Social Distancing at Work

Guidelines and tactics to consider for your workplace comeback strategy

While we navigate the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation together, we want to share a general overview of steps you can take to create a healthier and safer environment for you and your employees to return to.

Over the past month, there has been a fury of ideas and guidelines across the industry on how to best tackle the Coronavirus (COVID-19) office problem. Unfortunately, there is still much to learn from this pandemic and jumping to a new office design overhaul right away may do more harm than good. While our team continues to absorb as much information as possible for our customers and partners, it’s clear there are steps you can take now and in the near term to create a safer work environment and to help mitigate risks before you return to the office.

Here are the first 5 recommendations on how you can proactively begin planning your comeback strategy.

Create a pandemic response team within your organization.

Identify the goals you have for your organization during this crisis. For Forward Space, our internal team’s main goal is to reengineer our offices and office protocols to allow workers to feel safe and want to come back in the office after the self-quarantine or isolation is over. The team is also creating and implementing change management solutions for our customers in the both Milwaukee and Chicago areas. To make things simpler, it may be best to assign individual team members to specific categories under the COVID-19 umbrella.

Examples include:

  • Internal + External Communications Team
  • Internal Signage Team
  • Sanitation + Cleaning Team
  • Workspace + Furniture Alternation Team


Understand your physical space limitations.

Using the 6-foot rule and other CDC guidelines, you will start to notice is some if not all of your office environment does not meet the guidelines, and adjustments will have to be made. For example, what was once a 12-person conference room may now have to be limited to 4 people. Example questions to ask:

  • Are my employees 6 feet apart?
  • What is the cleaning strategy after or before a meeting?
  • What changes do I have to make to make them 6 feet apart?
  • How can I repurpose collaborative settings as individual workspaces
  • What areas can I remove or label as “unavailable” to avoid cross-contamination
  • Are my spaces easy to clean and disinfect?


Adjust your physical space.

In order to meet the CDC guidelines and provide a safer and healthier work environment, you’ll most likely have to make immediate changes to your environment. There are several ways about going about this and will be a challenge because there is no workplace that is the same. Steelcase introduced many thoughtstarters which may pertain to your workplace or with your existing furniture.

Mobile furniture enables to make quick changes to their work environment on-the-fly. Schools are a great example as many have turned to more active learning furniture giving the teachers/professors the opportunity to choose from a variety of teaching modes in seconds. Examples of different classroom configurations include, lecture, team based and traditional rows. There are often cases where those in the STEM or STEAM programs want most if not all furniture out of the way for activities to take place in the open environment. Mobile furniture allows for this. What would have taken several minutes to move and arrange can now be done in a matter of seconds without creating major disruption.

Below of a few ways you can make small changes to your workspaces.

  • Create space division by reconfiguring your workspaces
  • Add space division by adding screens, panels or mobile whiteboards.
  • Add mobile furniture to make office design changes on the fly and to create a flexible work environment.
  • Use communal/social spaces as assigned individual workspaces
  • Remove unneeded objects and surfaces to create easier cleaning practices.
  • Remove arms from chairs


Create protocols for your organization and employees.

Businesses are going to want to strategically think about how their employees and customers interact within their physical space and how they maintain the spaces cleanliness. Examples include:

  • One-directional walk paths
  • Mandated cleaning instructions
  • Assigned seating
  • Open door policy
  • Assign certain workdays for certain workers and control occupancy density


Introduce new and existing technologies into your workplace.

For the past couple of months, we’ve seen how the work from home model and virtual meetings through programs such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Yammer has actually had more success than we could have thought back in 2019. With that said, we are undergoing a cultural shift to a more tech-savvy work culture. More people will work from home and more organizations will invest in technologies to balance the work from home model. A few technologies to consider when elevating a work from home model as well as further integrating online collaboration listed below:

    • Workplace Advisor – a program that allows users to see in real time which offices, conference rooms or workstations are being utilized. It is a cloud-enabled system that collects and analyzes data to provide organizations with meaningful insights about how their people work, and how their workplace can help. This technology can also be used to help create a cleaning strategy or schedule, based off usage patterns and monitoring heavily used areas.
    • RoomWizard – is a room scheduling solution that displays critical meeting information so that it’s readable from a distance. It also assists in wayfinding and makes it easy to schedule meeting spaces from your desk or on demand at the device. This can come in handy during the COVID-19 crisis as people can book out rooms before they are even in the office. You can also assign certain teams to certain rooms through the device. Proactively secure a space within the office for a future meeting.  You may also use Room Wizard and Workplace Advisor in tandem to strategically pick and reserve spaces that have not been used to create smarter COVID-19 real estate usage strategies.
    • Microsoft + Steelcase – the two have teamed up because they understand the significance of everyday technologies and the role they have in the office. Why not have furniture products and settings that better support these technologies within the space rather than work against each other?


COVID-19 Forward Space Guidelines.

While there is not a “one-size-fits-all” mentality we can take at this time, our Forward Space Pandemic Team has created an Post-COVID Workplace Checklist to help give our customers a one-page, high-level, overview of recommendations to consider before returning to the office.


Forward Space COVID-19 services include:

  1. Understanding your current work environment and recommending/implementing changes under the 6ft rule, such as reconfiguring or moving furniture.
  2. Applying new products (screen, partitions, panels, antimicrobial surfaces)
  3. Change management (dealing with the new reality, communications, protocols, strategy)
  4. Creating and printing signage (decals, wayfinding, internal communications, reminders)
  5. Workplace technology products and services
  6. Reconfiguring furniture
  7. Warehouse storage


To assess your current workplace and learn more about how we can support your team during this uncertain time, request a Post-COVID Workplace Consultation and one of our consultants will contact you to set up an appointment at your convenience.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates