May 15, 2020

The social distancing consultant will see you now

Companies are pivoting to help other businesses with social distancing. Their services are in high demand -- if a little unusual.

Sometime last month, architects and interior designers everywhere traded in their old job titles for a shiny new one: Social distancing consultant.

After a binge-read of the CDC’s reopening guidelines, they’ve started shopping out their skills to restaurants, airlines, and malls — businesses that need to reinvent themselves for a 6-feet-apart world.

Pandemic planners are in high demand: Companies only have so much space to play around with.

Without statistical models to guide them, you can imagine restaurant employees crawling across the floor with rulers in hand on their first day back to work.

Your consultant friend can finally explain what they do 

Marker found several firms that have leaned into the rebrand:

  • The design giant Gensler launched a $600+/month service called ReRun, which helps companies sort through the employees that most need to return to work and rejiggers office space to fit them.
  • When WeWork needed to redo its office, it rang Arup, an architecture and engineering firm, to produce a 16-page reopening booklet.
  • The MASS Design Group is deploying its Covid-19 Response Team to help hospitals clean their workspaces. One idea: Kill germs with an army of ultraviolet lights.
  • Even SimpliFlying, a company that once specialized in offering social media strategy to airlines, now gets much of its income from shelling out social distancing tips.

The consultants recommend buying a raft of social distancing tools — like giant stickers that remind people to stay apart, and a whole lot of thermal scanners. Other jobs could soon take off — like in-flight janitors.

But the new consulting frontier is still a mixed bag  

Other players are pivoting in the opposite direction: B2B companies are leapfrogging CEOs and pitching straight to employees who work from home. They’re offering virtual fitness classes, mental health services, and — of course — refillable snack supplies.

If you’re thinking of hiring a consultant, keep in mind: Hardware like buzzing wristbands may be nice, but you can still find low-tech social distancing solutions on the cheap.

To keep its customers apart, a German cafe is handing out hats equipped with foam pool noodles.

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