Effective Social Distance Office Layout

Effective Social Distance Office Layout

You need to have your team come back to work, but you want to do it safely. What can you do to help maintain social distance while still getting the necessary job done? You'll need to rework your office configuration to address social distance for your team better. You will also need to look at your workforce to see if you might be able to move some to remote work, either part-time or full-time. Here we break down several steps that you can take to have a practical, socially distant office layout.

Look At Your Current Office Configuration

When looking at making a practical office layout that takes social distancing into account, you should first look at how your office is currently operating. As with most negatives that come in life, there are positive aspects to them, but sometimes you need to look for them. In our current climate dealing with Covid, one of the positive aspects is that it forces companies to look at their positions and review if they might be done remotely, either partially or fully. You can also look at the individual office space that you have to see if that is serving the right purpose and do the same with your common areas and the large open areas that you have in your office or building. Technology has allowed more flexibility in how offices are set up and what it takes to make a "functional" office for team members. Utilize that technology in the redesigning of how your office space works for everyone.

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Generate A Map Of The Office

To start rethinking the best layout for your office in the age of social distancing, it helps to have a map of the entire office space that you have. If you don't have any measurements to go along with this map, now is a great time to get those measurements and put them onto a document for future reference. Keep in mind that there might be the odd pillar here or there, make marks of the doorways and the width that they are, the windows you might have, and anything else that will help down the road with utilizing the space efficiently. If possible, try having this in software so that you can reconfigure things digitally before you do it in the real world. In this way, you can even play with moving walls and doing other things to push the boundaries of what you might want to do with the space. In this way, you are thinking both short term, as we all want social distancing issues to go away, and long-term for the continued efficiency of your team's office and productivity.

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Make Six Foot Circles

When you start to position workspaces for your team, you will want to have a six-foot circle to position where a person will be sitting. In this way, you will be able to visually see just how far apart your workspaces will need to be. Perhaps you already have them spaced far enough apart, but if not, you can make appropriate adjustments now. Remember that you may not need to have a space for every team member with your new office layout if some of them will be working from home, either part-time or full-time. You might have an opening for hot-desking, meaning that different people will be using the same desk at different times. You will still need to have that six-foot circle, but overall the number of workspaces you will need to have is reduced. This reduced workspace need may provide the distance that you need for that six-foot circle.

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Transparent Partitions

Perhaps you don't have the space to provide everyone their six-foot circle of space. What you are then looking at is to provide some sort of shield to put between workspaces so that you limit the exposure of people. These partitions are better than not having them there and will provide some level of protection for your team. Transparent dividers, even if they are opaque to provide a modicum of privacy, are preferred because they permit light to pass through them, helping to keep the most light filtering through the space. This is particularly helpful if you have windows and want to spread the natural light as much as possible.

Create Signs And Utilize Routes

You may also want to do a couple of other things beyond just reviewing your workspace layout. One of these is understanding where your high traffic areas are in your office space. While having workspaces socially distanced is a good start, it is essential to work on doing the same with the routes that people take to and from their desk and other locations in the office space. This may mean that you implement some one-way routes to prevent people from coming closer than six feet from each other. Additionally, it is a good idea to create some signs for people to help remind them of these new routes and other reminders for them when they are working in the office space. Post these conspicuously in areas like the break room, elevators, conference or meeting rooms, and the floor for unique routes. These signs can remind people about the maximum occupancy in these different areas as well.

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sign post

Wrap Up

As was mentioned earlier, our current situation provides opportunities to change how our office spaces are configured and used. In some cases, you may have some of your team work either part-time or full-time from home or remotely. This can free up some workspaces and provide more space for the rest who are still in the office. You can also use different approaches to help keep your team socially distant while working, including one-way routes highlighted with signs on the walls or floor, and you can dictate maximum occupancy numbers for meeting and conference rooms. Once you get the layout together, you can feel better about helping your team to remain socially distant and healthy.

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Question Answer
What considerations should be made for ventilation in a socially distant office layout? Improving ventilation can be crucial in minimizing airborne transmission of viruses. Offices should consider enhancing their HVAC systems, increasing natural ventilation by keeping windows open where possible, and using air purifiers to clean the circulating air.
How can technology be used to monitor and enforce social distancing in the office? Technology such as occupancy sensors, wearable devices, or apps can help monitor and enforce social distancing. These tools can alert employees if they are too close to another person, or track real-time occupancy levels in various parts of the office to avoid overcrowding.
What are some effective communication strategies to keep employees informed about new office layouts and policies? Regular updates via emails, virtual meetings, and digital bulletin boards can be effective. It’s also beneficial to have a dedicated area on the company's intranet where employees can access the latest information, guidelines, and changes regarding the office's layout and social distancing measures.
Are there specific design considerations for creating effective workstations in a socially distant office? When designing workstations, consider using easily cleanable, non-porous materials for surfaces. Workstations should be oriented to face away from each other to minimize direct face-to-face exposure. Adjustable partitions can also be used to enhance privacy and reduce transmission.
How should the use of common areas like kitchens and bathrooms be managed to adhere to social distancing? Implementing a schedule or maximum occupancy limits for common areas can help maintain social distancing. Signage to remind employees of hygiene practices and floor markings to indicate safe distances can also be beneficial. Additionally, increasing the cleaning frequency of these areas is recommended.

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