Social Distancing Tips and Adjusting to the Realities of Covid-19 in the Office

Social Distancing Tips and Adjusting to the Realities of Covid-19 in the Office

(IMPORTANT NOTICE: The recommendations on this article about Covid-19 in the office are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)

Amazing changes are shaking work environments as the world tackles the prevention of spreading Covid-19 in the office.

The open office was the trend with clusters of employees sitting together until the pandemic hit. Now, the puzzling question is how do workers keep their physical distance and still collaborate?

How far apart should people be?

Six feet is the best answer, but do you know why?

That’s the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and aren’t likely to be inhaled by other people.

In the real world, people sneeze at different levels of intensity so we can’t accommodate every person, and staying six feet apart isn’t always possible. But we can make adjustments to help create a healthy environment and show workers that your company is looking out for their best interests.

Ways to Help Achieve Healthy Social Distancing in the Office

Covid-19 in the Office Groupe Lacasse Paradigm
Photo: Groupe Lacasse Paradigm

Modular furniture to the rescue!

Workers can use their office furniture with flexible set-ups to help keep a proper distance and stay productive.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Change seating arrangements
  • Install counter shields, desk shields, space dividers, or freestanding panels
  • Create modular rooms for meeting space
  • Use breakrooms with caution

Change Seating Arrangements

Benching solutions brought workers face to face and side by side in the open office. Remember those long rectangular benches with several people on one side and then several on the opposite side? The only separation between the two sides was a low-profile divider.

In cubicle work pods, employees looked toward each other, but that was before the pandemic hit.

How do you make it work now?

Reconfigure work pods so employees are working at angles and turn their seats so they’re back to back. This minor change can also help create more personal space and privacy.

Once you’ve chosen your seating arrangements, install what are now known as sneeze screens.

Screen styles are tailored to fit a variety of desking options and counter needs.

Use Clear Dividers


Photo: Enwork Acrylic Screens

Challenges create the need for solutions. Dividers may offer protection from the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace and 2010 Office Furniture carries a wide variety of these office essentials.

Don’t worry. Workers don’t have to feel like they’re stuck within canyon walls because the dividers are clear and allow light to filter through. They can work well with rectangular bench seating stations by helping to protect workers on either side of the screen.

The dividers are crafted from glass and can easily be installed. Certain products like the Fulbright Isolate Mobile Glass Screen are easy to re-arrange so they can also be used in places like lobby waiting areas and between office workers.

Partitions can work well in open plan workspaces and restaurants.

Create Signage Guides to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office


Photo: OFS Obeya Archictectural Structures

Use signs with positive messages that let visitors and employees know the office follows guidelines for personal safety.

Marketing teams talk about the customer journey, but your employees have their own journey from home that leads to the office. Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, advises businesses to create signs with their brand to guide employees as they travel that path. It’s easy to buy off-the-shelf signs, but mass-produced signs can bring on stress since “the color palettes and typography of some signage can make a space feel harsh, dangerous, and unwelcoming. Shifting the design to something more friendly and human can help to instill a sense of community and common purpose.”

Use brightly colored duct tape as guides along floors or walls, and to mark 6-foot distances near elevators, restrooms, the break room, and other places people gather.

Install Architectural Walls to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office

Covid-19 in the Office Trendway Clearwall
Photo: Trendway Clear Wall

Modular furniture of all types is economical and that includes architectural walls to create conference rooms or delineate private working spaces. You can define private spaces that look inviting and help provide the health security people need. You can create spaces with floor to ceiling walls or cubicles with guards to help reduce the likelihood of moist droplets spreading from one person to another.

Trendway offers three options for offices that want a sleek, modern look: Clear Wall, TrendWall, and Volo Wall. Clear Wall is a floor-to-ceiling solution with no framing between adjoining walls, while TrendWall provides the same services with framing. The Volvo Wall is another alternative that combines aesthetic with functionality with its glass sliding door. Glass options include clear or glazed.

Offices that want a framed wall with a wood grain look can choose the OFS Obeya Architectural Structures. Walls can be open or closed and make it possible to install tables, media equipment, and planters or other accessories.

These are office walls that define spaces without blocking out people.

Greater Use of Teleconferencing in the Office

Covid-19 in the Office OFS Slate
Photo: OFS Slate Media Wall

Even with all these modifications, social distancing may be even more effective with the use of teleconferencing equipment.

The digital platform makes it easy to livestream meetings. With projectors, screens and monitors to video conference, there is no need to crowd in small spaces and heighten the risk of COVID-19.

Inter-office streaming between floors or departments can help reduce foot traffic and people moving from one space to another.

Modify Food Events and Breakroom Habits

Covid-19 is changing how people will gather in breakrooms.

The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) says social gatherings to celebrate retirements, milestones or birthdays may still be conducted if you’re careful and aware of your surroundings and how you serve the food.

Let’s say a company is providing pizza to its employees.  Instead of having the pizza readily accessible to everyone in a buffet-like setup, consider designating one single person wearing a mask and gloves to serve the pre-cut slices to each person.  This is much more sanitary as it will help minimize the number of people the pizza comes in contact with.  Also, for those who would like to share homemade goods at work, make sure each cookie or brownie has been carefully and individually wrapped, and that the person who made it wasn’t sick.


Photo: OFS Obeya Archictectural Structures

To help maintain physical distancing during typical workdays, reduce the number of chairs available in the breakroom and stagger break times for different departments.

Use fun signage to mark six foot distances and make sure tables are wiped down after they’re used.

Extra precautions and a few strategic configurations will promote a healthy office environment and help reduce the risks associated with the potential spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.

Ask your teams to get involved and supply them with adequate amounts of hand sanitizer.

For employees who are telecommuting, ask if they need additional equipment to work from home. You can create guidelines for home office best practices.

