Coronavirus (COVID-19): Implement Social Distancing at Work Checklist

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

When to Use

As employers operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, measures should be implemented to ensure social distancing (e.g., remaining six feet apart from other individuals) in the workplace, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since exercising social distancing is one of the best ways to avoid being exposed to COVID-19, employers should look for ways to alter their workplace to physically separate employees from each other and from customers, when possible. This checklist will help employers determine the proper steps to take to implement social distancing in their workplaces.

Although employers do not have to complete the following steps in sequential order to properly complete the checklist, certain steps should be done in order.

Customizable Checklist

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Implement Social Distancing at Work Checklist

Assess the Layout and Size of the Workplace

  • Review workplace configuration to determine if desks, equipment and other items can be moved and redesigned to create appropriate physical spacing (e.g., six feet or more). 
  • Determine whether employees can be moved farther apart on production lines and at workstations, if applicable.
  • Consider whether employees may be relocated to other areas of the workplace facility.
  • Redesign floor plans and seating charts.
  • Ensure new or revised floor plans or other modifications to the workplace comply with industry regulations and standards as well as state and local codes (e.g., building and health codes).

Determine the Number of Employees at the Workplace and Assess Work Functions

  • Determine how many employees will be at the workplace at a given time and day.
  • Consider allowing employees to work remotely, if possible, to alleviate demand for space and resources.
  • Review work functions (e.g., receptionist or cashier) to determine how to minimize contact and promote social distancing.

Determine Who Implements Social Distancing Measures

  • Consider whether it will be HR, facility manager or an outside party.
  • Bring in stakeholders, tenants and other interested parties to assess resources and obtain buy-in.
  • If in multiple business locations, consider giving local managers the authority to take actions they deem appropriate for their worksite. 

Implement Physical Barriers

  • Consider installing physical barriers (e.g., plexiglass dividers, sneeze guards and partitions) between co-workers and employees and customers.
  • Implement barriers in other places where physical distance is difficult to maintain (e.g., cashier counters, sinks and assembly lines).
  • Use signs, tape or other visual cues to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible.

Control Movement Throughout the Workplace

  • Designate one-way traffic down hallways and around the workplace.
    • Mark the flow of traffic with tape on the floor or signs.
  • Consider designating one door as an entrance and another as an exit to avoid individuals passing each other.

Limit Capacity or Restrict Access

  • Consider limiting capacity to the workplace (e.g., 50% capacity at a given time or day).
  • Restrict access to meeting rooms and common areas (e.g., locker rooms and cafeterias).
    • Consider closing common areas for a period of time.
  • Restrict or limit entry to any nonessential parties, including vendors, visitors and volunteers.
  • Cap the number of people allowed in an elevator.
  • Close waiting rooms.
  • Limit capacity in bathrooms (e.g., three people at a time).
    • Close bathroom stalls and rope off sinks to increase physical distance between individuals.

Continue or Implement Flexible Worksite Arrangements

  • Have employees work from home, if possible.
  • Set up remote worksites to reduce the number of employees at the workplace.
  • Relocate some employees to unused areas of the workplace or building.

Adjust Shifts and Schedules

  • Implement rotating shifts or other flexible work hours to limit the number of people in the workplace at the same time.
  • Stagger arrival and departure times in order to decrease the crowding of employees at entrances and exits.
  • Modify break and lunch times to avoid congregating in breakrooms or cafeterias.

Consider Alternative Measures If Social Distancing Is Not Possible

  • Require face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., gloves) for all employees and all other individuals entering the workplace.
  • Consider conducting temperature screenings and COVID-19 testing.
  • Encourage frequent hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Cancel in-person meetings and replace them with video- or tele-conference meetings, if possible.
  • Discourage the sharing of equipment, tools, supplies or food.
  • Reduce contact with customers by providing drive-thru service, curb pickup and other delivery options.
  • Move credit card readers farther away from cashiers to increase distance from employees and customers.
  • Encourage or require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the most effective measures to protect individuals is to practice social distancing (physical distancing) - to stay far enough away so as not to breathe in particles produced by an infected person, generally at least 6 feet. To practice social distancing, individuals should:

  • Stay at least six feet from other people;
  • Not gather in groups; and
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.

Consult with the appropriate individuals and departments (e.g., HR, facility managers and other tenants) to determine what measures should and can be implemented to achieve social distancing in the workspace. Several factors to consider are:

  • The size and layout of the workplace;
  • The number of employees at work at a given time or day;
  • The number of actual workspaces (e.g., cubicles and positions on a production line); and
  • Available resources (e.g., financial and physical).

Consider having a fraction of employees working at one time in the workplace to avoid crowding and demand for space.

Implement measures that are appropriate for the workplace and industry. For instance, retail merchants should install plexiglass dividers between employees and customers, while an employer operating an office space should designate one-way traffic around the workspace.

Close or limit capacity in rooms where employees tend to congregate, such as cafeterias and breakrooms.

Continue to maintain social distancing measures, as well as other health and safety protocols, even after employees have been fully vaccinated. Note that while the CDC has stated that fully vaccinated individuals may gather indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals without wearing a mask, employers should not relax face covering requirements if mandated by state or local law or Executive Order.

Communicate all social distancing measures being taken and the reasons why they are important to adhere to and follow. For example, post signs indicating that only two people are allowed in a bathroom at one time or place tape on the floor designating one-way traffic down a hallway. Regularly remind employees of these measures by way of email or other communication methods. Also, make sure that employees returning to work from a closure or furlough are informed of these measures

If physical barriers or other social distancing measures are not possible for any reason, implement other health and safety measures such as face coverings, temperature checks and sending employees home when they are sick.


Employers must always be mindful of the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Under this clause, an employer is required to furnish each worker with "employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." While this clause applies to a wide array of different situations, in the case of COVID-19, it essentially requires an employer to ensure that its employees have a safe and healthy workplace.

Make sure that any modifications to the workplace comply with industry regulations and standards as well as state and local codes (e.g., building and health codes).

If necessary, the above checklist should be modified so that it is in compliance with any applicable state and local laws and guidance.

Additional Resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Workplace Resource Center

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Health and Safety

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Return-to-Work Overview

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Return-to-Work Checklist

Webinar: Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Safety Considerations as Workplaces Reopen