As businesses around the world wrestle with how to reopen and re-enter a world that has changed dramatically, social distancing has become the new normal. While workers and employers are all aware of the new rules guiding us into unfamiliar territory, maintaining those rules can sometimes be a challenge.
Old habits die hard, after all.
Although many workplaces can allow employees to continue working remotely, that’s not possible in all professions. And, as more companies open back up, they face challenges that didn’t exist a year — or even a few months — ago. Helping employees maintain social distancing takes companywide cooperation and can take some time to get used to.
Helping Employees Stay Safe On-Site
If you have employees returning to the workplace, there are several ways you can create a safer work environment for everyone. Knowing that you are implementing precautions to keep the workplace safe also helps ease employees’ stress, which is a key factor in maintaining good physical health. There are several ways to create a safer workplace, and here are five ways to begin:
No. 1: Social distancing reminders
Providing reminders of social distancing and offering guidelines are a critical part of helping employees adjust as they return to the workplace. This can be done with social distancing signs throughout the building, and this signage can also be used to remind employees of the basic rules, such as washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if they are sick.
You can also place social distancing floor stickers throughout the building to indicate where employees and customers should stand to maintain a safe, 6-foot distance. These are particularly helpful as people adjust to the new environment.
No. 2: Provide masks for employees
Masks have become commonplace and, in some cities or regions, they’re a workplace requirement. Regardless of whether or not they’re a legal requirement, having a mask policy in place is essential for every business. This allows you to clarify who needs to wear a mask and when they should be worn. According to the CDC, low-risk environments don’t require masks, but medium- and high-risk environments should offer face masks for employees. (Be sure to follow CDC recommendations, as this could change.)
One way to improve the comfort of employees who must wear masks for an extended period of time is to provide mask holders that wrap around the elastic straps to prevent them from cutting into the back of their ears.
No. 3: Allow virtual meetings — even on-site
Virtual meetings became an essential part of operations during the lockdown. However, as people return to work, continuing to offer meetings virtually can help workers feel safer and reinforces your messaging of social distancing in the workplace. Encourage employees to participate in video meetings from their office or desks and make sure they have the tools to collaborate safely via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or other options.
No. 4: Redesign the workspace
Breakrooms are being reconfigured to make sure they maintain social distancing options, and other areas such as conference rooms also have been adjusted to create more space. Use decals or signage to clarify which tables or chairs are not available for use at this time. You may also consider installing Plexiglas sneeze shields at desks to prevent transmission of droplets from sneezing or coughing.
No. 5: Provide temperature checks
Providing temperature checks is one effective way to be alerted of an employee who is under the weather. While in the past that would have required another employee to conduct the temperature checks, a temperature verification kiosk can quickly and accurately take the temperature of employees and visitors before they enter the building. An alarm will sound if the temperature passes the recommended threshold, which allows you to prevent them from entering and can improve safety for other employees and visitors.
Social Distancing and ID Badges
ID badges can also play an important role in reinforcing social distancing in the workplace. Creating new badges that have larger fonts and photos so they can be read from a greater distance is one way to help both employees and visitors. You can also print a notice on the front of the card that reminds others to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet.
If you don’t want to redesign and print new ID cards, but you still want to support the social distancing message, an easy and cost-effective solution is to integrate a Badge Backer with your existing employee ID card. These colorful cards hang behind your employees’ ID card and identify them as an essential worker or as being COVID-19 Safe. (They are longer than the standard ID badge, so the messaging portion will appear beneath the regular ID card.)
You also can create your own custom badge to identify certain titles and positions or to provide any other messaging you’d like to share. The colorful cards are waterproof and washable so they can be sanitized frequently.
Or, as a supplement to your existing ID badges, consider adding a separate card that reminds badge wearers to stay 6 feet apart.
All these methods can keep visitors and employees aware of the rules. It’s also a good idea to urge workers to clean their badges, either with hand sanitizer or with soap and water, on a regular basis. Although there is no known risk of transmission from ID badges, it’s good to regularly clean any surface that could be exposed to germs and viruses.
Finally, as a way to keep those ID badges on display, consider providing lanyards with messaging to support social distancing. Fun sayings such as #AirHugs and #GimmeSixFeet will bring a smile to workers’ and visitors’ faces while at the same time reminding them of the need to stay apart, even at a time when we are all in this together.
Bringing the Workforce Back
Employees and employers alike face new challenges, and social distancing in the workplace is one that may take a while to master. However, by leveraging some of the reminders and tools available, you can help keep your building and those who enter it safe and healthy.