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Reconfiguring the workplace for health and safety

Extract: Employers are considering how to enforce social distancing guidelines at work. Here are some of the best practices companies are using.

As communities across the country open back up for business, companies must evaluate the best ways to ensure their workers are safe and healthy at work.

Prior to the pandemic, a six-foot distance wasn’t always easy, as open-floor workspaces and cozy lounge areas were designed for social interaction. Now, businesses will have to consider how they’ll alter the layout of their offices to encourage more personal space.

Here are a few measures many are taking to ensure the health and safety of returning employees:

Cubicles and desk covers

Partitions between desks and departments are making a comeback during the re-opening process. Plexiglass and cubicle manufacturers are already reporting large spikes in sales as managers work to make their office spaces safer, CBS News reported.

One difference between cubicle orders today compared to just a few months ago: increased requests for transparent dividers.

Another method of making desks safer for employees is use of disposable desk covers. Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate company that’s helping companies re-envision their office spaces for social distancing, asks its employees to use paper placemats to protect the surface of their desks during the day, the World Economic Forum explained. 

Explanatory signs

Signage will be an important part of communicating new protocols to employees throughout a building. A few types of signs employers might consider include:

One-way traffic

Having a dedicated directional flow for foot traffic can help reduce the risk of breaking social distancing guidelines. Cushman & Wakefield recommend having one-way traffic at every point throughout the building, according to its 6 Feet Office Project, which is meant to help employers update their workspaces. Arrow signs on the floors and walls can remind workers which direction to walk in.

Waiting in line

When people are queuing up to enter the building, elevator, bathroom or anywhere else, they still must maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and the people in front of and behind them. Floor stickers that demonstrate exactly what that separation looks like can help people keep safe distances.

Choosing a seat

Selecting where you’ll sit during a meeting or in the lounge area perhaps has never been so complicated. Placing signs at designated places that are six feet from the next seat can help workers quickly take their place and start the conversation.

Staggered shifts

Even with social distancing guidelines in place, if you bring back every worker at the same time, it’ll inevitably be challenging to maintain safe distances. Altering worker schedules to stagger shifts can help, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out. This will reduce the foot traffic at the beginning and end of the day and will keep building occupancy lower.

Sanitation supplies

Last but not least, sanitation remains a top priority. Placing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building will help people care for their own personal hygiene. Many companies are also adjusting cleaning schedules to keep spaces clean, paying close attention to communal areas like break rooms and building entrances.

Protecting employees is more important than ever, so following these reconfiguration tips in your workplace can help reduce the risk of disease transmission while showcasing your organization’s commitment to the workforce and their safety.