for staff, as well.
Even with a modified layout, however, open-floor plans can create plenty of distractions for office workers. Soundproof phone booths from Pillar Designs offer the perfect solution. Plus, The Pillar Booth is ideal for contributing to a socially distant workplace with its space-saving design and protective barriers.
Acclimating to this new “normal” office environment can be possible by using the above suggestions as a starting point. We wish you a happy and safe workplace!