Bridge Insights

Social Distancing in the Workplace: Protecting Your Essential Employees

Apr 10, 2020

In the US presently, it is estimated that at least 316 million Americans are under some type of shelter in place order, encouraging them to stay home. Additionally, it is estimated that up to 50 million jobs are at risk from the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.

In the wake of the pandemic, many businesses have adopted a telecommuting work strategy to comply with social distancing measures to keep their workforce as healthy as possible. For some businesses and roles, however, working from home is not a realistic option. In those instances, it is essential to keep your on-site employees safe and their morale high.

If your business has employees that need to work on-site, what can you do to ensure you are effectively social distancing and keeping your workforce safe?

[blockquotes color=”accent” quote=”yes”] We are all in this together and we each must do everything in our power to protect each other as we go about our days. [/blockquotes]

Education Is Key

Over the past few months, proper handwashing techniques have been permanently emblazoned into our minds, but in these uncertain times, there is no such thing as over-communication about health and safety. Making information easily accessible to your employees is the key to prevention.

If you are implementing new policies on breakroom capacities or beginning a daily disinfecting break, friendly reminders are encouraged to build up new habits within your team.

Regularly send out a company bulletin that informs your staff about your COVID-19 safety strategy. Supplement this by posting the information in common areas around the workplace. In this way, you will build up a well-informed staff that is equipped to combat COVID-19. 

Limit Capacities in Common Spaces

CDC recommendations suggest maintaining a distance of 6ft or more to mitigate droplet transmission from person to person. Placing visual markers indicating this distance around the office can help employees gauge and maintain that distance throughout their day.

If members of your staff are working remotely, where possible, use the additional office space to spread out the on-site team. Additional materials like dividers and temporary walls may also be set up around the office to impede particle transmission.

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Promote Good Hygiene

During this time, it is completely normal for your personnel to want to regularly wipe down office surfaces in the spirit of good hygiene. Placing sanitation tools around the office is a great way to facilitate this.

Not only will multiple disinfecting stations throughout the office limit the number of people touching a particular item, but it will also be a visual reminder that your business encourages a safe and clean working environment. Additonally, it reminds your workforce they are part of a team that cares about their health and the safety of its employees.

Placing educational posters on things like proper handwashing techniques and how to cover your face when you cough or sneeze promotes proper hygiene as well.

Be Empathetic

This is a very tenuous time for Americans. In a perfect world, no one would have to travel for any reason under a shelter in place order, but because of the variety of jobs in the workforce, the personal relationships we all have, and the maintenance of our communities’ infrastructures, this is ideal scenario is impossible to execute.
Regardless of the reason, when we travel in public, we risk exposure and transmission. It is important to keep this in mind when communicating with your workforce.

Let your team know the decision to keep the office open was not one that was not taken lightly, and you are as committed to their health and safety as they have been to their professional responsibilities. Empathy is critical to maintaining a positive company culture during these stressful times; if an employee is compelled to travel to work for the wrong reasons, the resentment they will show toward your business will outlast any shelter in place order.

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We are all amid very trying and very uncertain times. Currently, it is unclear how long the US will be encouraged to adopt social distancing practices, nor it is clear how COVID-19 will reshape the format of the workplace, the economy, and –more broadly– American life in the months to come.

What we do know is we are all in this together. We are all doing our part to keep our communities active and healthy. Regardless of whether you are under quarantine or are called by our civic duty to be near others, we each must do everything in our power to protect each other, as we go about our days.