Social distancing measures in the workplace: What employers should do

17 June 2021

Following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on 12 April and the gradual return of workers to the office, staying safe in the workplace will be of utmost importance in the weeks and months ahead.

Now that COVID-secure workplace rules are a legal obligation, employers should ensure that such measures are in place. To make sure your business is adhering to government guidelines, this post will discuss some of  the measures you may need to implement so your employees are safe and socially distant while going about their duties.

Please note that these regulations are subject to change; the information contained below is simply an overview of the rules and is not being dictated by Gazprom Energy in any way.

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Social distancing: an overview
With social distancing a legal obligation in the workplace, the guidelines laid out by the government should be followed wherever possible. Businesses may need to review their workplace conditions and consider whether their activities can be redesigned to maintain a two-metre distance or one-metre distance – with risk mitigations if the two-metre distance is not possible.

These may include:

  • Increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • Keeping the time of the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Using screens or barriers to separate employees
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face, whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using "fixed teams", so certain people only work with a few others

If this isn't possible, then it may be worth looking at whether these activities need to continue for the business to operate.


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Keep in mind that the government guidelines for social distancing apply to all parts of the building a business operates within, including entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. Areas like these can often be a challenge to maintain social distancing in, so you may need to remind workers of this to stay in line with the recommended measures.

Entering and exiting the workplace

If possible, employers may wish to review the following procedures on arrival and departure, as well as to ensure employees can wash their hands as necessary upon arrival:

  • Staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding
  • Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to aid people who aren't using public transport to get to work
  • Limiting those who need to travel in corporate vehicles, such as minibuses, leaving seats empty to maintain distance where possible
  • Reducing congestion by having multiple entry points to the workplace
  • Introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points, and adequately signposting the arrangements so employees are aware
  • Minimising the use of touch-based security devices such as keypads where possible, and regularly maintaining the cleaning of such devices to reduce the risk of transmission if not

Moving around the workplace
While people move around the workplace, the below steps may need to be used:

  • Limiting non-essential trips within buildings and sites. Consider restricting access to areas by encouraging use of phones and other electronic devices, and cleaning areas between use
  • Minimising access between different areas of a building or site
  • Introducing one-way flow through buildings encouraged by clear signage showing the direction that should be followed
  • Reducing the number of people that can use lifts, providing hand sanitiser for operating lifts, and encouraging the use of stairs where possible
  • Reducing congestion in high-traffic areas like corridors, turnstiles and walkways by imposing a one-way system around the building

Workplaces and workstations

It could be beneficial to assign workstations to individuals rather than having them share, with businesses maintaining social distancing through the following:

  • Reviewing layouts and processes so that employees can work further apart from each other
  • Marking areas with floor tape so that necessary distancing is complied with, whether that is two metres or one metre with risk mitigation
  • Arranging people to work side by side or facing away from each other where it isn't possible to move workstations further apart
  • Likewise, using screens to separate people from each other where moving workstations further apart isn't possible
  • Managing occupancy levels or introducing staggered working to reduce the number of people in the workplace at any one time.
  • Removing hot desk facilities and replacing them with more permanent working fixtures
  • Cleaning and sanitising workstations after each use

Meetings

Meetings are a large part of the day-to-day of office life, whether it's between employees or through clients and customers coming into the workplace. If meetings are a recurring element of your business, then you may want to look at the following measures as a means of maintaining appropriate social distancing:

  • Avoiding in-person meetings with clients and customers by using remote working tools such as Zoom
  • Ensuring that only necessary participants attend, and maintaining social distancing where possible and viable – using appropriate floor signage where necessary
  • Avoiding the sharing of pens, documents and other objects to reduce transmission
  • Providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  • Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible

Common areas

The frequently used rooms and areas of your workplace, such as its canteen, kitchen and dining areas, can see a lot of traffic and congestion throughout the day. The following methods and approaches can help to ensure the risk of transmission is kept as low as possible:

  • Collaborating with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites and buildings so that areas like receptions and staircases stay consistent with social distancing guidelines
  • Staggering break times so that break rooms, canteens and dining rooms are at a reduced capacity
  • Using safe outside areas for breaks instead
  • Creating additional space by using other parts of the workplace or building that have been freed up by remote working
  • Installing screens to protect employees in receptions or similar areas
  • Encouraging employees to bring in their own food to minimise transmission and take the pressure off canteen staff

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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