The new work place - taking into account local social distancing measures

9 June 2020
The pandemic has affected more than 200 countries. Most of the ones with significant outbreaks have introduced social distancing or ‘lockdown’ measures to reduce viral transmission. 

While the World Health Organisation advises that social distancing is an effective protective measure against the disease and recommends that people keep at least one metre apart, the recommended distance differs between countries. The UK, Switzerland, the US, Spain and Italy are all imposing a 2-metre gap between people, while some are imposing a 1.5-metre (e.g. Germany, Poland and the Netherlands) or a 1-metre distance (e.g. Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Singapore).

Now businesses begin to reopen their doors, it’s not uncommon to see directional arrows, one-way systems and spare desks between employees, reinforcing social distancing in the workplace.

As all industries look toward recovery, business leaders should be asking: Are we doing enough to protect those who come into contact with our businesses? What are the risks? What are the correct processes and procedures to put in place?

Here we consider a range of different industries and the steps that companies can take to manage customers, visitors and contractors.

Enclosed places of business such as offices, contact centres, laboratories and research facilities

Manage your contacts to minimise the number of unnecessary visits to the offices and ensure strict measures are put in place to protect your workforce. These may include:

•    Encouraging remote visits/contacts wherever possible. If site visits are required, guidance on social distancing and hygiene should be explained to visitors on and also preferably, before arrival. Let people know what to expect.

•    Ensuring signs are displayed in prominent places on entry to the building and in key locations reminding people to socially distance and practise good hand hygiene.

•    Provide visitors with access to hand sanitisers and handwashing facilities.

•    Operate a strict ‘by appointment only’ process and maintain a record of all visitors. It will allow you to limit visitor numbers and ensure that different visitors do not cross paths. Contractors providing essential services and maintenance could be scheduled after working hours, for example, to reduce interaction.  

•    Provide visitors with disposal personal protective equipment on entry (for example, gloves, masks). When this is not possible, request in advance that visitors bring their own with them.

Open and mixed places of business such as factories, warehouses and vehicles

Where roles interact and cannot function without doing so, it is essential to minimise the contact risk. Consider:

•    Setting shift schedules to reduce face-to-face interaction. 

•    Principally you should think about staggered break times and the arrival and departure times in and out of depots.

•    Prepare for delivery and receipt confirmations in a contactless manner. Invest in technology if you need to.  

•    Prepare in advance for goods to be dropped off in an agreed area to avoid disease transmission. 

Businesses with busy footfall such as shops and restaurants offering takeaway or delivery 

With a large number of customers visiting your premises, you should implement strict controls to limit contact. Some options may be:

•    Limit your service to pre-booked collections where possible. Provide clear guidance by phone, on your website and by email so that customers know what to expect before they arrive.

•    Provide handwashing / sanitising facilities and encourage visitors to clean their hands, on arrival and when leaving.  

•    Limit entry so that your premises do not become overcrowded – for example, retail outlets within the Dubai International Finance Centre have been instructed to operate at a 70% occupancy ceiling. You need to be able to maintain distancing not just indoors but also at crossing points such as doorways and payment points.  

At Vistra, we don’t just want to see businesses recover. We want to see them thrive. If you require support with health and safety risk assessments, amendments to your terms of business or modifications to your internal policies and procedures, please reach out to Dana Ewans at [email protected]