7 Shift-Planning Techniques to Promote Social Distancing for Onsite Employees
Director, Product Marketing
Organizations across the globe embraced a massive work-from-home experiment during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, non-essential businesses that require employees to be onsite for operations—whether due to a lack of infrastructure to support remote work or the physical nature of the work itself—were compelled to send their employees home for a months-long standby period. As these employers eagerly bring their workforce back to an onsite experience, social distancing practices must maintain a top point of concern not only between employees and customers but foremost among staff members.
The shock of the pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the community-oriented workspaces we once knew and many, if not all of us, have familiarized ourselves with the standard six-feet-apart rule. But what does social distancing mean for your workforce? Your employees are counting on you to ensure their health and safety by implementing and enforcing proper protocol during their working hours. Depending on your work environment, consider one or more of the following shift-planning techniques to help keep your staff at a safe physical distance:
Place gaps between shifts
Because entry and exit points can become congested when employees enter and leave the worksite, consider scheduling gaps between each shift if physical handovers are not required and operations can be paused for a short period of time. Orderly passage in and out of the building also gives you an opportunity to clean and sanitize work areas between shifts with minimal cross-contamination.
Stagger shifts and breaks
Staggering employee start and end times could be an alternative to scheduling shift gaps if a brief shutdown period is not feasible for operations. You might also want to consider rotating employee breaks and mealtimes to prevent large gatherings in communal areas. Unsafe crowded transitions can be avoided if all employees are entering and leaving the premises at different times.
Require pre-shift health screenings
Consider sending out a pre-shift health screening questionnaire prior to your employee entering the premises. The health screening should perform a preliminary assessment to determine whether the employee is cleared to enter the worksite. If cleared, you can automatically send a code to their mobile device for clearance into the building upon arrival.
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Designate an area for check-ins
Minimize gaps in operations by asking all employees who are starting their shifts to enter through a specific area. This way, employees can clock in, pick up any personal protection equipment required for the shift, and finalize the screening process without interacting with others who are already working or who are ending their shift.
Alternate between onsite and remote work
If the nature of the work only requires a percentage of the work to be performed onsite, consider a hybrid approach in which employees rotate between onsite and remote work. Say your support team is assisting customers through multiple channels. You could assign a rotation in which a percentage of the team handles in-person support while the rest handles remote support.
Shift and team group when possible
Where employees are split into teams or shift groups, fixing these teams or shift groups so that unavoidable contact happens between the same people will help limit exposure to others and will also make it easier to identify possible exposure to COVID-19 in the event that a positive case is identified among a single employee. See an example of shift and team grouping in the video below.
Ensure adequate access to personal protection equipment
On top of social distancing, it’s also your responsibility to encourage respiratory etiquette and to ensure that your employees have the equipment they need to work their shift safely. If your workers are unable to arrive prepared with the necessary equipment for their shift, think about what you as an employer should provide to keep them protected: face masks, face shields, gloves, eye protection, etc.