More and more of us are now returning to the workplace, but we are returning to a new kind of format - and a new kind of 'normal'. And one of these new 'normals' is social distancing. Social distancing forms a key part of the risk assessment that businesses have to complete before re-opening and allowing workers back in, to ensure a workplace is COVID-secure.
Some of the main ways that a distance of 2m between people can be ensured at work is:
- The use of floor tape or paint to clearly mark out work areas.
- Providing signage to regularly remind people to keep a 2m distance.
- Having people work side-by-side rather than face-to-face.
- Limiting the movement of people, especially in high traffic areas.
Arriving and leaving work
People tend to arrive and leave work at similar times, which can mean a lot of people in one space. To avoid large groups of people or crowding:
- Arrival and leaving times should try to be staggered.
- Provide more entry and exit points, so that people aren't leaving work via one point.
- Use floor markings to introduce a one-way system at entry and exit points.
- If your workplace uses a touch-based security system, try to avoid it or make sure it's cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
These are the places that people usually spend most of their working day, and so it's vital that social distancing is observed in these areas.
- The layout of the workplace should be properly reviewed to allow workstations to be 2m apart from each other - where possible.
- This layout should be marked out clearly using floor tape or paint.
- If your workplace usually has a high level of people working in it, then you may need to manage occupancy levels - for example: by staggering people's work hours/schedules.
- Avoid hot desking.
- If people have to share workstations, then limit the number of people to a minimum, and to keep the people sharing the space to the same group of people every time.
Another common feature of most workplaces is meetings. And this tends to involve a group of people gathering in one enclosed space, sometimes for long periods of time.
So, how to enforce social distancing in these situations?
- The first thing to consider is - does this meeting need to happen, and in-person? If not, then remote working tools are great for hosting meetings.
- If in-person meetings are essential, then only people that absolutely need to be there should attend. This should help in reducing numbers.
- Where possible, hold meetings in well-ventilated rooms/areas.
- Use floor markings to lay out distancing between people.
Common areas at work include spaces such as break areas and bathrooms. The potential for spread of the virus is higher in these areas, because they're such high traffic areas, if proper measures aren't in place.
- Provide signage to remind people to both social distance and wash their hands when entering areas where food and drink is consumed.
- If your workplace has a canteen or cafe, it might be worth considering having food delivered to tables. Plus, social distancing on tables etc can be marked out with floor markings.
- Stagger people's break times, so that numbers in break areas at any one time are reduced.
- When it comes to bathrooms, floor markings are also useful here or if possible, taking some cubicles out of use if they don't adhere to the 2m rule.
- A 'one in one out' system could also help with social distancing, if possible.
What about when 2m social distancing isn't possible?
- Keep the number of workers who can't social distance to a minimum.
- Reduce the number of workers in one area.
- Limit workers moving around the workplace, unless absolutely necessary.
- Limit the sharing of workstations and/or equipment.
- Use screens between workers.