As states, counties, and cities begin to lift stay-at-home orders and companies begin to make plans to return to the office in the coming weeks and months, what social distancing considerations should organizations include in their planning?
In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser walks through a number of social distancing considerations, including workstations, cubicles, meeting rooms, offices, walkways & hallways, and more.
Related Episodes & Blog Posts
- Episode #92: Novel Coronavirus
- Episode #94: Personal and family preparedness for Coronavirus
- Episode #95: Lessons learned to date from the Coronavirus fight
- Episode #96: Crisis leadership in the time of Coronavirus
- Episode #97: Returning to the office in the age of COVID-19
Hello, and welcome to the Managing Uncertainty Podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, principal and chief executive here at Bryghtpath. I’m flying solo again today due to Minnesota stay at home and social distancing guidelines that we have in place, as I’m sure you are dealing with in your own workplace today, I hope that you are doing well. I want to spend just a little bit of time and talk about social distancing guidelines for businesses, as you start to think about reopening or returning to the office or other environment that you might work in, what social distancing and what PPE might look like, in this environment.
And so I want to talk through some things that we’ve been thinking about that we’ve been doing with other clients. And hopefully, this gives you some advice on how to implement these in your own business.
I’ll start by saying something we’ve said before, and that is that we have absolutely no idea what government is going to do what the government might require a view in order to return to the office. And you may see state by state, county, by county, city by city differences large and small in what those requirements are. But here are some things that we’ve seen put into place in businesses that have to be open right now. And things that we expect would be on your menu of things to consider, as you think about reopening in going back to the office, or reopening your small retail store or bakery or, you know, whatever your businesses. The first is that you really have to think about the entire structure that you have for your business and start thinking about it in terms of social distancing. And so I’ll start with something basic and that is like walking down the hallway or doing going down a walkway.
What we’ve seen be effective, what the CDC is recommending and critical infrastructure already is to create some kind of barrier or delineation that creates one-way lane in walkways, and hallways and those kinds of things that allow folks to move throughout the building while maintaining social distancing.
You can do this with tape. Right, you can run, tape on the middle of the hall and go if you’re going down this hall, this is the, you’re gonna walk on the right. If you’re coming in the other way down the hall, you’re gonna walk on the left. You know, if you’re looking at it from one end, and use tape, the best tape to use for this kind of thing on carpets and is typically like gaffers tape, you can get it from an audiovisual store, it’s a little stickier, but it comes up really easy and typically doesn’t leave a residue. But we’re, you know, work with your facilities focus on that, but start to think about how do you delineate lanes for folks to walk through
Then start thinking about your break rooms and your conference rooms, your meeting rooms if you’re going to social distance, you need to have folks sitting at least six feet apart, or you need to put a physical barrier in place so that they are not, you know, there’s no likelihood of cough or a sneeze for those droplets to circulate throughout the room, right?
So you could take your break room and put up some plexiglass, or plastic barriers to segregate the seats, or you can take every other seat, make sure folks are six feet apart and just remove those seats or put, you know, cross off those chairs with tape or a sign or what have you. The same thing for conference rooms. If you think about being in a conference room, you need to have folks at least six feet apart in there, so you’re probably losing half of your capacity or so. But I think it’s also worth thinking about from just a practice standpoint, are you going to use that conference room for a meeting? Given the you know, kind of the current situation? Or would you just have folks do the meeting virtually like you have been for the last several weeks, whether they’re doing that from their desk or something else?
Elevators so elevators particularly in in some parts of the world are quite crowded. So you’ll want to think about setting a maximum number per elevator and if you have to use tape on the floor to delineate where needed. You know, I’ve seen crowded elevators here, even here in Minnesota this year, but I think about being in some other countries and elevators really get cramped. And this is definitely a place where social distancing can become a challenge.
