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Getting Back to Business: How to Use Signage to Encourage Social Distancing

As states across the country are relaxing stay-at-home recommendations and businesses are reopening their doors, everyone is preparing for a new “normal.” The pandemic isn’t over, and companies and consumers alike are still on high alert when it comes to being mindful about being in public spaces. Social distancing will likely remain in place for months to come. At this point, it’s becoming more of a natural part of doing business than a temporary recommendation. For the most part, consumers seem to be happy with having more personal space and feeling less crowded when out and about. Some may even feel more confident about venturing out in public, knowing that stores are helping them maintain a safe distance from others. Still, it’s up to each business to continue encouraging (and enforcing) social distancing, and signage and graphics are effective ways to help maintain awareness.

How Other Businesses are Using Signage to Promote Social Distancing

Signage has long been a go-to method to get specific messages across. They have a natural tendency to attract attention because the information they contain is essential enough to warrant a sign. They provide direction and vital details that can affect a person’s experience in the space they’re in, whether it’s a shopping mall, bus station, restaurant, or other places where large numbers of people gather. When the pandemic first started spreading throughout the country, businesses and municipalities were scrambling to implement new safety measures seemingly overnight. They had no choice but to respond quickly, especially in areas that were not or could not be closed to the public. But now that the dust has settled, business leaders have a little more breathing room and can create better experiences for their customers, employees, and the general public with thoughtfully curated signage. At AlphaGraphics, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing creativity at work and helping our clients create impactful store signage. Here are a few of our favorite examples: Queue Signs One of the most noticeable differences in the in-store experience is how people stand in line. From grocery stores to government services like the DMV, shoppers, and visitors are now expected to stay six feet apart from others in a queue. To help with social distancing, many locations are marking out six-foot increments on the floor using graphics or tape. Some stores are using this as a branding opportunity to build their brand messaging, logo, and company colors into the graphics. It’s a step above the austere, generic “Stand Here” signs that have been cropping up in various locations. Still, the goal remains the same: encourage social distancing in every situation where people may otherwise have close contact. Signs for High-Touch Items Social distancing guidelines aren’t just to maintain physical distance between people, but rather to curb the risk of cross-contamination and exposure to germs. Though COVID-19 has been shown to spread mainly through the air, it’s important to be mindful of the things we come in contact with while out in public. Businesses are stepping up their cleaning and sanitization efforts around the clock to create a cleaner environment for their visitors. They’re also using signage to help avoid the spread of germs by bringing mindfulness to high-touch surfaces. For example, we’ve seen restaurants and retailers add mats to their counters, indicating the counter is a high-touch area. People who see these signs may think twice about adding their germs to common surfaces. It’s constant reminders like these that keep the importance of social distancing and cleanliness top of mind. It can also give brands a boost when they show they’re taking the pandemic seriously and care about creating a healthier, safer experience for their guests. Sanitization Signs As more businesses are increasing their cleaning frequency, they also want to show customers what they’re doing “behind the scenes” to make their experience safer. We’ve seen many businesses adding small signs that they place on surfaces to indicate those areas have recently been cleaned. For example, a restaurant might place a small placard on each table after it’s been sanitized, so the hostess staff will know it’s ready for the next guest. This also helps to increase the accountability for your staff. When employees are required to place these signs in certain areas, they’re less likely to let cleanings fall through the cracks. Instructional Signage Businesses are changing how they’ve always done things, whether by a requirement from local or state agencies or by their own feelings toward social responsibility. This can take some getting used to from their customers, and well-crafted signage can communicate these changes at scale and help customers shift to a new normal. One example we’ve seen in the Arlington area is that several medical and dental facilities have new procedures for checking in patients. Rather than entering the building and signing in at the desk, patients are instructed to wait in their cars and contact the facility upon arrival. Staff are also conducting temperature checks and asking screening questions before a patient is granted entry. Though not all changes will be able to be communicated via signage, companies should consider ways they can spread the message within their facilities regarding any significant changes to processes or procedures. Directional Signage To better control traffic and limit contact with others, many shopping centers and retail stores are choosing to implement a different flow to their store navigation. This includes making some aisles one-way only or using specific doors for entry and others for exit. Directional signage is a must to implement these changes. Granted, not all visitors will follow the signs, but you can encourage more of them to pay attention to signs that are well-sized and stand out. Mask Requirement Signs Some stores and businesses are requiring guests to wear masks, or at the very least, encourage them to wear one. Having a clearly posted sign on your storefront sets the right expectations for your customers. Temporary Signage Many businesses are implementing temporary changes, such as restaurants offering only curbside pickup or delivery. Adding temporary signage to your storefront windows, sidewalk, or elsewhere in your business can improve the guest experience and be easily removed or replaced as changes evolve. Signs of Encouragement COVID-19 has impacted every single person in the country, though it’s fair to say that each of us has been affected in different ways. It’s been a difficult time for many, especially those that were expecting to celebrate important milestones this year: graduations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations. To help ease the frustration and sadness of not being able to celebrate these milestones in a traditional sense, many people are using signage to give these special moments the attention they deserve while observing social distancing. Drive through any neighborhood in Arlington or the surrounding metro, and you’ll likely spot signs in yards featuring graduates for the class of 2020. You’ll see “Welcome Home” signs for families bringing a new baby home from the hospital. You’ll notice signs that thank our frontline workers and call out the real superheroes of the pandemic. These are small but powerful gestures to add importance to events and details that are likely to be overlooked during times of distress.

