We are all by nature social animals who love social contact, whether it’s a formal handshake, a pat on the back or just chatting to people who are in relatively close proximity. Unfortunately, the global pandemic has forced us to challenge these habits with new guidelines and restrictions on social distancing and one particular area where social distancing can be a challenge is reception areas in hospitals, pharmacies and even workplaces, where people pass through and even stop at on a regular basis.

Here are some ideas and tips to help manage social distancing in reception areas:

There’s only one way…

You will discover as you read on, that there are actually many ways to enforce and encourage social distancing, and having a one-way system can really help. Using separate doors for entering and exiting, as well as a marked out one-way system reduces the risk of people coming into close contact or standing around in a crowd (even ones where people stand chatting 2 metres apart but still block people from passing by).

Lay it out to them!

We never thought we would suggest putting spots or lines on the ground to tell people where to stand, but these are unusual times. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration and you find yourself too close to someone in front of you in the queue.

One way to help remind people is by having lines on the floor that are 2 metres apart, and that people must stand behind. You can also use boxed out areas or spots that they should stand on, although these ‘feel’ less strict and are likely to be less effective.


Social distancing for reception areas


Avoid crowds, and waiting

It’s easy to suggest that customers or patients shouldn’t have to wait for their appointments but in reality it’s a lot harder. Eliminating the need to wait means that they can go straight to their appointment without the need to have a waiting area or room where people congregate.

Ways to reduce crowding include allowing longer times between appointments (to avoid waiting due to other meetings over-running) and removing chairs that are close together. If staff pass through reception regularly, then it’s also worth considering whether they can use a separate door that has fewer people using it than the reception area.

Keep doorways clear, and possibly open

Unless you have a glass door, it can be difficult to know when someone is coming through it from the opposite direction. If you don’t have automatic doors, we recommend keeping doors open. This helps in two ways. Firstly, it reduces the risk of people coming into close contact and secondly, it reduces the need to touch door handles and other objects that might spread the virus.

If you are operating a one-way system, you might not have two-way traffic coming through a doorway, but we still recommend keeping doors open to help keep the flow of people moving.

It’s also important that reception areas have hand sanitiser that’s easily found and readily available at entry and exit points. As well as using hand sanitiser when arriving and exiting the building you should have them available throughout the premises for everyone’s use. Hand sanitisers are essential for those who accidentally come into contact with someone or something that may be infected, so that they can reduce the risks by killing off any virus on their hands and therefore reduce the spread of infection.

Worst-case scenarios

The number of people in reception can vary throughout the day and can be very unpredictable. It’s important to have some backup plans in case the situation becomes overwhelming.

The backup plan will vary depending on your building and it’s layout, but here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Have an overflow room or large (preferably outside) space available to send people to, until the number of people present reduces
  • Staff the main door, asking people to queue outside with two metre markers on the ground and manage a one in - one out system
  • Ask those waiting longest if they are willing to re-book for another time when they can be dealt with quicker, and when it’s safer

As restrictions begin to ease, it’s possible that more people will be travelling to different locations and the numbers in any reception areas will increase. If you haven’t taken action yet, then now is the time to review your processes to ensure a safer reception area for you, your staff and anyone else visiting. For further expert help and advice do contact our Facilities Management Consultants here at Ramsay Todd.