The big one is to take a look at your office layout. And look at where folks are sitting where your employees are sitting in particularly where you think about cubes or shared offices. How do you get them at least six feet apart, and you may have to reposition or reconfigure the floor layout in order to accomplish that, not a small task and something that you’ll want to think about sooner rather than later, in terms of getting this done in time,
As far as meetings go, I’m not sure we would recommend, as I said in person or same room meetings, and certainly no travel to meetings right now. In the return to Office stage. Can you conferencing or video conferencing and collaboration systems. Again, if you’re holding meetings in person chairs should be at least six feet apart.
And you want to wipe the surfaces down after the in-person meeting. So the next group coming in the room has a clean surface to work from should also make sanitation wipes that are approved by the EPA for use against Coronavirus – If you can get them, you want to make those wipes available for workstations, offices, cubicles, bathrooms, etc. so that folks can wipe their workspace down.
PPE is another factor here and there’s a lot of mixed opinions on this. Except when we’re talking about, you know, production manufacturing where you have to be in close quarters to do the work. meat processing, food processing, those are places where you’re really kind of shoulder to shoulder but you might be so and other manufacturing as well. So if you’re in close quarters, certainly appropriate PPE I think is necessary. The guidance from the CDC is that it’s necessary physical barriers on a food production line or any line where you have to be kind of shoulder to shoulder with each other are critical. The CDC released new interim guidance on meat processing yesterday.
At the time that we’re recording this, we’re recording this on, on April 28. The CDC published guidance on April 27, about PPE and social decision requirements in food processing. It’s definitely something to look at if you’re in manufacturing to get ideas about how to approach this. But in the office environments, you know, there’s a lot of mixed opinions about what to do with PPE. And certainly, I think we’re going to see some guidance on this from some jurisdictions, state and local perhaps County, about you know, wearing cloth mass or perhaps your landlord is going to mandate that cloth mask be worn. So here you have decisions to make about will you provide cloth masks or other masks in that environment? If you could obtain them?
Will you allow employees to wear their own masks if they have access to them? Those are all questions to determine. And to be honest, you know, if you’re wearing a cloth mask in an office environment for 8-10 hours, that’s not a very comfortable thing to do. So certainly, this is one I think worth thinking through as a company on what your approach should be.
As you think about promoting social distancing within your facility, consider encouraging single file movements and certainly taping the hallways, as we talked about is one way to do that.
If you have a lot of folks in the building, having workers or supervisors that can manage and facilitate social distancing until that is a good habit within your organization is a good thing to consider.
Where necessary, if you had a lot of folks in the building, and they’re working on a schedule, they’re doing shift work. Think about staggering the break times and shifts so you don’t have groups of workers during the breaks in the break room or the bathroom. Or staggering their arrival and departure time for the same reason where you can provide visual cues such as for tape or markings signing, as reminders to maintain social distancing.
I would actively encourage avoiding any carpooling in order to avoid that issue, unless they’re folks that live together.
And if you’re running any kind of company, transit, buses, etc, shuttles, then set up those vehicles to enforce social distancing. So you’ve got staggered seating, staggered rows, in order to do that, and that might require you to run additional shuttles, but that will let you keep the social distancing requirements in place.
Another thing to consider is temperature screening for visitors and employees coming into the facility.
And again, this might be something that’s mandated by governments but you can do handheld temperature screening, if you can get ahold of the handheld thermometers, these are the ones you use like a laser on the forehead.
Or you can get more expensive infrared cameras. There are cameras that are FDA certified to detect fever. And it will, you know, look at a broader field of vision, perhaps like your entrance areas and look for folks that you know, are above the temperature that you’re setting, they’re also much faster. They work and detect much more quickly than the handheld thermometers.
But again, these are things you should think about, and consider what is really necessary for the risk that you’re going to face or what might be necessary for what your jurisdictional requirements are from your county, your city, or your state.
So these are a few things to think about in terms of social distancing, and PPE as you build out your strategy to return to the office.
If there’s any thing here that we can help with. We’re helping a number of clients with this particular challenge right now.
Reach out to us anytime at contact at bryghtpath.com or give us a call at 612-235-6435.
That’s it for this edition of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. We’ll be back next week with another new episode. Be well