With many states and cities accommodating a phased reopening of businesses across the United States in the coming weeks, organizations are modifying workplaces and public spaces to be both productive and keep employees healthy. Organizations are shifting the focus from total shutdown to implementing a solution for an adjusted space with social distancing measures in mind.

Through the use of 2D diagramming, teams made up of both mechanical engineers and architects are working to restructure spaces to keep employees and other members of the public separated by 6 feet, when it may have been previously difficult to do so. Examining a workplace’s floor layout can help reveal measures useful for keeping employees at a safe distance from one another.

Space Transformation

With new social distancing measures in place, organizations are renovating spaces and promoting practices to keep employees healthy; 2D diagramming allows an outside team to implement new workstation layouts and processes to keep employees at a safe distance from each other and other interacting members of the public.

The floor plan layouts allow teams to plan for spaced out workstations and may create a one-way office plan to encourage all employees to walk in clockwise directions to limit in-person interaction. Additionally, employees are encouraged to keep workspaces clutter-free to allow for regular cleaning, as well as to frequently use available hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment in an effort to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Physical Pointers

Some organizations may need additional social distancing signage to accommodate members of the public or those outside of the organization. Employees working in an office or other organization daily will quickly learn the appropriate workflow and the areas that are appropriate for frequenting to keep others healthy, but office visitors may need additional assistance.

Our team recently worked with the City of Virginia Beach to create a design plan to implement many of these social distancing measures. This included adding social distancing signs as well as a color-coded seating plan showing an alternate layout for where City Council members should sit and presenters to the elected officials should stand. Additionally, new workstations were incorporated for municipal employees, with folding tables for increased distance and an established route employees should follow to avoid unnecessary in-person contact.

Social distancing measures will likely be a new feature of modern working society for the foreseeable future. By restructuring workplaces and other public spaces now, organizations can continue business in a safe way, so employees can remain healthier until a vaccine or other solution is presented to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.


Creating an updated office in response to COVID-19 is key to providing spaces safe for employees to work in, without sacrificing their health in the process.

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Michael Hathaway is a staff architect at Burns & McDonnell. With nearly 10 years of experience, Michael has worked in every phase of project design. He has extensive experience leading heavy coordination across multiple disciplines in project design, starting many projects in the proposal phase and carrying through to completion.