How to Promote Social Distancing If You Have Limited Space

Social Distancing in Limited Spaces

While the term social distancing probably meant little to anyone before 2020, in the almost two years since, the simple phrase has come to redefine fundamental aspects of our lives—changing everything from who gets a hug during the holidays to how many people can safely return to your office. The recent return of the Delta variant has reinforced social distancing orders around the country, complicating the return-to-work plans of many small businesses and companies—especially those with compact workspaces. Using data-backed strategies, it’s possible for your entire workforce to return to the office safely.

How Occupancy Data Can Help You Get Back to Work

Social distancing refers to a set of policies and practices intended to lower the transmission risk of the Covid-19 virus. World health experts and virologists determined early in the pandemic that the microscopic droplets that contain the virus inhabit an area of around six feet from the infected person’s mouth. Maintaining six feet of distance between coworkers, avoiding hand-to-hand contact, and wearing masks indoors are all part of the current practice advised by the CDC and WHO—and formal social distancing orders are still in effect in many communities and states.

The problem for businesses with small offices, then, is how to maintain a cost-effective number of employees in a workspace while complying with all social distancing requirements. Solutions to this problem include staggered schedules, office layout plans, and digital work-from-home policies, all of which can help businesses with limited workspace welcome employees back into the office safely and legally. However, these strategies also require data to function properly, and specialized technology like office occupancy sensors can give business owners and office managers an idea of where to start.

CoWorkr’s room occupancy sensors are discrete, battery-powered sensors that use IR technology to sense when someone is close by—all completely anonymously. By taking detailed snapshots of the way your employees use your office space, it’s easy to create reliable, evidence-based social distancing policies to protect yourself and your workforce. It all starts with knowing your space.

Using Your Office’s Layout to Promote Staggered Schedules and Social Distancing

The first step to encouraging proper social distancing is to accurately map out the floor plan of your workspace. Understanding how much space you have to work within the first place is integral to proper workstation spacing, as well as identifying high-traffic footpaths or high-touch surfaces like doorknobs or office appliances. Occupancy sensors from CoWorkr can make this task easier. By installing the discrete IR sensors on available desks or workstations, the CoWorkr Hub feeds real-time occupancy data directly to an App—allowing business owners to see which workstations are occupied at any given time, including if any distancing measures are being broken.

Using the anonymous usage data, you can rearrange desks to maintain six feet or eliminate dead ends where people may congregate. Certain sensors, like CoWorkr’s overhead people-counters, can even monitor how many people are in a room at a time, allowing managers to implement and enforce maximum occupancy numbers easily and effectively.

However, this is only the most basic application for occupancy data like this, and encouraging social distancing requires more proactive methods than just alerting two of your employees that they are working too closely after the fact. One way to protect your employees and work efficiently relies on limiting your workforce’s contact with each other in both space and time. This might sound ethereal, but as the primary goal of social distancing is to minimize the chance of infection by keeping people apart, businesses with small office spaces can use occupancy sensor data to take advantage of temporal distancing as well.

For example, if a company with 20 workers can’t maintain six feet of distance between them during regular work hours, the problem becomes much more manageable if only 10 workers are in the building at a time. CoWorkr’s occupancy sensors track the use of a certain workspace over time, allowing managers to schedule certain employees to come to the office after a certain enough time has passed and the workstation has been disinfected —greatly decreasing the chance of viral transmission. Staggered scheduling and temporal spacing have been shown to decrease the chances of infection better than just physical distancing alone.

Basic staggering strategies might include welcoming half of your workforce to the office one day, and the other half the day after, for a rotating schedule wherein your employees spend only 2 or three days a week in the office—drastically limiting the chance of contamination between the two groups while maintaining the benefits of a physical workspace.

Without data to base your social distancing decisions on, the safety of your employees—and even the success of your business—comes down to your best guess about how people are interacting in your space. With the right tools to map your workspace, monitor movement, and determine usage over time, even a small office space can safely host your employees for as long as physical distancing orders remain in place.