Balancing Collaboration and Social Distancing in the Workplace

Posted on October 8, 2020

Farmington Hills, MI – (October 8, 2020) After spending several months working from home, a lot of people struggled with feeling isolated. Even when people don’t live alone, being able to go to the office every day still offered a valuable change of scenery and gave them an opportunity to connect and interact with people outside of their household. While video conferences and conference calls became a big part of working from home, virtual meetings never truly took the place of collaborating with colleagues in person.

Collaboration was extremely important before the pandemic and it will still be important as we continue to move toward a post-COVID world. On average, employees are now spending about 50% of their time engaged in collaborative work and teamwork skills are a leading indicator of an employee’s future success. Teamwork is highly valued by employees and employers alike by improving productivity while helping people feel less fatigued, more engaged, and more successful. However, the ways we collaborate will look a bit different for the foreseeable future as we try to balance the importance of collaboration with the importance of social distancing.

When the time comes for things like team meetings and other collaborative sessions, the first thought might be to head to a conference room or lounge area. But as people return to the office, a lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen to these types of spaces. After all, places like conference rooms are often enclosed spaces that were designed to accommodate large groups of people. The good news is that these types of spaces aren’t necessarily going to become relics of a previous time, they can be reconfigured to meet the needs of today’s world.

Whether a collaborative space is enclosed or in an open area, a key step is reconfiguring your seating to make sure there is plenty of room between people. In some cases, this might simply be a matter of moving chairs further apart. But in other cases, this might require reducing the overall capacity of the room. For example, in this room we created before the pandemic, removing some of the chairs around the large tables would give people lots of room to create some distance while working together:

Conference room with two long tables surrounded by many chairsWith many companies rearranging their layouts to increase distance between workstations, this can also give you the opportunity to create new, unenclosed collaborative areas around the office. To add some privacy for these spaces, portable partitions are a great way to create space definition without creating a fully enclosed space or making any permanent, long-term changes.

Don’t forget to think about some of the tools people use to work together. For example, do you have whiteboards and markers that people often use? For extra protection, make sure collaborative areas include access to hand sanitizer and cleaning products like antibacterial wipes to clean shared surfaces after each use.

It’s also important to note that even as people return to the office, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done with virtual meetings. In many cases, companies are trying to minimize face-to-face meetings for the time being, so conferencing technology will be a big part of workplace collaboration for some time to come, if not part of the new “norm” for some companies. Especially since online collaboration tools can help increase productivity by up to 30%. Keep in mind that individual workstations may also be doubling as collaborative spaces, so installing plexiglass partitions and high-panel cubicles add extra privacy in addition to helping prevent the spread of germs.

Need help adapting your workplace to better support social distancing? Premier Construction & Design has been working with businesses in the Metro Detroit area to adapt their workplaces to meet the needs of the new normal. Contact us today so that we can learn more about your project.