If your office is slowly filling back up with employees desperate to escape the confines of their homes and experience human contact with people who don’t constantly require snacks or need refereeing while watching reruns of cartoons, how can you ensure your small business is complying with social distancing requirements,, while still maintaining employee output and business function?
What does social distancing in the workplace look like?
Before you can implement social distancing measures, let’s recap what it actually is.
Social distancing is essentially keeping people apart from one another, with 2 meters distance being the gold plated solution.
How can you do this at work?
-Install signs around your building or office reminding employees to keep 2 meters apart.
-Use tape to physically mark out 2 meter gaps where people tend to congregate i.e. while waiting for the lift, to get through security, in the cafeteria, for example.
-Use tape to mark out 2 meter squares around work stations, if you have the space, and position desks in the centre of the 2 meter square blocks.
Alternative solutions to the 2m rule
Where this isn’t possible, you might not have the space in your office to have everyone back to work and maintain distance, there are additional control measures you can implement to keep everyone safely apart while they work together.
– Reduce the number of people in the team to the absolute minimum, and keep the same members in each team, don’t let people switch teams. This limits unnecessary social contact, plus it makes it easier to track and trace should a member of a team fall ill.
– Limit people’s movement around the workplace. Either stipulate people must remain at their workstations at all times or put in place a one way system to keep people moving safely around the building.
– Don’t let staff touch different equipment or surfaces that aren’t theirs.
– Hold meetings or arrange desks so that employees are side by side, not face to face. Zoom isn’t just for remote working – there’s nothing stopping you from having a meeting with everyone in the office, with everyone staying at their desk!
– Install barriers to physically separate employees.
Controlling social distancing in communal areas
Guaranteeing social distancing in your office when people are sitting still at their desks is one thing, but people aren’t wont to come into the office at 8am, sit in their chair and not move from their safe bubble for 8 hours. They will need to use the toilet, go and get their lunch, travel around the building, print paperwork, use the fax machine, for example.
These are all basic human and office requirements. So what can you do to ensure social distancing in each scenario?
– Using the bathroom – limit the number of people who can use the facilities to one at time. Pop a sign on the door that can be flipped around to say engaged or vacant, ensuring the safety of the bathroom user. If you have larger facilities, use tape to mark out 2 meter spaces so multiple people can use the bathroom while maintaining social distancing.
– Queue safely – implement a one-way system with marked out 2 meter spots so that employees can queue safely. If you have narrow corridors that require people to move two-ways up and down the corridor, consider installing screens to protect people and/or require staff to stick to the wall on their right when travelling around the building.
– Display signs that remind employees to keep washing and disinfecting their hands and wash down their work surfaces regularly, to prevent the transmission of any infections.
– Encourage workers, even in their downtime, to maintain social distancing to protect themselves and those around them, even when offsite.
– Now is a great time to cut back on the amount of printing you do. Implement an online filing system and encourage all employees to file documents and data electronically, rather than have paper printouts. Not only will this reduce the need for people to move around the office to the printer, but it will also reduce your paper costs too.
– If you still rely on an analog fax machine, now is the time to take your faxing online. Sign up to a cloud-based fax provider and relegate the fax machine to the technology scrapyard. Not only will you prevent cross contamination from multiple employees using the fax machine, you’ll also save yourself a bucket load of cash by reducing your faxing costs – it costs on average over $1 to send each and every fax. Just think of the cost savings to your bottom line, and your health, by using a digital fax solution.
Social distancing when arriving or leaving work
Maintaining distance at work can be reasonably managed, but what about when people arrive or leave work? How can you ensure your employees’ safety as they enter or exit your workplace?
– First off, prevent overcrowding. Stagger arrival and leaving times for your teams. If you can, rotate teams to work from home throughout the week so you don’t have everyone in the office at any one time.
– Not only will shift working limit the number of people in your office, it will also help reduce the number of people riding on public transport too. Win win.
– Mark out the ingress and egress routes to your workplace so that you operate a one way system and provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser at all entry and exit points.
– Replace touch point security devices with swipe cards and consider replacing door handles or push plates with materials such as brass which have natural antibacterial properties.
Your small business doesn’t have to take a hit just because of social distancing, you can still use your office throughout the pandemic, just make sure you do it in a safe and responsible manner.