Types of Signage for Social Distancing Messaging

Developing social distancing messaging is just the beginning. Once you decide what you need to communicate to your customers and employees, the next step is to choose the right types of signage for your messaging strategy. Throughout the pandemic, AlphaGraphics has helped many local and national businesses create custom signage that supports their business’ social distancing requirements. Here are some of the most effective types of signage and how you can use them in your business: Yard & Site Signs Temporary and permanent yard and site signage offer greater visibility to passersby. Specifically, for social distancing purposes, businesses are using these signs to boost messaging that sets clear expectations for the customer experience. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
  • Drawing attention to new or reduced store hours
  • Letting people know they’ve reopened for business
  • Highlighting special promotions
  • Informing customers about mask requirements
  • Increasing awareness of curbside service or similar services
  • Highlighting closures of public spaces, walkways, or bike paths
In addition, anyone can purchase custom yard signs for their lawn that congratulates a graduate in their household, welcomes home a new baby, or shows support for healthcare workers, police officers, or anyone else on the frontlines. Many communities are also adding COVID-19 yard signs to show solidarity and build a stronger sense of unity during these times of need. Floor Graphics Floor graphics and decals are the most common options when it comes to social distancing in lines. Each floor decal in a queue represents the space where a person should stand. We’ve also seen decals printed in the shape of footprints or arrows to indicate which direction foot traffic should flow in a store or building. Floor graphics are easy to apply and are completely customizable in terms of shape, size, color, and text. They’re also easy to remove if and when social distancing requirements ease. Wayfinding Signs To reduce exposure and limit interactions, many businesses are not operating at full capacity. Many employees still fear the return to work. Others may have found new employment during the pandemic and left the company struggling to fill the void. Whatever the reason, wayfinding signs can help close the gaps if the locations of items or services have changed. This could be a map in your store or signs detailing where to go for help. Temporary Social Distancing Signage For many people, it’s felt like ages since they were able to sit down in a restaurant or venture into the grocery store without wearing a mask. Many of the effects of our current reality will likely be temporary, although right now, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. Because best practices are still subject to change as conditions evolve, it’s crucial for business owners to access temporary signage solutions that will allow them to change their messaging as new needs arise and old ones expire. Temporary social distancing signage can take many forms:
  • Window signs
  • Exterior temporary signs
  • Indoor banners
  • Large format printing
  • Outdoor flags and banners
  • Posters
Though we’re all doing this social distancing thing together, your business may need to communicate its requirements in different ways. The benefit of using a professional custom signage provider like AlphaGraphics is that you can customize your signage to your needs. Where to Place Signs for Maximum Visibility Social distancing can look and function differently in different settings. If you’re not sure where you need signage, consider these common hot spots that are fairly consistent across most businesses: Entry and Exit Signage
  • Assign doors as either an entry door OR an exit door to limit close contact with customers in passing.
  • Post requirements or recommendations for customers regarding masks, occupancy limits, and social distancing reminders.
  • Post a notice about all the things your business is doing to protect its customers.
Aisles and Walkways
