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Social distancing in the workplace – principles..

Social distancing involves reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.

If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer for England’s advice.

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible. Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers. Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used. Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in a bin and immediately wash their hands.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances; see examples for various workplaces.

A few general indicators will be relevant to the majority of business settings:

  • make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly
  • encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them
  • where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form)
  • where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible
  • where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
  • as much as possible, keep teams of workers together (cohorting), and keep teams as small as possible

Additionally, for customer-facing businesses:

  • use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre distance
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms
  • if feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers (where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as is feasible in line with standard cleaning procedures)

See further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).