As the COVID-19 crisis continues, jurisdictions will allow us to reopen, some faster than others, and with a variety of rules. The Insights Association developed these guidelines specifically for in-person qualitative facilities preparing to resume a semblance of normal business as efficiently and safely as possible, which should be used on top of the more general guidelines IA already shared. 

Please remember that these guidelines will be subject to change and adaptation as public health information and needs shift. We work in the real world, where risk can only be mitigated, not eliminated.

General guidelines

  1. Ensure physical distancing and keep the number of personnel in any space below maximum levels set by the state/locality.
  2. Limit the number of onsite staff as much as possible.
  3. Any reasonably disposable items, such as paper and writing instruments, should not be reused, and request respondents bring their own pen or pencil if possible.
  4. Stringent check-in and check-out procedures for research participants and visitors for purposes of maximum personnel levels per space (as determined by your state/locality) and maintaining physical distancing.
  5. Consider staggering session start times to avoid crowding during check-in and check-out.
  6. Staff should wear facemasks and gloves when preparing anything that will be handled by clients and/or participants.
  7. Food and beverages (whether for clients or participants) should be individually packaged, with snacks limited to single-serve bags. Individual meals should be served as delivered.
  8. Participant waiting areas and client rooms should be cleared of all candy/treat containers and periodicals/pamphlets or other paper materials to prevent them from becoming potential disease vectors.
  9. Disposable tablecloths, napkins, plates, cutlery, cups and glasses should replace any non-disposable linens and items.
  10. Facilities should be stocked with additional hand soap, sanitizer and wipes to enable DIY cleaning.
  11. Ensure compliance with specific requirements of building owner / landlord.
  12. Create and provide a liability release related to COVID-19 for all respondents and clients to sign.
  13. Inform participants, staff and clients about all new procedures, policies and risk-abatement measures in advance of their arrival on-site.

For research participants and clients

  1. Provide masks for participants and to clients who request them.
  2. Take the temperature of participants upon arrival using scan thermometers. Participants should be told in recruitment and confirmation that this will be done.
  3. Clean and disinfect all rooms occupied or transited by participants or other visitors after each use, focusing on high-touch areas such as chairs, tables and doorknobs.
  4. Reconfigure and reorganize the facility to provide appropriate distancing in participant waiting areas; if necessary, convert office space and viewing/conference rooms into additional waiting areas to extend physical distancing.
  5. Consider setting a maximum group size of 4-8 participants in any single space, depending on the size and set-up of a given room.
  6. In-person viewing by clients should be limited as much as possible; client viewing rooms should be distanced.
  7. Clients/visitors (including outside moderators, videographers, etc.) who have encountered someone who has been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days should be asked to monitor, moderate, etc. online, or simply not physically enter the facility.
  8. Client viewing room/lounge capacity should be limited based on physical distancing and state/local requirements. When necessary, other rooms may be utilized for viewing via monitors. 
  9. Send all consents, non-disclosure agreements and liability release documents prior to sessions to be signed electronically to avoid shared documents and congestion at check-in.

Screening of research participants

Add screening questions for any in-person/in-facility projects:

  1. A participant who has encountered another person exposed to the virus within the last 14 days should be disqualified from in-person research.
  2. A participant with any COVID-19-like symptoms should be disqualified from in-person research.
  3. Confirm (in writing/email) that participants have been pre-screened when the facility itself has not recruited the participants.


This information is not intended and should not be construed as or substituted for legal advice. It is provided for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult with private counsel on the precise scope and interpretation of any laws/regulation/legislation and their impact on your particular business.