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Socializing safely in the COVID-compliant workplace

One basic aspect of people is that we gather. Social distancing has caused a dramatic shift in the way we interact, but that doesn’t change that basic human tendency. As companies are welcoming employees to the workplace, they need to take this into consideration. What will happen to water cooler conversations? Or when someone wants to stop by a co-worker’s desk to catch up? How will employees manage grabbing coffee and having a friendly exchange on a quick break from work? 

Fortunately, it’s not impossible for organizations to encourage safe social behavior at work. It just takes diligence and data—and a plan. The best place to start is in your workplace common areas.

Here are five ways you can keep employees safe in common areas.

  1. Set safe capacities

The first key piece to keeping people safe on-site is knowing how many people can be in your space at any given time. It’s important that you calculate what capacity each of your offices can accommodate safely. But it’s not as simple as picking a number and applying it across the organization. Investigating each individual space is a time-consuming process and the results may change week over week. Setting up systems to monitor occupancy in targeted areas will help keep employees safe.

As companies prepare lounges with seating options placed 6-feet apart, employees may move things around in the space. There’s no one-size-fits-all to managing foot traffic. It’s a daily adjustment. 

Need help setting your capacity limits? Follow these tips to manage workplace capacity in 2020.

  1. Clean amenities based on use

The CDC recommends limiting shared appliances and resources as much as possible. Reducing high-touch points like coffee makers and snack dispensers will help limit cross-contamination. Sensor platforms like Density can help workplace teams identify how often employees use amenities and trigger alerts for when those spaces need cleaning. 

This way, instead of cleaning offices on a time-based schedule, facilities teams can streamline efforts and target areas that employees have frequented more than others. There’s no use cleaning a break room no one’s visited. With the increase in sanitation demands, identifying which areas need attention will help keep common areas safe for employees, while helping facilities teams avoid wasting resources on spaces that don’t need them.

  1. Establish directional foot traffic patterns

Establishing clear footpaths through common areas can make social distancing easier for employees. Companies should evaluate how people move through the office and decide on which ways would be safest. If there’s a narrow hallway between workstations and the kitchen, consider making that a one-way corridor. Then designate an alternative route for the other direction. Doing this will limit close-quarters interactions between employees. 

These safe footpaths also assist in proper ventilation of the air in the office. As organizations evaluate their HVAC systems, directional footpaths can help keep the air clear and moving efficiently so harmful particles don’t linger in common areas. 

  1. Make cleaning supplies convenient

Putting out cleaning supplies so that employees can conveniently access them may sound simple, but it works. If cleaning supplies are readily accessible, employees are more likely to use them. This goes for hand-sanitizing stations, disinfectant wipes, and disposable masks. You should make these products easy to find and use throughout the office, especially in common areas. 

Maintaining a COVID-compliant workplace is a group effort, and employees need to own some of that responsibility. That means it’s as much about education and enforcement as it is about convenience. One way to help is by using digital signage to communicate to employees where they can find these supplies. In doing so, they can remove all the guesswork and inconvenience in cultivating a safe and clean workplace. 

  1. Ask employees to wear masks

Masks work. Many organizations have mandated wearing a mask in common areas in their workplace safety protocols. While employees are at their hot desks working or eating lunch, they can choose to wear a mask or not. However, it’s a good idea to encourage all employees to wear a mask when in shared spaces like break rooms, kitchens, and coffee bars. 

Now that you have your plan, you need the technology and the data to execute. With Envoy Protect, you can set and manage capacity limits and view who is coming in and out of your space. Add on Density’s space utilization data to get an accurate view of how employees and visitors use the rest of your workplace. 

To learn more about what it takes to safely welcome employees to your workplace, download The reopening toolkit for workplaces.

Density measures how people use space in real-time without invading privacy. Using proprietary depth sensors and deep learning algorithms, the platform accurately and anonymously counts people in real-time. Organizations use Density to improve efficiency and enhance the occupant experience in their buildings, workplaces, and real estate. Unlike a camera, Density’s platform doesn’t capture personally identifiable information and is purpose-built for accurately measuring how people use physical space. Together, Density’s customers manage over 1 billion square feet of corporate real estate. Density was founded in 2014, with offices in San Francisco, New York City, and Syracuse, New York. For more information, visit www.density.io.