Movement In The Covid Workplace

Lets Get Physical!

Published on: November 16, 2020
Categories: Covid-19

A great article by Lauren Gant, PhD, CPE, WELL AP, Human Factors and Ergonomics Manager for Allsteel | Gunlocke on the post-COVID workplace and some ways that you might consider to continue to promote movement in a constrained workplace. Some key take-aways:


Are there defined walkways?

  • Does the width of paths allow for proper distancing when passing? If so, consider having ‘traffic rules’ regarding what side of the hall to walk on. If not, consider implementing one-way halls and communicating the correct direction with signage
  • Can we avoid accidental collision around corners? Consider whether ceiling safety mirrors may help with visibility.
  • Are there open stairways as opposed to closed elevators or confined stairwells? If so, these may be safer alternatives organizations can promote to allow proper physical distancing and air flow.

Are there restrictions about when and where employees can come and go?

  • Are there specific doors that employees must use and are they limited regarding when they can enter and exit? If so, the protocols need to be fully communicated. There should also be a feedback loop so that employees’ ideas and comments regarding potential restrictions or ideas for different approaches can be heard and, if possible, accommodated.
  • Are there opportunities to allow employees to safely access the outdoor spaces periodically throughout the day as an opportunity to obtain full-body, dynamic movement like walking. Outdoors may be the best opportunity to get movement in a safe way.

Are there areas that were once workspaces that promoted movement and posture change that are now off-limits such as cafes or break rooms?

  • Are there alternatives that can be offered? For example, are there opportunities for employees to work on outdoor patios or other non-traditional, safe locations?

Does the density of employees that are in the office at any given time make it possible for employees to walk throughout the space? 

  • When doing space planning for return to office, we cannot assume that someone will go to their desk and stay there. We must make allowances for people to do normal activities such as using restrooms, getting refreshments, and changing postures.
  • It may also be important to consider movement throughout the space when considering how many individuals are coming back to the office and at what time. Having waves or phases, of smaller groups may allow a low enough density for employees to be, and feel, safe walking throughout the space.

Are employees encouraged or required to wear masks when away from their desks?

  • Prior to current conditions, I would often recommend walking while on the phone if possible, because the phone ringing could serve as a tangible reminder that one needed to move. However, this may be made more challenging with employees wearing face masks.
    • This is not to suggest that face masks are not warranted, because I believe they are. This is simply to point out that we may need to develop some other signal or reminder to move periodically.

Are there ways to reduce the need to touch surfaces as we move around the floorplate?

  • What doors will employees be required to touch as they move through the spaces? Is there way that the requirement to use handles for operation can be reduced or illuminated? Consider whether automatic doors or foot-pulls may be options for your space. Or if certain doors can be propped open.
  • For locations where it is necessary to touch doors or other surfaces, consider the inclusion of near-by hand sanitizer or hand washing stations.

Do employees have the opportunity to shift position at their personal workspace?

  • Height-adjustable worksurfaces may be a great option to allow employees to change postures frequently without leaving their desk. While not a replacement for full-body dynamic movement, when used properly, height-adjustable tables can help reduce sedentary behaviors.
  • If height-adjustable worksurfaces are installed in locations where screening is part of a disease-mitigation strategy, remember to consider both sitting and standing postures for screening options.

Is there a distributed work policy for employees?

  • Occasionally or regularly working from alternative, perhaps less populated, areas may allow employees the freedom to move more easily throughout the workday.


You can find the complete article HERE