Social Distancing in the Workplace

Here in the United Kingdom we have been locked down but we have been able to leave our homes to do essential work, shop, help sheltered people and take exercise. We have observed that companies still working through lockdown are not all practising social distancing. For example, in retail stores, employees regularly come close to one another either due to apathy, laziness or management pressure of productivity over safety. Workmen on the street can often be seen working close together.

As organisations come back to work there’s a greater awareness of workplace safety and unions are also taking a greater interest. Individuals need to know they are as safe as is practical. Governments are creating new working practice guidelines. For management, practising social distancing safety can actually be good for business. People are more willing to work, they feel the organisation has their interests in mind and ultimately there’s less risk of an outbreak on site causing worker absence and a potential site shutdown.

Governments producing guidelines and organisations implementing new working procedures don’t necessary produce changes in worker attitude, especially when it’s difficult to police the rules. This is where technology can help. A social distancing system can provide workers with warnings when they come too close and audit close contacts so that working patterns can be changed.

This isn’t about contact tracing that has been the contentious subject of recent news. While social distancing systems can produce contact tracing data, it’s unlikely to be useful in most businesses because close contact is always going to happen. Some governments realise this and guidelines stipulate extra measures when working within close contact, such as being mindful of the duration of the contact. Close contacts will happen in the workplace. It’s about reducing their number and duration.

Here are some factors to consider if you are seeking a social distancing system:

  • Cost – Consider the ongoing cost as well as the initial cost. Does the system unnecessarily use a software as a service (SAAS) model that ties you into monthly payments? Does it need a mobile wireless subscription for every user?
  • Setup – How easy is it to set up? For larger numbers of employees it’s important the tracking devices work ‘out of the box’. Lots of physical setup can also defeat the aim of reducing social and physical (screen) contact. Does the system require any site-wide infrastructure such as WiFi that’s almost certainly already unreliable due to congestion?
  • Scalability – How easy is it to scale to all your workforce? Where are the costs and technical bottlenecks?
  • Sync – How easy is it to sync? Again, data needs to be received from the tracking devices in a hands-off manner so as to reduce social and physical contact.
  • Data privacy – Where does the data end up? Remember your organisation might have data compliance requirements that require data be kept within the company or in a particular geographic region.
  • Output – What’s the output? It’s unlikely a vendor provided system will provide the exact reporting you require. Look for systems that allow you access to raw data for importing into Excel or other systems. Look for systems that automate reporting so as to reduce effort and physical (device screen) contact.

Read about the BeaconZone Social Distancing Solution