A guide to socially distance your office environment

We are all itching to regain some work-life normality by heading back to our respective physical work office; whether that’s a hairdresser’s chair, coworking space, standard office or market stall. The UK Government is releasing updates around social distancing measures and shops and schools are preparing to open. 

(Update made May 2020)

  • We can now meet up with friends 
  • Primark are reopening stores in England from 15th June 
  • Reception, year one, year six and nursery age children are allowed to go back to school
UK rules on meeting up graphic

So how are businesses preparing to welcome their colleagues back to work?

On the 11th May (updated 29th May) the Government released the following guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK understand how to work safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

There are 5 key steps:

  1. Work from home, if you can
  2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
  3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
  4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
  5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Wired have highlighted some useful insights:

  • Hot desking will be curtailed
  • Lifts will remain half empty and face-to-face meetings will be banned
  • Working hours will be staggered to reduce the amount of people in the office
  • Canteens will remain closed
  • 39% of workers are concerned about not being able to socially distance from colleagues when back at work
  • Large majority of workers (59%) want to work from home at least two days per week in future

Some practical advice to support your back to work plan:

  • Ensure your colleagues are setup to work from home comfortably
    Follow Government advice: if your business can operate effectively with remote working, brilliant – keep doing what works. Ensure your staff are equipped to work from home productively and comfortably. Do they have home offices? Can you supply them with ergonomic office furniture, storage or a desk upgrade? Employers have a responsibility to ensure staff workplace assessments are carried out for home workers too and to provide adequate equipment, including ergonomic furniture to facilitate this.
  • Carry out the risk assessment
    This is no easy feat but the end goal is simple: mitigate risk for your employees. 

    Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to. There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. As employers, you have a duty to consult your people on health and safety. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19.

  • Implement 2metre social distancing
    The easiest way to start is to audit your office by walking through the floorplan and writing down areas that need attention. If you have access to your floorplan, we can provide some new drawings, to-scale, which will highlight changes to mitigate risk of covid-19 transmitting. Updates could include any of the following:
    – Introducing one-way traffic flow
    hands-free door openers where necessary
    perspex or toughened glass desk screen providers
    – altering desk arrangements to accommodate 2metre social distancing 
Socially distanced office plan
  • Highlight updated cleaning procedures with colleagues
    Your staff will need to feel confident that they can return to work safely. This will be dependent on your internal communications strategy which should ideally highlight hands-free sanitizing stations throughout the office and especially on entrances and high frequency touch points (such as lifts, toilets, printers). 

Download the Guidance pdf from Gov.UK here.

UK Government Covid19 office guidance

Office space planning is what we know best at Solutions 4 Office so if you’re after advice or a second opinion, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email

What about networking and collaboration? Will it go back to normal?

Honestly, we don’t know yet. The majority of companies we have worked with previously have capitalised on the benefits working remotely can offer a team, so it’s surely here to stay. However, we agree with Liz Barclay, prominent news broadcaster, who sums it up perfectly: “everyone misses the water cooler moments that spark great ideas.”   

“New research finds that employees are enjoying their new-found flexibility and ability to work remotely — but they are missing in-person collaboration.” -Research from AllWork Space

We are in no doubt that the office of the future is actually here now. The pandemic has forced business to embrace the latest technology and fast forward to the workplaces that we were anticipating were 20 years ahead. Remote or home working will continue for a much larger proportion of the workforce who have embraced the technology to do this. Companies are considering a break-up of the large office locations and establishment of several smaller satellite buildings located to help staff avoid lengthy public transport commutes. The future looks amazing for a more socially aware, dynamic business type that does really put employees first and allows them to drive the economic success of their companies forward with renewed vigour.

Richard Thomson, MD – Solutions 4 Office

Not sure where to start?

Our team of experts are ready to help you find the best solutions for your office.