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Space Planning

Space Planning for Physical Distancing 

Watch this video with space planning tips to help maintain physical distancing in private offices, open office environments, and meeting rooms.

Remember that your area may have internal processes for some of the topics below. Contact your office administrator or building manager for information specific to your workspace.  

Tips on Space Planning for Physical Distancing and Hybrid Working

Click on the topics below to find tips on preparing the physical workspace for the return of in-person work at McMaster. 

Determining the number of people who can work in a space while physical distancing is a quick process. The video on this web page can show you how or keep reading.  As per current provincial regulationsworkers need to be six feet apart or two meters apart.  You can use a measuring tape to measure this distance, or you can pick up a measuring ribbon. More information about that is also on this web page. 

To start, you need to know the estimated occupancy, or number of people who can work in a room while physical distancing.   

Use this spreadsheet to view the estimated occupancy, or  number of people who can work  in a room, while physical distancing in McMaster work spaces. 

The rooms are listed by building and there is a column that indicates the occupancy.  The estimated occupancy in a room is the starting point.   Next you will need to determine how the room will be used and further reduce or increase the occupancy as required. Watch the video on this page or see the tips below for instructions. 

Don’t see your room on the list? Contact clerks@mcmaster.ca .  

Note that installing physical barriers in your space following the Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services guideline will allow you to increase a room’s occupancyHowever, physical barriers and plexiglass  dividers should be used only after all other considerations for spacing individuals have been exhausted (like spacing workstations or rotational schedules)For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below. 

 At this time, physical distancing is not required in instructional spaces, including labs, classrooms and libraries. 

Managers can pick up measuring ribbons to help quickly measure six feet or two metres and ensure physical distancing in work environments.

Measuring ribbons can be found at the following location:

McMaster University Student Centre
Administration Office Reception (Rm. 222) 

Private offices will typically have an occupancy of no more than two.  

If there is less than six feet between the occupants, a plexiglass divider can be installed between the occupants. 

The video on this web page shows an example of private office where a client or studentfacing meeting might be held and where physical distancing cannot be maintained, which is why there is a physical barrier. In this example, the office is shared between two people on a hybrid work arrangement, who come into the office on different days.  

 For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below.  

In open office environments, to determine how many workstations can be used, managers should measure the size of the workstations.    

If the workstations are six feet or wider, then your team can use every workstation simultaneously.   

If the workstations are smaller than six feet wide, then every other workstation can be used. This ensures physical distancing requirements are met.  

The video on this web page illustrates the instructions above.   

For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below

For small meeting rooms, we need to make sure that occupants are seated six feet apart. The easiest way to check this is with a measuring tape. 

For large meeting rooms, we follow a similar process to that of the small meeting rooms. A good rule of thumb is to use every third chair in the room, leaving two empty seats between each occupant. If the table is less than six feet wide, seats should also be staggered on the opposite side to increase the distance between occupants.  

The video on this web page illustrates the instructions above. 

For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below

As the discussion on workplace flexibility is ongoing, managers are exploring hybrid work arrangements with their teams. A hybrid work model could involve a mix of in-person and remote work or location flexible work arrangements.  

View the Winter Back to Mac Guide for Managers for a link to the COVID-19 Supervisors Guide from Human Resources for more information.  

When thinking about how your office space will accommodate more flexible working arrangements, consider how using rotating schedules could be implemented without altering the office layout. The video on this web page shows an example of how alternating schedules support hybrid work in a private office used for studentfacing meetings.  

If your team works in an open office environment, please use the tips on how to ensure physical distancing in this type of space before determining how many individuals can use the space at a time. The video on this web page shows two examples. In the first example, an open office has adjoining workstations that are six feet wide. In this example, every workstation can be used simultaneously. In the second example, an open office has adjoining workstations that are less than six feet wide. In this example, every other workstation can be used. In a case like this, managers may consider installing physical barriers between the workstations so that they can be used simultaneously. 

For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below. 

