Practice Areas

Social Distancing in an Office Setting

Employers looking to reopen their workplace after pandemic-related workplace restrictions have been lifted will need to consider and plan for issues like more stringent cleaning protocols, use of face coverings and masks in the workplace, and conducting temperature checks and health screening of employees and visitors.  This post focuses on the need for employers to establish protocols and guidelines regarding social distancing.

Social distancing will impact every portion of the workday, such as arriving at the workplace, working, using the restroom, attending meetings, and eating lunch, as well as commuting to and from work.  Below are some options for planning how to maintain at least a six-foot distance in an office setting:

Employee Scheduling

  • Reduce the number of employees present in the workplace by staggering shifts, alternating days in the office, and continuing telework


  • Separate desks and workstations
  • Modify open floor plans – for example, by adding partitions or skipping every other workstation/cubicle
  • Instruct employees not to use other employees’ workspaces or equipment

Common Areas

  • Modify common areas such as conference rooms, kitchens, and break rooms to allow for more distance
  • Set staggered or spaced meal schedules or have employees take meal breaks at their desk or work station (to the extent consistent with applicable meal break laws)
  • Modify high-touch surfaces – for example, install foot-operated door openers so employees need not touch doors
  • Display signs reminding employees and visitors to maintain social distance and to avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily, among other healthy practices


  • Hold fewer in-person meetings and instead use conference calls or video conference
  • Limit the size of any in-person meetings and maintain appropriate distance through seating arrangements

Employers should also stay up to date on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when developing the social distancing protocols for their workplace.

Leave a Comment