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As we all attempt to find new ways to keep our staff and customers safe during COVID-19, the idea of staggering the workforce has risen in popularity.

‘Staggering’, in this case, refers to the concept of making sure not too much of your workforce is in any given area at the same time. It’s closely related to the concept of social distancing, except it takes into account the need for workers to share space and work alongside one another in order to get their jobs done and keep products flowing. While, ideally, everyone would be safely at home until the pandemic ends, many essential industries and businesses require the services of warehouses to transport needed goods across the country, and that places a high value on the safety of every worker at these warehouses.

In order to stay productive during these times, many warehouses have turned to staggering various needed activities throughout the workday to promote social distancing. These staggered duties include:

 

  • Staggered lunch breaks, where fewer people are sent out on break at one time, and are enforced to take their breaks in different areas of the warehouse
  • Staggered picking routines, where fewer workers are out on the floor picking items for shipment
  • Staggered shift starts, where fewer workers are set to begin working at the exact same time in order to reduce crowds in certain areas

 

By staggering these simple daily routines that we all take for granted, your warehouse can have a massive positive impact on the health and welfare of your team and customers.

The implementation of these routines is easier than you may expect. Start by identifying any routines or times of day where workers are most likely to gather in one place, such as in the break room on lunch, or on the shop floor during peak picking hours (which can vary drastically from warehouse to warehouse, particularly if you work in ecommerce).

 

From there, work out a new schedule to keep your workers spaced apart, and focus on smaller groups. If you have team members that frequently have to go to the same pallet racks to retrieve items, make sure to set new picking schedules that have fewer workers on the floor at any given time, and make sure no new pickers go out before the previous team members have returned.

Take a similar approach with breaks – even if you only stagger their start times by 10 minutes, alternating shift breaks and lunch breaks among smaller groups of workers can help lessen the spread of any potential illnesses among the workers.

 

Once you’ve gotten your warehouse set up with these new staggered work routines, you need to ask yourself an important question – are you going to use them in the future? Whether or not things return to “normal” (whatever that may look like in the future), you should strongly consider maintaining these staggered schedules going forward. Not only will it show a great reduction in transmittable illness among workers, it can actually help your team stay focused and productive by helping them manage and divide their time better.

By managing these staggered schedules, your team will stay safe in the short term and may stay productive in the future – a win-win for everyone, even once the pandemic subsides.

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