Social distancing in office areas, receptions and other working environments is the new normal as we return to work. To help support businesses through this period of transition we have put together some short tips on how to manage social distancing throughout the workplace.
Shift changeovers and lunch changeovers
Supporting employee health and well-being whilst minimising the impact of disruption caused by COVID-19 is going to be difficult. When adapting shift patterns, rotas and rosters you need to think about not only your employee’s health and protecting them from the virus, but also the impact on their well-being from working more hours or from additional pressure due to limited resources.
Staggering employees shifts and hours can help ease congestion in and around the working environment. The number of staff in the office at any one time should be kept at a minimum to meet governments social distancing guidelines. Having employees start at staggered times such as 7am, 10am and 1pm can help to reduce the amount of people in the working environment at any one time as well as limiting the number of your employees who could be at-risk of being infected during the rush hour on the way to and from work.
You can also introduce a phased approach or staff rotations when employees come back into the workspace, which will help you maintain social distancing guidelines. Employees who can work from home or remotely should remain doing so until these guidelines are lifted. In turn, this means giving more space in the workplace to those who must return.
How to tackle meetings
Most businesses will have turned to online collaborative tools such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams or Zoom during COVID-19. As businesses begin to return to work, face-to-face meetings will begin to return as they are an essential part of the business. Face-to-face meetings, when unavoidable, should always be held in well ventilated rooms or even better, when the weather permits, outside.
How to hold safe face-to-face meetings:
- No handshaking – greet attendees with a smile and eye contact. Avoid all physical contact
- Meet in large, well-ventilated rooms, or outside. Ensure that there is at least one chair between each person.
- Wash hands before the meeting and after the meeting. Always ensure there is hand sanitiser available in the meeting room.
- Ensure all surfaces (work surfaces, doorknobs, keyboards and telephones) are disinfected before and after the meeting.
Although these are a few ways you can make face-to-face meetings safer, face-to-face should be avoided and you should encourage virtual meetings.
How to approach break room and communal environments in the workspace
Making the workspace a safe environment for your employees should be one of your top priorities. Break room areas and communal shared spaces shouldn’t be overlooked, if possible, we recommend these areas are closed off to avoid employees sitting together in confined spaces. If these break rooms and communal spaces are essential, here are a few things you can do to help support the social distancing guidelines in your workplace:
- Stagger break times and lunch times to reduce pressure on these areas.
- Install protective translucent screens where social distancing is difficult
- Reconfigure all seating and tables in these areas to support the 2-metre social distancing requirement.
- Reduce congestion in hallways by introducing alternative entry points where possible.
- Use a variety of social distancing signage to help workers keep to a 2-metre distance. Shop the range here
Cleaning and hygiene
Cleaning and hygiene in the workplace has always been important, but extra care and attention should now be taken in order to eradicate the virus.
Cleaning and disinfecting areas: Increase the frequency of all cleaning and disinfection in order to maintain high standards of hygiene. Ensure the work environment is cleaned down and disinfected at the end of each day. When cleaning the working environment, remember to focus on these areas:
- High touch surfaces such as door handles, desks, printers, mouse, keyboards and telephones
- Communal areas; break rooms (if not closed off), cafeteria, receptions, restrooms
When disinfecting and cleaning these areas ensure you always wear disposable gloves and dispose of them correctly. Never use the same disinfecting cloth for more than one area, always use a fresh new cloth for new areas to prevent the virus spreading and always spray your chosen disinfectant on the area and let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping and cleaning away.
Handling and disposing of rubbish: Waste, disposable cloths and tissues should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. Waste should be stored safely and should not be kept in communal areas; ensure you dispose of all waste immediately.
Within a relatively short space of time, COVID-19 has radically changed the way of work across the world. As employees begin to return back to work, it’s important for businesses to look at the working environment and consider what are the new best practices in a new socially distant world. Supporting the health and well-being of your employees should be top priority in this transition. Find out more on best practices in your new workplace here .