Shift-planning techniques to promote social distancing

Organisations across the globe embraced a massive work-from-home experiment during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, non-essential businesses that require employees to be onsite for operations—whether due to a lack of infrastructure to support remote work or the physical nature of the work itself—were compelled to send their employees home for a months-long standby period. As these employers eagerly bring their workforce back to an onsite experience, social distancing practices must maintain a top point of concern not only between employees and customers but foremost among staff members.

The shock of the pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the community-oriented workspaces we once knew and many, if not all of us, have familiarised ourselves with the standard six-feet-apart rule. But what does social distancing mean for your workforce? Your employees are counting on you to ensure their health and safety by implementing and enforcing proper protocol during their working hours. Depending on your work environment, WFS Australia, a leader in workforce management software, believes you should consider one or more of the following shift-planning techniques to help keep your staff at a safe physical distance:

Place gaps between shifts

Because entry and exit points can become congested when employees enter and leave the worksite, consider scheduling gaps between each shift if physical handovers are not required and operations can be paused for a short period of time. Orderly passage in and out of the building also gives you an opportunity to clean and sanitise work areas between shifts with minimal cross-contamination.

Stagger shifts and breaks

Staggering employee start and end times could be an alternative to scheduling shift gaps if a brief shutdown period is not feasible for operations. You might also want to consider rotating employee breaks and mealtimes to prevent large gatherings in communal areas. Unsafe crowded transitions can be avoided if all employees are entering and leaving the premises at different times.

Require pre-shift health screenings

Consider sending out a pre-shift health screening questionnaire prior to your employee entering the premises. Solutions like our WorkForce Suite can enable your business to conduct health screening, allowing you to perform a preliminary assessment to determine whether the employee is cleared to enter the worksite. If cleared, you can automatically send a code to their mobile device for clearance into the building upon arrival.

Designate an area for check-ins

Minimise gaps in operations by asking all employees who are starting their shifts to enter through a specific area. This way, employees can clock in, pick up any personal protection equipment required for the shift, and finalise the screening process without interacting with others who are already working or who are ending their shift.

Alternate between onsite and remote work

If the nature of the work only requires a percentage of the work to be performed onsite, consider a hybrid approach in which employees rotate between onsite and remote work. Say your support team is assisting customers through multiple channels. You could assign a rotation in which a percentage of the team handles in-person support while the rest handles remote support.

Ensure adequate access to personal protection equipment

On top of social distancing, it’s also your responsibility to encourage respiratory etiquette and to ensure that your employees have the equipment they need to work their shift safely. If your workers are unable to arrive prepared with the necessary equipment for their shift, think about what you as an employer should provide to keep them protected: face masks, face shields, gloves, eye protection, etc.

How can WFS Australia help?

Having a class- leading workforce management solution, like our WorkForce Suite, can help you make smarter and more strategic shift-planning decisions. Promoting social distancing among your workforce is just one stop down a long and winding road toward the “new normal.” For an extensive guide that will help you plan your entire return-to-work journey, download our latest eBook, 6 Essential Workforce Management Strategies for a Safe and Productive Return to Work

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