If you are a founder managing a business right now, what’s your plan for bringing employees back to work?
This is the question consuming the most mental share for every business owner I know. What are you going to do to keep your employees safe? How are you going to continue serving your customers, clients, and communities? What’s the plan if the coronavirus hits another wave? And most importantly, as the country begins to approach reopening and shelter-in-place orders start being lifted, should employees return to physical office spaces just because they can?
For companies like ours, everyone at Place has the ability to work from home—but working from home during the coronavirus outbreak has certainly changed the way we look at our business and the way we operate. So what are the benefits of us bringing people back together into a physical office? What’s the true value?
Now, personally I do think reconnecting in person to some extend is important. Obviously we can’t just stay in our homes by ourselves forever. People genuinely want to see other people, and to be around each other. The question, however, is how should we do it, and should we do so this early?
I’ve talked with a handful of executives at larger companies, as well as fellow entrepreneurs, about what their plans are for bringing employees together again safely.
Here are a few things we should all expect to see integrated into workplace culture for the near term.
1. In order to come to work, you need to put it on the schedule.
Most offices will not operate at 100% capacity through the rest of the year.
Instead, companies are going to most likely create “shifts” where different departments or groups of people can come in to work that day, or that week. You’re also then going to see those shifts broken down further, segmenting different times of the day for people to show up, ride the elevator, or leave the office. Open seating arrangements are going to be replaced by assigned seats and office spaces. Offices are going to be rearranged so people are a bit more spread out. Desks and tables are going to be separated.
The entire concept of just “showing up to work,” and treating the office like a hangout spot, is going to change. And that’s going to take some time to get used to.
2. Masks, temperature checks, and any sort of testing is going to be subject to the company’s discretion.
As I’m sure we’ve all witnessed here in America, there doesn’t seem to be very much information being shared about how to navigate the health concerns within organizations.
The CDC hasn’t explicitly stated companies will be required to have employees wear masks at work. In addition, “essential” work environments are not the same as corporate work environments—so should corporate companies be enforcing masks? What about temperature checks?
The consensus seems to be for companies to be working closely with legal and HR in order to decide what is best for your organization. It’s crucial to understand what your legal exposure could be if people come back to work and start getting each other sick. All of this needs to be intentionally thought through in advance.
3. Office cleaning is going to be taken much more seriously.
Post-coronavirus offices are going to have to hold themselves to a different standard of cleanliness.
For example, we have already engaged with a company to increase our office cleaning schedule, specifically to focus on wiping down desks and metal surfaces—so that employees know they are showing up to an environment regularly cleaned by professionals. We’ve also had new, heavy-duty air purification filters to be installed in our ventilation system, replacing the cheaper filters that are in most office spaces. Again, we want to take every precaution possible from an operational standpoint to ensure everyone showing up to work is safe. Even the snacks and foods in the kitchen are being reconsidered, questioning how we can reduce the number of things people can touch and spread around the office.
And finally, hand sanitizer. Each desk, table, and surface needs to have the ability to keep sanitary and clean. This certainly takes a lot of planning with the current shortages of these supplies.
In addition to the financial concerns of a company, these are the details companies are going to need to take a close look at in order to resume normal office activity for the near future. The last thing organizations want is to invite people back into unsafe environments, or be required to show up somewhere they don’t feel comfortable or safe working. So, as leaders, it’s crucial to be as transparent as possible about your motivations behind bringing people together again, as well as listening to their thoughts and concerns as we look to navigate this new world together.