Advice from scientists and virologists suggests that in order to stop COVID-19 spreading from person-to-person, we need to reduce the opportunities the virus has to infect us. Guidance from the WHO and UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE), based on the evidence of how Coronavirus spreads, mandates us all to:
- Maintain a safe social distance
- Wear a mask over our mouth and nose when out in public
- Sanitise our hands regularly (or wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds)
- Use protective measures such as PPE and social distancing screens in our offices, workplaces and public spaces.
Research suggests that Coronavirus is spread in three ways:
- Contact or ‘droplet’ transmission
- Airborne or ‘aerosol’ transmission
- ‘Fomite’ transmission
When an infectious person (regardless of whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic) talks, shouts, breathes heavily, sings, coughs or sneezes, they expel respiratory droplets into the air. These droplets fall into two categories; aerosols (tiny particles which hang in the air) and heavier droplets which land on people or surfaces.
Aerosols are the reason for guidance suggesting that meeting others outdoors is safer than indoors, as these are easily blown away on a breeze, whereas indoor areas that are not well ventilated can become saturated with virus particles very easily.
We wear masks, remain 2m apart and use social distancing screens to help stop the larger respiratory droplets from being released onto other people. When these infectious particles land on surfaces they become ‘fomites’, which can spread the virus if people touch surfaces and then touch their faces or mouths. This is why it’s very important to keep all surfaces in your office or workplace clean and sanitised regularly to help prevent the fomites from transferring the virus from person to person by contact with a contaminated surface. Choosing office partitions made of materials like acrylic, Perspex or toughened safety glass is smart as these materials are easy to clean with an antibacterial wipe or bleach solution to keep your colleagues safe and your workplace surfaces hygienic and virus-free.
There are three key things to consider when setting up social distancing measures in your office:
- Your office layout
- Your office workflow
- Your personnel timetable
We’ve laid out a few suggestions to give you ideas for how to keep your employees safe and healthy during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Some offices are already set up with work cubicles, which means social distancing measures are already in place. However, the majority of these office cubicles are made from fabric partitions which are extremely helpful in reducing noise pollution in busy offices, but less effective in creating hygienic workspaces. If you don’t fancy replacing your entire workplace with wipe-clean Perspex® acrylic or safety glass screens, why not opt for less expensive hanging acrylic panels which can be pinned over your existing partitions to form safer and more hygienic cubicles?
If, however, your office is open plan, ensuring that you have effective social distancing measures in place is essential. Large desk banks might make for a friendly and sociable work environment, but during the pandemic (or indeed, during a normal flu season) these areas are high-transmission environments for spreading infection from employee to employee when one of them falls sick.
Installing transparent Perspex® or glass desk divider screens on these expansive banks of desks means your staff can still easily communicate with one another while remaining protected behind a layer of non-porous acrylic which can be regularly wiped down and sanitised to remove any build-up of virus droplets. Our desk dividers are available in a range of heights and widths to suit all desk spaces, and can be freestanding or fixed to your desk with screws or clamps to offer the ideal kind of protection for your office.
Investing in meeting ‘pods’ to create individual working ‘offices’ is an excellent way to safeguard your office against a widespread outbreak of the virus. These floor-to-ceiling meeting pods can be quickly installed by a team of experts and can be set up with their own ventilation systems to help keep the air moving and discourage the build-up of coronavirus aerosols.
Many industries do not rely on group working, and employees are left to get on with things by themselves. These are the easiest work environments to ‘Covid-proof’ – investing in mobile screens on wheels or freestanding acrylic partitions gives you the flexibility to set up individual working areas (replica ‘cubicles’, if you will) and ensure your staff have safe and hygienic spaces in which to work. The benefit of freestanding or mobile screens is that you have the flexibility to rearrange your work space as and when the rules around social distancing change.
It can be a little more difficult to arrange where employees work closely in a team. Investing in a series of connecting screens means you can set up cross-shape or ‘concertina’ style arrangements allowing multiple people to collaborate while remaining socially distanced. Alternatively, linking screens inline to form ‘rooms’ can allow smaller teams individual workspaces to aid productivity while segmenting the workforce so any potential infections can be isolated to one particular team without risking the entire office. Hanging screens can also be useful in these situations for creating an informal ‘meeting space’ or protecting staff in kitchen or canteen areas.
While rates of virus transmission are high, we are all advised to work from home wherever possible. This can be an excellent solution for many businesses, however, it’s not always feasible to have all employees working remotely.
Smaller companies may choose to ‘stagger’ their employees’ office time, creating timetables that ensure each team member has adequate time in the office without risking contact with other staff. This can seem complicated to manage but is a great way to keep things running where office time is essential.
For larger businesses or industries which rely on team working, the same principle can be employed but after forming smaller ‘work bubbles’, ensuring that members of each group only interact with their own working ‘team’. Allotting different areas of the business different days in the office can preserve collaboration and productivity with less risk to employee health – provided that the office space is thoroughly cleaned after each team has left. Ensuring that you have wipe-clean measures (such as acrylic, Perspex® or glass office partitions or desk dividers) in place in the office helps to protect individual members within each team and also means sanitising is easy at the end of every day.
If it’s not possible for any of your staff to work from home, then using linked partitions, mobile divider screens, free standing desk screens and hanging panels in conjunction with one another to set up individual workspaces for each ‘team’ (and separate workers within the team, too) is a good idea. This way, your workplace can be divided into separate working areas, meaning if a member of one team develops COVID symptoms, the rest of the office is at a reduced risk of catching the virus.
For personalised advice on setting up your office with proper social distancing protection, speak to our expert team on 01234 676767, or visit our Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch.