The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way all businesses think about their day-to-day routines. Whether you own a law firm or a small staffing company, important measures must be taken to slow the spread of infection and limit other germy encounters in your office.

You’re probably wondering how that’s possible when you have an office full of employees who need to tackle their workday. Your city may be opening up soon, so you’ve got to get started with your plans!

The good news is there are tons of resources out there to make it easier for you to get the job done. Here’s how to maintain social distancing in your office during these troubling times.

What is Social Distancing?

Social distancing is the act of keeping people separated in order to reduce the spread of illness. This can be achieved by avoiding public transportation, increasing the amount of space between people at stores, and cancelling non-essential group events.

How Social Distancing Works

Social distancing works because it prevents healthy people from coming in close contact with sick people or those who are asymptomatic carriers.

When people are spread apart, it limits the spread of illness. It may not keep you 100% safe from harm, but it’s a surefire way to keep germs at a distance!

According to the University of Chicago Medicine, most coronaviruses, including COVID-19, are primarily spread through respiratory droplets. Since research shows those droplets don’t typically travel any further than 6 feet, that’s the amount of space experts recommend between people.

Here’s how social distancing works:

Social distancing is straightforward. The more distance you place between yourself and other people, the less likely you are to exchange germs. You should still follow regular hygiene practices like washing your hands for 20 seconds and not touching your face!

How to Social Distance in an Office

You can practice social distancing in your office by installing sneeze guards, implementing a no-visitors policy, and adjusting your office layout. There are several other measures you should take to ensure the safety of your employees and clients as well!

Here’s how to social distance in an office:

  • Install sneeze guards
  • Rearrange conference room seating
  • Adjust office layout
  • Provide employees with masks
  • Stagger shifts
  • Stock up on hand sanitizer
  • Order social distancing signs
  • Offer remote working
  • Postpone office activities and parties
  • Get creative

Install Sneeze Guards

Source: Dubois County Herald

Sneeze guards are hands down one of the best social distancing office solutions. They’re not foolproof by any means, but they can help block those respiratory droplets from entering your personal space. Consider installing these as barriers in your open office, at the reception desk, or between tables in your break room.

Rearrange Conference Room Seating

While you should try to limit group interactions entirely, sometimes that’s just not possible. When your team must meet in a group setting, be sure to leave at least 1 empty chair between each person. Bonus points if you move the meeting over to Skype or Zoom instead!

Adjust Office Layout

Open office layouts may soon become a thing of the past. Many office spaces have several employees in one room, and others even have them sharing one large table! If you have a larger office, now’s the time to spread people apart or invest in cubicles. Studies show your team probably wasn’t a fan of the open office layout, anyway.

Provide Employees With Masks

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends face coverings, it’s best to provide your employees with masks if you’re asking them to be in an office. They act as another barrier for the respiratory droplets that can cause illness, like COVID-19.

Tip: You can buy masks in bulk online, which is especially handy for companies who have many employees!

Stagger Shifts

If your employees can do their work at separate times, you should consider staggering their shifts. This limits the amount of people in your office at one time, which lowers the risk of transmission. Rotating your schedule so some team members work remotely while others are in the office is another way to limit interaction!

Stock Up on Hand Sanitizer

Don’t forget to stock up on tons of hand sanitizer for your office! From doorknobs to keyboards, your team will be touching all kinds of surfaces in the building. In addition to encouraging frequent handwashing, you should provide easy access to hand sanitizer all throughout your office. This will encourage workers to stay clean and healthy.

Tip: Make sure your hand sanitizer has at least 60% alcohol. The CDC recommends this amount of alcohol content when handwashing isn’t available.

Order Social Distancing Signs

Source: Fox News

Adjusting to the new normal of social distancing will take some time. One of the easiest ways to reinforce the mentality is by placing reminders throughout your office! Social distancing signs will remind your team to keep a distance when discussing your latest projects and life updates.

Offer Remote Working

Chances are your company has been working remotely since the pandemic started, but if returning to the office seems a bit too risky, consider staying at home a bit longer. Remote working isn’t for everyone, but if work can be done from the safety of your employees’ homes, it might be best to stay the course for a bit longer. It’s the ultimate way to limit in-person interaction!

Postpone Office Activities and Parties

No one likes to cancel a get-together, but if it’s for the safety of others, it’s always worth considering. Any non-essential company events should be postponed for the time being to ensure the health of all employees. The last thing you want is for one of your colleagues to become ill, so it’s best to put the holiday party off for a later time.

Get Creative

Social distancing is the new normal, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s used to practicing it. Find creative ways to make sure your employees feel comfortable with heading back to work. Take for example the color-coded bracelets in the picture on the left. This is a quick visual way for your employees to show their peers how they feel about social distancing.

Why Social Distancing Matters

Social distancing matters because it increases the amount of space between individuals, which limits the spread of germs. It’s a simple way to play your part in making the office a cleaner place. We all miss being able to gather at the water cooler or high-five our coworkers, but social distancing is a small price to pay if it means keeping others safe.

Will Social Distancing Continue After Lockdowns?

While there’s no official word about whether social distancing will continue after lockdowns, most businesses will likely enforce it. This means you’ll probably continue to see social distancing signs even after stay at home orders are lifted. Business owners need to take extra precautions to protect their workers, and social distancing is one of the simplest ways to do so!

Whether your state is currently returning to work or waiting for the green light, be sure to keep these tips on-hand. The last thing you want is to be scrambling at the last minute to figure out what your office setup will look like!

References

Landon, E. (2020, March 27). The power of social distancing. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/social-distancing-psa

Connolly, C., Markos, M. (2020, May 14). ‘It’s Kind of a Puzzle’: How Offices Are Adapting Space for Social Distancing. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from https://www.nbcboston.com/news/coronavirus/how-offices-are-adapting-to-social-distancing/2124222/

Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings. (2020, April 03). Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html

Keusch Glass shifts business in pandemic. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://duboiscountyherald.com/b/keusch-glass-shifts-business-in-pandemic

Taylor, N. (2020, March 30). A Duluth Print Shop Sells Social Distancing Signs. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.fox21online.com/2020/03/30/a-duluth-print-shop-sells-social-distancing-signs/

Pearce, K. (2020, March 13). What is social distancing and how can it slow the spread of COVID-19? Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/13/what-is-social-distancing/

About the author

Kelsey Skager

Kelsey is a master of promotional products with over five years of marketing and industry experience. She is proud to have been featured on ABC 7 Chicago News and NPR.