Journal

Social Distancing at Work: Getting Your Office Ready

Going back to normal won’t happen anytime soon. There will be a new normal in our daily lives and in offices around the world. The exact rules and regulations will be different in every country but with proper social distancing measures, working at the office will be possible.


AK-3-h200820-03Now that people have no choice and have to work from home, a lot are starting to rethink their work-life balance. It has become clear that you don’t always have to work from the office. At the same time, people started to appreciate their workplace. It is nice to keep your home and the place where you work separated. Also, talking and having informal meetings with colleagues is important. Lastly, collaboration can be difficult with limited face-to-face communication. So, how can we keep the social aspect of the workplace and maintain distance at the same time? 

The post-pandemic workplace

When we return to our offices, there will be changes in place. Among the key measures, companies are already considering: more space, sanitation and flexibility and more employees working from home on a semi-regular basis. 

The social distance rules differ per country, but it ranges from 1,5 meter to 2 meter (or 6 feet for most Anglo-Saxon countries). This will have the biggest impact on working in an office and the number of colleagues you see there. But how do you prepare your company for these new social distancing rules without breaking the bank?

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COVID-19 measures for the entire office

These are mostly individual social distancing measures for a safe workplace, but you can’t expect your employees to do this alone. As a company or business owner, you are responsible for the whole workforce.

Plan the return and new working schedules

With the phased return, it is easier to achieve social distancing. It lowers the chance of people bumping into each other and with lower desk occupancy, keeping enough distance is also easier. Or you could make schedules, so one part comes in one day and the other part the other day. In this way, you will lower the office occupancy and avoid high traffic on busy hours, when people arrive or leave. 

Create barriers and routing 

You need to rethink how people move through the office. Make hallways and stairwells one way only and put up signs to make it clear. Think of road markings but for the office. With room dividers, you can create flexible routing in the areas where people are likely to bump into each other.

routing in the office with room dividersSame works for the workstations. In addition to spacing them out, you can add physical barriers between people. With workplace dividers and lamps, you will make sure that people keep their distance at shared desks. 

social distancing at work with desk dividers

Keep the desks clean 

Put measures into place so that people could clean their own desks. It is true that keyboards and laptops are dirty, but it’s mostly your own bacteria. However, this is not the case with hot-desking. Therefore, it is best to assign every employee to a fixed workstation. Only practice hot-desking if you can make sure that the tabletops and office equipment are sanitised regularly. Also, you can consider switching to desks with special anti-bacterial tabletops. Our tables have them as well - contact us if you want to learn more.  

Promote personal hygiene

Clean hands is a must have. You have to promote it in every way possible - hang reminders and instructions next to the taps in bathrooms and kitchens.  Next to washing your hands regularly, installing hand-sanitizing stations also adds to the overall office hygiene. Put them in high-traffic areas and at the entrances of your office. 

Keep meetings at a minimum and safe

If there is a meeting, make sure that everybody sits apart and that the room is ventilated. Clean the table before and after each meeting. Keep the number of people in the meeting low and always ask yourself, is it really necessary to have this meeting? 

separate meeting rooms in the office The new social distancing etiquette at work

Let’s state the obvious first: stay at home if you cough, have a fever or shortness of breath. Sneeze or cough in your elbow and don’t touch your face. While these are general COVID-19 rules, there is also a need for the new office etiquette. 

Ensure physical distance

Keeping your distance at all times is the most important rule. However, sometimes it is easier said than done. So, put rules in place for using elevators, so that people could use them safely. Since staying in shape is difficult, you could also encourage using the stairs more. But keep in mind to not touch the handrail, it is like shaking hands with all your co-workers at once. In general, it’s better to avoid touching surfaces in high-traffic areas.

Get your own coffee 

It depends on your work culture, but in most offices, people get coffee for their co-workers. Although this is a nice thing to do, it is better if everybody gets their own beverages. In that way, you don’t touch the cups of your colleagues. 

No handshakes policy

Another measure that will prevent the spread of virus is a no-handshakes policy. Encourage employees to avoid handshakes, hugs and other physical contacts when greeting each other.

Striking a balance between working from home and the office

Your workplace is now prepared for work again. After weeks of self-isolation, people might be eager to get back to the office. Some people might be fearful of returning to work. The choice should be up to them, so be aware of peer pressure from colleagues. Everybody has a different background and approach to dealing with this crisis. As we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, working from home in teams is also working out for most office jobs. So striking a balance between working from the office and home might be the perfect solution to slowly be getting back to a new normal.

checklist for COVID-19 office design