Coworkers working in office at social distance.

How To Practice Social Distancing At Work

5-Minute ReadUPDATED: April 14, 2023


COVID-19 has dramatically altered the way team members can safely perform their jobs in the workplace. With the threat of spreading the virus, many employers have transitioned their staff into remote work whenever possible. But working from home may not be an option forever.

As the shelter-in-place orders are beginning to lift across the nation, many of us will be back in the office soon. With that said, it’s important to prepare yourself to effectively practice social distancing at work. Careful use of the CDC-recommended guidelines can help keep both you and your coworkers safe.

Let’s dive into the best practices to maintain while social distancing at work.

What Is Social Distancing In The Workplace?

Social distancing is a CDC recommendation designed to keep you and those around you protected from COVID-19.

The goal of social distancing is to maintain at least 6 feet between you and those around you. The reasoning behind this distance is that the virus mainly spreads among people who are in tight quarters for an extended period of time. Even if someone is not showing symptoms of COVID-19, they can potentially spread the virus to you if you’re nearby.

As more of us return to the office, it’s important to implement social distancing in that space to avoid spreading the virus wherever possible. You should do your best to implement social distancing on an individual level. However, you entire time must cooperate for effective social distancing. 

How To Practice Social Distancing At The Office

Here are some tips to help you maintain your practice of social distancing at the office:

1. Stay Remote Whenever Possible

Although many people who hold essential and physical jobs may not have the option to continue working remotely, you should seek out remote opportunities whenever possible. Take a close look at the tasks that you’re required to do at your job. Then speak to your supervisor to request remote options if any of them can get completed outside of the office. 

Even if you can only eliminate one hour of in-office time, you’re reducing the time that you’d be in close proximity to your co-workers. Plus, you would reduce the total number of team members in a building at that time, which can help others practice social distancing more effectively.

If you can continue working remotely, then it might be time to set up a dedicated home office space. Take advantage of this free resource to help set up a work-from-home office.

2. Stay 6 Feet Apart

Most offices aren’t designed to allow team members to constantly maintain a social distance of 6 feet. If that’s the case, then consider creative solutions to build this safe distance between those in that space. A couple of options include rearranging the desks to maximize the social distancing of essential workers and taking the stairs to avoid sharing an elevator ride.

3. Avoid Public Transportation

Social distancing should start before you even reach the office and continue after you finish your workday. Not only are you at risk at work, but also while taking public transportation. Think of the dozens of people that you cram yourself next to throughout your daily commute. If possible, cut down exposure by walking, biking or driving to work.

4. Avoid Physical Meetings

With a multitude of other options, there are few reasons to hold an in-person meeting. Instead, consider video conferencing or phone calls. In some cases, your planned meeting could be conducted effectively over email. Get creative to communicate with your team without talking face-to-face.

5. Cancel Business Trips

Although some business trips are too time-sensitive to postpone, cancel as many as possible. Right now, airports are an easy place to contract a COVID-19 infection.

If you must take a business trip, make sure to abide by any post-travel quarantine guidelines from the CDC. As of now, it’s recommended that you remain home for 14 days from the time you return from international travel. Throughout the 14 days, you should monitor your temperature and contact a doctor if you’re worried about your symptoms.

6. Move Workshops Online

Many companies have a multitude of workshops and client meetings that are normally a top priority. With the inability to conduct these activities safely in person, seek out other remote options like video conferencing.

7. Identify And Close Hot Spots

In most workplaces, there are hot spots where people like to gather. For example, the break room or cafeteria could be a space where everyone in the office is likely to enter in a given day. If possible, close these areas for now. That will force team members to eat separately at their desks, which can feel disheartening, but keeps everyone safe.

8. Wave Hello

Handshakes are a thing of the pre-COVID era that will be hard to give up for the time being. After all, most of us are hardwired to offer a handshake as a greeting, or even a polite hug. Although it will likely feel odd, consider waving hello instead of sharing any physical greeting with your co-workers.

9. Press Pause On Extra Interactions

One of the fun parts of working in an office is the team-building activities. These look different in every office, but it might include sharing a birthday cake or heading out for a happy hour after work. These activities can be fun, but they open the door to the spread of COVID-19. With that, it’s important to limit any nonessential office camaraderie activities whenever possible.

Instead, try new ways to connect with team members, like setting up an office "meme" chat or hosting a virtual book club or competition. 

10. Stay Flexible

As everyone navigates these tricky waters, it’s important to maintain a flexible schedule. If possible, set up a rotation of in-person staff at your office. The rotation could be full days or smaller shifts but find a solution that works well for your entire team.

As you set up the schedule, look for ways to limit on-site staff while keeping your business moving in the right direction. An additional way to limit the number of people in your office is to implement a no-visitor policy for now.

11. Educate Your Team

Social distancing will work best when all team members are committed to the goal of staying safe. But not everyone may completely understand the importance of social distancing or the best ways to implement it. Take the time to talk through the practice with your team before returning to the office and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Of course, mistakes will be made along the way. But with more information on social distancing, your teammates can effectively minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Final Thoughts

The return to the workplace may look different, but it’s completely possible to stay productive while maintaining your social distancing practices. In fact, you could even take the time to learn more about your personal finances and protecting your credit score during these tumultuous times. 

As you get comfortable with the new guidelines, don’t be too hard on people who make mistakes. Everyone is adapting to a quickly changing environment, so it’s natural for there to be some slip-ups along the way. Do your best to follow these guidelines and share useful COVID-19 resources with your team whenever possible.