A virus like the coronavirus doesn’t have to shut down operations. Taking smart steps that follow public health guidelines can help make employees feel secure and take ownership of their own health and the well-being of those around them.

Get the Expertise You Need to Help Prevent Covid-19 in the Office

Get expert advice on re-configuring your office and making it safe. Talk to the team at 2010 Office Furniture. They have more than 45 years of combined experience advising corporations, non-profits and small businesses throughout Southern California.

Read Also: How to Help Protect Workers in Open Office Floor Plans from Covid-19
Main Photo by: OFS LeanTo
Resources & Special Thanks to Respective Product Manufacturers: OFS, Groupe Lacasse, Enwork & Trendway

(IMPORTANT NOTICEThe recommendations on this article are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)

How to Help Protect Workers in Open Office Floor Plans from Covid-19

How to Protect Workers in Open Office Floor Plans From Covid-19

(IMPORTANT NOTICEThe recommendations on this article on how to help protect workers are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)

Open offices are facing changes as companies work to maintain a healthy workforce and answer today’s most critical question: How to protect workers from the risks of Covid-19.

Don’t expect drywall to suddenly appear and start separating workers. Risk mitigation plans can include modular furniture solutions to maintain an open office atmosphere while helping to protecting

How Open Offices Became Popular


Photo: National Epic

As Silicon Valley started booming in the early 2000s, start-up tech companies needed talent to work closely in collaboration with each other. Office spaces without walls provided a non-traditional communication flow that worked well.

The rest is facility history as companies in all industries found that open offices were budget friendly and flexible. It was easy to add workstations when hiring more workers or change floor plans to accommodate fewer workers. Permanent walls were a mess and costly to re-configure.

Why Open Offices were Criticized

Privacy became something of the past and the hoped-for collaboration took a hit as employees wore earbuds and noise cancelling headphones to block out the conversations and phone calls of co-workers.

Instead of providing a place to focus, critics said the open office was filled with distractions.

Open Offices Needed Private Spaces


Photo: Senator Group Chemistry

That shift created the need for personal break areas and one-on-one or small group meeting spaces. Office furniture reflected that demand with innovative meeting pods and the design of flexible workstations.

Open Offices Risked Germs Spreading Before Coronavirus

An office space is a breeding ground for bacteria and germs passed from one person to another. Moist droplets travel whether they’re in the restroom, the breakroom or on the main office floor. In 2011, a Danish study found that open office workers had a significantly higher incidence of sick days than those working in “cellular” or individual offices. The findings were published by the National Library of Medicine.

But there’s no need to cancel the open office floor plan. Help protect employee health using modular furniture and accessories.

How Open Offices are Using Modular Solutions for Protection


Photo: Friant Shield Panels

Open offices faced criticism, but just think of all the open spaces people normally gathered in like neighborhood pubs and restaurants, sporting events, concerts and parks. Innovative solutions are already available.

An array of protective office shields and dividers are available through 2010 Office Furniture:

The different styles of dividers allow you to help protect workers without making them feel isolated or cut off from other co-workers. You can help reduce the risk of spreading viruses but maintain an atmosphere of collaboration.

Space Planning for the Office in the Post-Pandemic Era


Photo: Friant Novo & Dash

Adjust floor layouts to create physical distancing. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) takes a comprehensive approach to planning offices for employee health and well-being. In its online coronavirus resource center, the IFMA recommends thorough space planning.

Adjust workstations to give employees the recommended six-feet of physical separation or purchase new, flexible workstations.

Know how many office visitors to allow in at one time and eliminate items in high-touch areas like light switches. Update traditional doors that have handles with automatic doors. Provide plenty of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. Encourage workers to wear masks when necessary.


Photo: DeskMakers ReFit

The team at 2010 Office Furniture has decades of expertise helping established corporations and small-to-large sized businesses plan their space to adjust to changes in the marketplace and respond to the question of how to help protect workers in our current pandemic.

Use this time to re-imagine how your office is laid out. Check the 2010 Office Furniture office inspiration center for designs ideas to help create privacy and focus.

More Tips for a Healthy Workplace


Photo: Loftwall Split Space Divider

Remember other key office wellness tips like encouraging your team to take breaks and go for walks outside to keep the blood flowing. Stay hydrated throughout the day and maximize the use of office plants to bring nature indoors and keep the air fresh.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends that businesses give employees flexibility to:

  • Work from home if not feeling well
  • Care for ill family members
  • Return to work without a health provider’s note if the employee has a respiratory illness

Helping to reduce the risks of spreading the coronavirus doesn’t have to halt your office operations. Make the needed changes and get your employees to join in and take ownership for their health and the well-being of those around them.


Photo: OFS Staks Workstations

Making adjustments shows that you care about your team and that you want the best for them.

The organizational consulting firm McKinsey concludes that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for offices on how to protect workers against the spread of coronavirus. How offices will look “will be based on what talent is needed, which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary for excellence, and where offices are located today, among other factors.”

Get the input you need on planning, ergonomics and desking solutions. The team at 2010 Office Furniture has more than 45 years of experience working with large corporations, non-profits and small businesses throughout Southern California.

Contact them with your project needs and questions.

For Your Reference

Here are links to public health agencies in Southern California:

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Orange County Department of Public Health

San Bernardino Department of Public Health

Riverside County Department of Public Health

Read Also: Social Distancing Tips and Adjusting to the Realities of Covid-19 in the Office
Main Photo: Friant Interra
Resources & Special Thanks to Respective Product Manufacturers: Friant, National, Senator Group, Loftwall, OFS, DeskMakers

(IMPORTANT NOTICEThe recommendations on this article are NOT from health experts, and have not been medically tested nor proven as an effective cure or prevention for COVID-19 or any other diseases.)