How can businesses practice social distancing in waiting rooms or reception areas?

As the coronavirus continues to impact businesses all around the world, some businesses must remain open to provide services to patients and other visitors who must spend time in a waiting room or reception area before being helped. These places need to stay open—and essential for them to enforce social distancing practices to help reduce the spread of illness, especially if they must comply with local legislation that requires social distancing. How can distancing be practiced in these waiting areas, where it’s natural for a group of people to all sit or stand close together?

The CDC has a variety of recommendations to help patients and enforce social distancing in healthcare facilities. These CDC recommendations may also be applied to any type of business that has waiting rooms or reception areas. The two biggest strategies are to reduce the number of people allowed in the room at one time and to reduce contact between these people. Recommendations for accomplishing this include:Please Wait in Car A-Frame Sign

  • Reduce appointments and services to essential/emergency instances only
  • Cancel non-emergency appointments and ask people to reschedule for a later time
  • Schedule patients at blocked times (ex: 1 patient every 15 minutes instead of 4)
  • Ask people to wait in their car, then call them when you are ready for them to come in and see one person at a time
  • Limit the number of seats in the waiting area, and organize the seats to ensure there are six feet between them
  • Take away magazines, books, and toys that are typically offered to help pass the time
  • Refrain from offering complimentary water, coffee, tea, or snacks
  • Consistently wipe down any surfaces visitors may have touched (door handles, doors, seats, armrests)
  • If people do need to line up, increase distance in these lines by using floor tape to indicate where people may stand, or floor signs to indicate where the line starts and where to wait.

In these cases, clear communication with visitors and patients is essential. Where it isn’t possible to install physical barriers but there is still a need for appropriate distance, implement visual reminders to encourage people to maintain social distancing. If you cannot call or warn visitors of the new policies, post signage at the entrance to your facility so everyone coming in understands the changes and understands their responsibility. Through communication and careful planning, it is possible to implement social distancing in waiting rooms and reception areas.


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