As states begin to loosen their stay-at-home orders, it is time for leadership teams to start thinking about specific strategies to reopening workplaces.

The reintroduction to an office environment can be tricky to navigate and even dangerous if not handled well.

As a starting point, the Federal Government has outlined phases to get back to work, citing the following guidelines for public and retail spaces.

  • Venues 50,000 square feet or less should be at 25% capacity.
  • Venues 50,000 square feet or more should restrict four people for every 1,000 square feet.

While no official guidelines have been suggested by the Federal Government for office spaces, in the interim, they are suggesting using the same guidelines for public and retail spaces. With that said, in phase 1 of the Federal Government guidelines, some workers should remain home, such as senior citizens, parents with children studying from home, and any self-sufficient job roles. Additionally, individual states have outlined a phased approach to reopening businesses. Most states include specific limits on the number of people gathering in one space as well as the use of face masks.

Limited studies are showing that leaders are handling return-to-office preparations in varied ways. One recent study shows that the majority of leaders were in the early stages of planning as only 10% of communication executives have done “extensive” planning. Conversely, PWC surveyed its CFO’s who said they believed their companies could resume “business as usual” within a month if the crisis ended today.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, below are four considerations to ensure a successful transition back to an office environment.

1. Collect Data to Use in Formulating Your Plan

Consider conducting a study of your employees to gather information such as:

  • What is working while working remotely?
  • Challenges experienced while working remotely.
    • Technology, communication, time management, accountability, and focus.
  • Ideal working environment once offices are reopened.
  • Opportunities experienced while working remotely.
  • Ideal schedule once offices are reopened.
  • Is it necessary for certain employees to be physically in the office to fully execute their job functions?

2. Rethink Physical Spaces & On-Site Work Times

Evaluate floor plans and office layouts, make seating assignments, and:

  • Add tape to the floor to designate 6 feet for social distancing.
  • Add barriers in between workspaces.
  • Open windows, if possible.
  • Use every other seat.
  • Limit shared areas.
  • Stager on-site shifts for employees e.g., alternating M-W-F and T-Th schedules.
  • If multiple staircases, make one an up staircase and one down to eliminate contact on staircases.

And, don’t forget to reference the federal and state social distancing guidelines as outlined above.

3. Be Prepared with the Necessary PPE & Sanitizing Procedures

  • Wearing masks, if required by state or federal guidelines, when moving around the office and in small group settings.
  • Design a regular schedule for sanitizing high touch areas such as doors, refrigerator handles, copy machines, etc.
  • Provide hand sanitizer, touchless hand soap dispensers, and foot pedal trash cans.
  • Ensure desk areas are sanitized daily or multiple times a day.
  • Disinfect meeting rooms after each use.
  • Consider screening criteria such as touchless temperature checks upon entry to the office environment.
  • Eliminate personal items on desks, so it is easier to clean. Put these items in storage for now.
  • Eliminate shared items in community areas such as in kitchens (creamers, sugars, etc.). Everything should be one use only or individually owned.

4. Over Communicate

With so many changes, communication is critical. Consider:

  • Posting signs around the office to remind employees of guidelines.
  • Adding these new guidelines to your HR Manual:
    • Have employees sign off in agreement with the new rules.
    • Outline clear consequences for not following the rules.
  • Sharing information with your employees several times and in several ways, such as:
    • Email, video, Intranet, and telephone calls.
    • Place signs at various areas to remind employees to social distance, follow the designated office traffic flow, wash hands, sanitize, and to wipe down shared spaces after use.

Remind your employees that this is a new work environment for everyone, and these new working conditions are ever-evolving. Guidelines may change or be adjusted when new rules are instituted or lessened, and such changes will be distributed to the employees.

Other considerations include reviewing infrastructure needs while maintaining remote working. Finally, as we have all been reminded, no one knows what the future holds, so please do not forget to document your plan. This should be reviewed and updated regularly and take into consideration any past learnings and new requirements.

As we move forward in this uncertain time, we hope these considerations will help you make the right decisions around bringing your teams back to the workplace in a safe way.

If our team at Quantum Strategies can help you develop your workforce reentry plan, please do not hesitate to contact us.