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Protective screens for offices: How do you promote cross-team collaboration?

Posted By:

Office Screens UK

Date:

06/10/2021

Reading Time:

12 Mins

Protective screens for offices: How do you promote cross-team collaboration?

At present, we seem to be in a stage of the pandemic where we are living with cases in our community, but without the immediate need for returning to a lockdown state, here in the UK. However, we know that Covid has the ability to mutate, so remaining prepared for future large-scale deadly outbreaks seems only sensible, even with the effective booster vaccination program we will see over the next months.

Many of us have been back in the office for several months now - but are our workplaces truly ready for the possibility of another serious strain of the virus? Should we be doing more to protect workers from all kinds of illness, such as seasonal colds, Norovirus or flu? Is keeping a socially distanced office proving detrimental to employee community and collaboration?

This blog tackles the topic of social distancing, and how you can preserve a friendly, inviting and collaborative community in your office. 


What is social distancing?

Social distancing is defined as: ‘the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance (such as six feet or more) from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection.’

What does social distancing mean for office workers?

Social distancing in offices takes a number of different forms. Primarily, for a socially distanced office you will want to remind workers to maintain a 1 or 2m distance from one another wherever possible. When seated at desks in particular, this is a challenge - which is where social distancing screens come into play. Transparent partitions made from Perspex acrylic or glass are essential tools in combating the spread of illness in a workplace. They form barriers between seated workers, ‘catching’ the infectious virus particles in the air released when someone breathes, talks or coughs and thereby minimising the risk of transmission between colleagues. ‘Screens and barriers are likely to have benefits in reducing the risk of exposure to larger aerosols and droplets from exhaled breath when people are face to face and close together’ and therefore offer protection from illnesses such as Coronavirus, flu, the common cold and Norovirus.

In addition to using screens and dividers to artificially preserve social distance, you might also see other methods in use in your workplace such as one-way systems, limited personnel numbers in certain rooms such as kitchens or recreation spaces, regular hand sanitisation points throughout the building and even on-site testing centres.

Though social distancing measures do of course have positive effects on the health of your workforce, there can be downsides to installing them, particularly in offices which have previously been open-plan. Teams that have worked collaboratively together, chatting openly across desk banks, may struggle with new screens and measures in place to work in the same way as before. Similarly, while workers who prefer peace and quiet may thrive under these new conditions, extroverts may struggle with a different approach. Taking your employees emotional needs into consideration, as well as their physical wellbeing, is essential. This is why both the type of screen you choose to implement social distancing measures, as well as procedures and attitudes of your staff can be very important when it comes to preserving your office community.

How do you preserve social distancing and hygiene in the workplace while promoting cross -team collaboration? 

There are a number of different ways you can maintain employee collaboration in a socially distanced office. Just because rules are in place to protect staff does not mean the welcoming, friendly environment has to disappear.

Methods for maintaining collaboration in a socially distanced office fall into two categories: physical changes and intellectual adaptations.

Physical Changes

  • Install Sneeze Screens and Dividers - Some office spaces already have fabric or acoustic screens installed, but while these offer noise reduction and privacy, they can be a hindrance for collaborative working and communication between team members. Fabric panels are relatively difficult to sanitise, meaning they are not effective measures against virus spread, whereas glass and Perspex acrylic are smooth materials, and therefore easy to keep clean and sanitised. Their transparency also aids in promoting communication and collaborative working, despite the challenging circumstances we all face as we continue to battle the pandemic.

  • Zone Collaborative Workspaces - Investing in affordable products such as desk or table divider screens means you can adapt your pre-existing office furniture into a socially distanced meeting space where communication is both safe and easy. 

  • Communicate Differently - During the height of the pandemic with many offices around the country closed completely, people found new ways to communicate using online meeting apps, with virtual interactions becoming commonplace. We all know that sending email after email is an ineffective way to communicate, and that with more and more people working flexibly or remotely, ‘popping over’ to someone’s desk for an update is no longer always a possibility. Investing in alternative communication methods can help to keep colleagues collaborating even over long distances.

ACHOO® Crystal Clear Table Divider Screens

ACHOO® Crystal Clear Table Divider Screens

ACHOO® Mobile Perspex Linking Separation Screens

ACHOO® Mobile Perspex Linking Separation Screens



Intellectual Adaptations

  • Education around new policies - We are all broadly familiar with the term ‘social distancing’ - but every workplace will manage it slightly differently. Ensure your colleagues have all the relevant information about the rules and regulations specific to their office. People who are confident about how they can safely communicate and collaborate with others are more likely to do so.

  • Create support networks - The ‘buddy’ system can be a helpful way to encourage colleagues to interact with one another, offering support, encouragement and training whether on-site or virtually.
  • Be open and informative - In an office with flexible working and social distancing measures in place, it can be easy for employees to feel disconnected. Sharing regular updates, achievements and hosting group discussions helps to preserve that sense of community.

Our blog Hybrid Workplace: How to Equip Your Workplace for a Safe Transition has more information on this subject and ideas for your workplace.

What are the types of hygiene screens?

We sell a wide range of hygiene screens which all serve slightly different purposes in an office environment. Our collections include designs which have been created from concept to manufacture by our team of experts to facilitate safe working as we continue to deal with the ongoing effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Hygiene screens for offices fall into three main categories: desktop, floor standing and hanging hygiene screens. 

  1. Desktop Screens - Desk divider hygiene screens have been designed specifically for desks, tables and counters. They are incredibly effective when it comes to preventing the spread of illness throughout a team of workers in an office environment as they form a transparent barrier between seated employees. Desktop social distancing screens can be permanently fixed to your desks (screwed in) or can be freestanding, with stable bases. They are available in either Perspex acrylic or glass finishes. In addition, office receptions will benefit from a specially designed range of countertop partitions, which are often finished with cut-out hatches for effective communication and transfer of money, goods or paperwork.

  2. Floor-Standing Partitions - These screens and dividers stand up by themselves, with sturdy metal bases fitted either with adjustable stabilising feet or lockable castor wheels (which make them portable and extremely practical as you can move them to where you need them most). They can be linked together inline to form temporary ‘walls’ for additional coverage. They are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and are an essential tool for offices in the fight against infectious illnesses, particularly during winter months. 

  3. Hanging Dividers - These versatile panels can be used in two different ways. You can hang them from the ceiling in offices for a frame-free social distancing screen with a minimalist look that takes up no floor or desk space. Alternatively, they are lightweight enough that you can attach them to pre-existing fabric screens to add a wipe-clean layer of protection, upgrading your old office furnishings to meet social distancing recommendations.

Want more information on the different types of office screen available? Check out our Office Screen Buyer’s Guide.

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