  • Mark out one-way directions to control traffic flow.
  • Add directional arrows to sidewalks or other walkways to keep people moving in the same direction on the same side of the walkway.
  • Post signs reminding people to maintain a friendly social distance.
Checkout and Customer Service Areas
  • Add a sign to checkout areas if contactless payment is available.
  • Add signs to the floor to indicate where to stand in line.
  • Include custom signs with additional instructions or details (e.g., mention that you’re not accepting returned items at this time).
  • Include additional handwashing signs to encourage good hygiene.
  • For high traffic restrooms, mark out spaces on the floor to maintain a six-foot distance between individuals.
Pickup and Dropoff Points
  • Add signage indicating safe pickup or dropoff zones.
  • Indicate waiting spots where customers can stand while waiting to be picked up or for curbside services.
Lobbies, Atriums, and Waiting Areas
  • Indicate whether lobbies, atriums, or other waiting areas are open or closed.
  • Add signs telling users the last time an area was cleaned or sanitized.
  • Include seat markers for spaces that should be left vacant to maintain social distancing.
  • Place reminder signs to encourage safe distancing from others.
Communal Spaces
  • Add markings to any space where a line can form, such as vending machines, coffee makers, microwaves, and elevators.
  • Add signs to tables and chairs to indicate which ones are available for use and which ones should be left vacant.
  • Include signs to remind visitors of social distancing rules.
  • Place signs on office doors, inside restrooms, and within individual workspaces to remind employees and visitors of social distancing.
  • Use unique colors and designs to make these signs stand out from your usual assortment of workplace signs.
Back Doors and Service Entries
  • Post exterior signs notifying delivery persons of any changes to how deliveries are made, including hours of operation, placement of packages, and gaining entry into the building.
  • Encourage social distancing when loading and storing packages and interacting with employees.

How AlphaGraphics Can Help with Social Distancing Signage

Social distancing is no easy feat. Aside from the fact that it’s a significant shift from what we’re used to, it’s further complicated by the fact that each business has its own way of encouraging and enforcing social distancing measures. There are no set rules for maintaining a six-foot distance between people in public spaces or businesses, which means companies must introduce their own creativity when crafting a social distancing strategy. Signage plays a vital role in developing this strategy. It’s an effective and inexpensive way for companies to get the attention of their workers and customers and guide them toward doing the right thing. While some visitors may overlook the signs or simply choose to ignore them, most of your customers are just as concerned for their safety as you are and will gladly do their part to limit social interactions. As a leader in signage, the AlphaGraphics team continues to offer custom signage to help you achieve your goals. Now, we’re also offering a variety of pre-designed social distancing signage and other options related to COVID-19. We know that time is of the essence when it comes to making your business a safe place during the pandemic, so we’ve made it easy to get social distancing signage without going through a lengthy design process. If you prefer a semi-custom option, we also offer templates for common signage that you can customize with your brand, logo, colors, and other information. All of our templates and pre-designed signs are ready to print so you can start using them in your business as quickly as possible. If you need to equip your business or public space with social distancing signage, we’re ready to serve you with custom, quality signage that’s in everyone’s best interests. Contact our team today for a free quote and start exploring your options.

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