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How UK businesses are implementing social distancing measures

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Businesses across the UK are adjusting to a new way of life in an effort to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many office staff are working from home for the foreseeable future, while others are returning to workplaces altogether redefined by social distancing measures.

Combined with enhanced hygiene procedures, social distancing is one of the focal points of the government’s advice on working safely during the pandemic. It’s necessary for the protection of employees, suppliers, and customers alike. But how are businesses enforcing a practice that remained relatively unheard of until only a few months ago?

Clear signage

Be it hand washing posters close to bathrooms, shop-front signage describing new ways of working, or floor stickers to keep people two metres apart, promoting coronavirus safety messaging has become essential to both instruct and reassure staff and customers.

Printing companies such as instantprint, whose product range would usually contain flyers or leaflets, are now offering coronavirus safety signs to help other businesses get set up.

One-way systems

One-way systems are being used to maintain a safe flow of foot traffic in certain areas and are a measure many will now be familiar with from visits to smaller supermarkets, post offices, and pharmacies. Outlined by signage and reinforced by staff, this tactic helps to avoid bottlenecks at entrances and exits as well as the areas people tend to linger.

Controlling numbers (and managing queues)

Limiting the numbers of people allowed in a given space at once is again common practice in shops but suitable for a variety of other professional environments too. Simply put, the less people there are, the easier it is to maintain social distancing. As staggering entry can create queues, additional floor markings or barriers help those waiting stand a safe distance apart. 

Avoiding shared supplies and areas

Shared equipment and social areas increase the risk of the virus being transmitted. As a result, the government has advised against hot desking in office and contact centres where possible. Where it isn’t, staff are being asked to disinfect phones and other items at the end of their shift. Many kitchen and lounge facilities are temporarily off limits to prevent workers gathering.

Staggering breaks

Some larger businesses are staggering employee breaks to prevent breakout areas or canteens becoming overcrowded. For those with limited indoor space, outdoor picnic areas offer another means of social distancing while still allowing staff to take a moment to relax and recharge.

Banning indoor meetings

Mirroring the current advice on social gatherings and public events, indoor business meetings are banned unless absolutely essential. Alternatives include using large open spaces with attendees spread apart, either indoor or preferably outdoor, or using virtual chat and video technology.

Remote working

The most obvious way for businesses to maintain social distancing is to allow remote working. For some, this has seen entire teams head for home. In others, it may only be those in certain departments or roles. Either way, remote working helps to drastically limit the number of people coming into contact with each other on a daily basis.

There are environments and situations in which social distancing isn’t possible, of course, but working in small teams and wearing PPE can help minimise the risk in these scenarios. For businesses that can enforce it, it appears social distancing is here to stay – for the next few months at least.

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