“Social distancing” has become the unofficial buzz term of the year. And as businesses begin to reopen despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2, keeping workers, customers, and visitors at least six feet apart should remain a priority. Of course, enforcing social distancing in the workplace is easier said than done for many businesses. No organization is expected to separate their people at all times -- but making an effort to keep your distance (along with performing proper disinfection measures, enforcing mask-wearing, etc.) can go a long way towards keeping your office environment safe.
With that in mind, here are five practical ways to implement social distancing in your office.
If your office is spacious enough, one of the easiest and most effective ways to encourage social distancing is by changing up the interior layout. The main goal here is to create ample space (ideally six feet or more) between desks, cubicles, tables, etc. Your office might look a bit strange after taking this measure, and it might not be the most efficient arrangement, but it will naturally keep employees apart from one another during their shifts.
In addition to adjusting your office’s floorplan to encourage social distancing, you might also mark floors, post signage, and/or rope off areas to direct the flow of foot traffic in and out of your office. Nudging employees and customers in a single direction may frustrate some people and require them to walk further to get from point A to B, but it will minimize the number of close encounters and collisions in the office.
For better or worse, during the course of this pandemic, many businesses were forced to enter the growing realm of remote work. While this transition may have presented several challenges for some organizations, others benefited from the freedom and cost-savings it offered. Regardless of your stance on remote work, if your business can sustain itself while continuing to keep employees working from home, this is a powerful way to implement social distancing. Even if your reopening requires the physical presence of employees, consider whether or not all employees must return, or if some can remain at home for the time being. As an added bonus, having fewer people present in your office will make it easier for professional disinfecting services to do their jobs.
This social distancing method is related to the previous one, adjusting the way your employees work. Rather than keeping your people at home, though, this method involves reconfiguring employee schedules to limit office occupancy at a given time. For instance, if in the past your office contained all or most employees during the same time frame (i.e. 9-5), try scheduling some employees to come in and leave earlier and others to enter and exit later. Establishing these new shifts might involve cutting hours, incentivizing employees to alter their personal schedules, and more, but it might be worth considering if your office is relatively flexible.
Finally, if your office regularly allows customers inside, try to find ways to keep them at a distance from employees, too. You might only allow one customer or group in at a time, limit the total number of customers allowed inside at a given interval, encourage one-way foot traffic as mentioned before, and more. Try to find the balance between encouraging customers to come inside and maximizing safety and social distancing protocols.
What If Social Distancing Is Impossible?
The five methods outlined above can work well for some offices, but other workplaces may struggle to make any of them work. If social distancing is virtually impossible given the nature of your space and/or operations, you can still minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in other ways. Encourage or require employees and customers to wear masks when inside, post reminders regarding best practices for personal hygiene and handwashing, invest in a coronavirus deep clean service prior to reopening -- the list goes on. Ultimately, the best way to keep your people safe during these uncertain times is to implement social distancing along with the other health and safety precautions just mentioned whenever possible.
The Budd Group is here to help you get your office up and running as quickly and safely as possible. We offer traditional spray and wipe disinfection services, disinfection misting services, deep cleaning, facility maintenance, and much more.
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