Before buying new furniture or moving existing furniture, try considering how physical distancing could be ensured via rotating schedules and hybrid work arrangements.  

For more information on furniture moves or installation, see the section below. 

Managers developing flexible or hybrid work arrangements may wish to purchase new furniture for their office spaces.  

Keep in mind that physical distancing measures are temporary and will eventually be lifted. Before buying new furniture or moving existing furniture, teams are strongly encouraged to consider how physical distancing could be ensured via rotating schedules and hybrid work arrangements.  

Moving furniture: 

 Purchasing furniture: 

  • Remember that your area may have internal processes for furniture purchases.  Contact your office administrator or building manager for information specific to your workspace. If no internal process exists, managers can follow the MacBuy internal process for purchasing furniture. If you have any questions about using MacBuy to purchase furniture, please contact Financial Affairs.
     
  • Facility Services can provide support to managers looking to purchase new furniture for their workspaces. In most cases, Facility Services only needs to be involved when there is construction work involved. For example: electrical or data receptacles need to be moved and/or added to your space to accommodate new furniture, or walls need to be relocated. 

Allow up to 5-10 business days to process this request. A Maintenance team member will then be in touch to discuss scope, budget, and timelines. To submit a Service Request to Facility Services visit our website or email clerks@mcmaster.ca. 

For information about physical barriers or dividers, such as plexiglass, see the section below. 

McMaster’s Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) has advised that physical barriers and plexiglass dividers should be used only after all other considerations for spacing individuals have been exhausted (like spacing workstations or rotational schedules) 

Plexiglass dividers and physical barriers around cubicles do not replace the need for wearing a mask. 

Private Offices: 
There would rarely be a need for physical barriers in a private office. Maintain physical distancing whenever there are two or more occupants in a room. 

If the office is used for student or client meetings, a plexiglass divider can be installed between the occupants if the office space does not support physical distancing. 

A plexiglass divider used at a workstation or table should be at least 30 inches (76 centimetres) wide by 30 inches tall and placed between occupants. This size of plexiglass is the minimum for this scenario. Please follow the other requirements set out in the Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) guideline.  

 The video on this web page illustrates the instructions above. 

Open Offices: 
If adjoining workstations are less than six feet wide or if occupants cannot maintain physical distancing when seated at their workstations, then physical barriers (in the form of workstation panels or plexiglass dividers) can be installed. 

If using physical barriers around workstations where physical distancing cannot be maintained, barriers must be at least 30 inches (76 centimetres) tall and should follow the other requirements set out in the Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) guideline.

The
video on this web page illustrates the instructions above. 

Service Desks:
All service counters should have plexiglass barriers installed where physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

A plexiglass barrier at a service counter should extend to a height of at least 6 feet (1.8 metres) from the floor. This size of plexiglass is the minimum for this scenario. Please follow the other requirements set out in the Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) guideline. 

The video on this web page illustrates the instructions above. 

Meeting Rooms:
If plexiglass barriers are used in meeting rooms, they must be placed between occupants wherever physical distancing cannot be maintained. This means that you may have barriers in place between occupants sitting across from each other or between occupants sitting side by side. 

A plexiglass barrier used at a meeting room table should be at least 30 inches (76 centimetres) wide by 30 inches tall and placed between occupants. This size of plexiglass is the minimum for this scenario. Please follow the other requirements set out in the Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) guideline. 

The video on this web page illustrates the instructions above. 

Purchasing and Installing Plexiglass Barriers
If a standard 30-inch-tall by 30-inch-wide tabletop barrier is required, you can reach out to Facility Services by emailing clerks@mcmaster.ca. 

If custom plexiglass barriers are necessary, submit a work order with Facility Services (or location-specific building services) for materials and installation. Allow 20 to 25 business days for this request to be completed.  

To submit a Service Request to Facility Services visit our website or email clerks@mcmaster.ca 

Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services guide on physical barriers also includes more information about considering a physical barrier, dimensions and cleaning.