10 tips for practicing effective social distancing

Man wearing a mask crouches on the floor while measuring and marking the distance between tables.

Once your team returns to the workplace, things may start to seem more normal or natural again. But easing back into the swing of things doesn’t mean you should ease up on practicing safe social distancing. Communicate these tips with your team.

“Employees are going through a lot, which will continue. Physical and psychological safety is going to be key to ensuring a healthy, productive re-entry,” said Tim State, senior vice president, Associate Health and Well-being, for Humana. “It is critical that teammates feel confident and trust they’ll be cared for as they walk back into the office.”

  1. Ensure desks or workstations are at least 6 feet apart. When possible, also make sure there is ample space for walkways.

  2. Set up virtual meetings. It’s important to try to do this even when you’re in the same building with coworkers. If in-person meetings are unavoidable, maintain a safe distance between meeting attendees, and keep meeting duration short (15 minutes or less).

  3. Keep conference rooms closed. If that’s not possible, limit attendance in shared rooms to a number of people that still allows employees to remain 6 feet apart.

  4. Remove extra chairs in common areas. Limiting seating in cafeterias or break rooms can help discourage people from congregating.

  5. Limit the amount of people allowed in shared bathrooms. Even if there are multiple stalls or toilets, be sure to hang signs on bathroom doors to remind employees to maintain a safe distance from one another.

  6. Encourage employees to bring lunch. Permit employees to eat at their desks whenever possible.

  7. Cancel or reschedule events. These might include nonessential meetings, training sessions or group activities.

  8. Add tape or markers on the ground in common areas. Adding these visual signals may help encourage people to continue to stand a safe distance from one another.

  9. Implement flexible or staggered work hours. Whenever possible, split your workforce into shifts to limit the amount of employees in the workplace at any given time.

  10. Avoid having employees share tools, workstations, utensils and other supplies. Advise employees to keep all work materials in a drawer, locker or backpack, and if possible, to label them with their name.

“It is critical that you have an open approach that employees feel confident about—it must be organized, rational, clear and easy to follow,” State said. Workplace plans can be adjusted to incorporate employee feedback and needs specific to your business, but these tips should help get you started.