RETURNING TO THE OFFICE AFTER COVID-19

Planning to return to the office but don’t know where to start?

As the world is starting to get back to “normal”, many businesses and organizations are beginning to plan for reentry into the office. Denver South is here to help. We are hopeful the following resources will assist your organization start the conversation and help define this unchartered and unfamiliar process of returning to work, post pandemic.

ARE YOU READY TO RETURN TO THE OFFICE?

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will be one of the biggest business challenges of our time. Denver South’s March 2021 blog cited data and surveys from Global Workplace Analytics and Gartner which highlighted how telework will likely  influence wholesale changes to how business tenants and real estate operators return to conducting their business. Of course, we recognize there is no cookie-cutter solution for the variety of employers in the region, and what works for one organization may not for another.

Below are a series of resources to get you started on a path to find what’s right for your organization.

What Should Be Considered?

A common theme from every source is safety first! Employee health and safety should be paramount because no recovery plan can succeed without them. Therefore, any decision-making team must ensure they know and understand their city, county and state COVID-19 guidelines, as well as any internal policies created or adopted: Below are links to our jurisdictional city and county websites and the CDPHE for more safety guidelines.  A few additional safety considerations:

  • Determine your vaccination and/or testing policy for employees.
    • Share the policy early and create an open-door environment for clarification and potential exemptions to the policy.
  • What additional efforts on cleaning and sanitation will be part of the return to work plan?
  • Let employees know that offices may be reconfigured to support social distancing.
  • Flex-work programs to limit the number of people in the office at any given time are a great safety option.

Are We Ready to Go Back?

The readiness of each company to return to a physical office will be influenced by multiple factors: company risk tolerance, ability to flexwork, health of employee population, and more. There is no one size fits all, but there are a few key questions you can ask to determine your company’s readiness. See the guide PwC has put together of questions to ask around leadership, communication, safety, operations, and facilities to see where you fall.

Who to Bring Back and When?

This, also, brings up more questions, such as who should be brought back into the office and when?

PwC believes management teams face a challenge in determining exactly which employees are “mission-critical.” Some roles, such as sales or relationship management, which have historically required face-to-face interaction, may evolve given the rise of online video conferencing to remain fully or partially remote. On the other hand, factory floor, distribution and/or manufacturing jobs will require employees present on-site. This balancing act will likely prove difficult for management and require additional equity conversations.

Other factors may include:

  • Company culture and staff relations
  • Physical and mental well-being of staff
  • Capacity levels and space needed to account for safety guidelines

What do employees need to manage the shift back to on-site life?

According to PwC, without employee buy-in, “even the best-crafted plans are likely to run into trouble.” Empathy is key – not every employee has experienced the pandemic in the same way.  What’s more, some employees may have increased risk for infection from COVID-19 and will be reluctant to return to the office.

Here’s one of our favorite suggestions from the PwC return to work guidelines:

Go long on your purpose. Make decisions with a “no regrets” policy whenever possible. You won’t regret making decisions that focus on the safety of your employees or your company’s role in the community.”

Clear communication and guidelines will also go a long way in ensuring your employees leadership and management respect their needs and puts up guard rails against misinterpretation and one-off decisions.

Plan for Reentry

Our partners at DRCOG have developed these sample guides to help you develop a phased action plan for your workforce.

When planning to bring employees back into the office here is some sample language to get you started:

<Enter Organization Name Here> will engage in a phased reentry as outlined in the following pages. Steps in this protocol may need to be adjusted as more knowledge is gained and as events dictate.

 We will move from phase to phase as appropriate based on new information from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and federal, state and local health departments.

 Phases will build on each other and we will loosen or tighten restrictions as dictated by the most current information available.

Safety First!

  1. Employee safety is paramount.
  2. Wearing masks is an effective approach to reduce spread of viruses, including COVID-19.
  3. Practice social distancing
  4. Adherence to safety protocols is not optional and will be strictly enforced including corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

Phase I of reentry will be a soft reopening. Employees will have the option of returning to the office for work for a specific, assigned block of XX days per two-week schedule. Employees will be assigned to one of two work <or more if applicable> teams based upon their pre-pandemic work station and will have alternating work schedules based upon their work team. The office will be open Monday-Thursday each week with Fridays being reserved for mandatory teleworking.

To further afford employees the opportunity to physical/social distance, flex time will also be expanded. Employees may work anytime between the hours of XX a.m. and XX p.m. For example, an employee may decide to work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (note: this includes an hour for lunch). This may make working at the office more reassuring to those who use public transportation as they will not be expected to ride during peak hours. Work schedules must be coordinated with your supervisor prior to returning to the office.

(OPTIONAL) Prior to accessing the <enter address here> office, all employees will need to complete a health survey we have adapted from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The survey includes a requirement of a self-administered temperature check along with a questionnaire related to COVID-19 symptoms and exposure. This must be completed by every employee, each day prior to reporting to the office. Employees will be able to self-screen using a smartphone app or a computer before leaving home.

The honor system: Employees who have participated in activities where physical/social distancing and facial covering guidelines were not observed (including, but not limited to, concerts and airplane travel) are expected to self-isolate for 14 days or provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken no sooner than three days after the activity prior to returning to the office.

In the event an employee has an exposure or a positive test, they are expected to report the exposure/test result to Human Resources and then self-isolate for 14 days or until released to return to work by their treating physician.

Additional Links and Resources:

Online resources below to help aide your transition.

 

Center for Disease Control (CDC):

 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

 

Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM):

 

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE):

 

Jurisdictional Resources:

Arapahoe County

City and County of Denver

City of Centennial

City of Greenwood Village

City of Lone Tree

Douglas County

Have more questions or want help implementing a return to the office plan?

Contact Evangelos C. Gatseos or Sheryl Machado.