A person is eating alone in a breakroom in a blurry, out of focus photoGood prevention practices in the classroom, sales floor, and other public-facing workspaces can be undone if employees are still gathering in break areas. Our contact tracers have heard of numerous examples where employees have maintained distancing and worn masks while in public-facing work spaces but then eat lunch in a private breakroom, unmasked, next to several coworkers.

Below are just a few examples from our contact tracers’ notes with people who have tested positive:

  • “Staff are required to wear cloth face masks and distance as much as possible, but staff do eat in the breakroom and are not required to eat alone.”
  • “Coworker tested positive, so person got tested to be safe. Said he was never in contact with said coworker except being in the same breakroom for lunch."
  • “Person reports exposure may have been from colleagues at job where distancing practices around staff breakroom are minimal and unenforced.”
  • “Coworkers eat together in breakroom with no masks.”
  • “Person exposed at work via close contact in breakroom while eating.”

There are many strategies to reduce the chances for the virus to spread in your breakroom.

Change up the layout

  • Rearrange the room to maintain a distance of at least six feet apart, including marking the spatial separation.
  • Remove extra seating so that fewer people can be seated at one time.
  • Switch the break area to a larger room to accommodate more people while maintaining
    6-foot distancing.

Reduce the number of people using the space

  • Change workflows so that only 1-2 employees are in the breakroom at a time.
  • Post signs that indicate the maximum number allowed in the room together.

Keep the space clean

  • Provide supplies so employees can easily clean and disinfect spaces after use.
  • Facilities should ensure each break area is cleaned at least once per shift, including the microwave, countertops, table top, chair seats and backs, and high-touch areas (e.g., door handles).
  • Cleaning should be done on a schedule and assigned. Document these cleanings in a log to ensure they are happening at regularly scheduled intervals.

Follow best practices when using the space

  • Wear a mask in the breakroom unless you are actively eating; this means wear it while you’re heating up food and washing up after.
  • Sit as far away from others as you can.
  • Minimize talking, as talking while unmasked and eating or drinking can increase spread.
  • Disinfect your table space, chair, and food preparation area after each use.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub:
    • When you enter the break area
    • Before and after removing your mask
    • Before eating
    • After putting your mask on again
    • Before leaving from break area

We’ve created a fact sheet to share with your supervisor or staff. This sign can easily be posted in break areas to remind everyone how to stay safe.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.