Returning to the office during a global health crisis like coronavirus is tricky.  After all, humans are social beings who want to engage with one another. Even though social (aka physical) distancing is still in order, we can find safe ways to engage and collaborate with coworkers.

It’s still too early to tell if companies will need less space. With more people working from home, businesses may find that they have just the right amount of office space for keeping employees distanced. Demand for spaces that offer a measure of control and privacy during the recovery when there’s still uncertainty will increase in the coming months. Contracts Furnishings is here to help clients navigate this era of a new social etiquette. With the health and safety of your team top of mind, we suggest the following steps: 

Create a company safety guide to share with your team

People want and need guidance and leadership. And, you cannot over-communicate expectations. If you need to remind your staff, again and again, to stay home if they don’t feel well or are exhibiting symptoms, that’s ok.

Rethink office density and prioritize physical distancing.

Review your current floorplan to optimize physical distancing. For example, you can spread out employees, using every-other-desk, or install tall screens and dividers to keep people safe. (Yes, it is the age of the human sneeze guard!) Remember, most team members need a dedicated space. Clear communication regarding expected seat assignments adds transparency and clarity and helps your cleaning teams prioritize. Knowing where employees are assigned, and their likely circulation paths can support a focused cleaning response if an employee exhibits symptoms.

Consider a phased return of team members to the office

Reach out to team members to determine who actually wants to return and who doesn’t during this phasing. (You may be surprised by the responses!)

Reimagine collaborative or common area meeting spaces

First, you need to decide if collaborative spaces are off-limits or if employees can use these common areas as dedicated seating to increase headcount. If you choose to designate these spaces as off-limits, use tape/signage to clearly communicate “DO NOT USE”.  If an area is still being used, tape/signage across a chair in a conference room, for example, helps people to maintain a physical distance while keeping the space in play.  It’s a great visual reminder.  (Don’t move the furniture out of the room.  It is a facilities nightmare and people will naturally move the furniture to be closer together.)


Communicate with your staff about your office cleaning protocols to strengthen confidence that you are making the office a safe place to work. Share your company safety guide with outside vendors and visiting clients to manage expectations. Remember, the first visitor will be the hardest. People will express anxiety. 

We are all in this together. And, if we do our part, we will come out the other side well-informed, resilient, and even more successful.