What does office reentry mean?

As stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift and businesses start opening their doors, a key question we’re all faced with is, “What does reentry mean?”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rush to move any/all workers to remote setups. And, now that we are used to that, it has become more of norm. Robert Half surveyed more than 1,000 professionals and 77% said they are working from home and it is working for them. In addition:

  • 63% realize their jobs are doable from home;
  • 60% enjoy a better work-life balance due to a lack of a commute;
  • 20% have grown closer to colleagues and 19% have grown closer to their boss.

The net-net has been that remote work isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It has undoubtedly become part of our new work culture — 79% of respondents want to continue to work remotely even when restrictions lift and offices reopen.

In the post-pandemic office, there will be concerns that need to be addressed. The same survey respondents said this about their expectations upon returning to the office:

  • Better cleaning procedures (79%);
  • Fewer in-person meetings and trainings (70%);
  • Stagger employees in office work schedules (55%);
  • Require employees to wear masks (52%).

Regardless of the industry and office environment, there is no doubt that the physical office will look different in the near future. So, how do you open your office and ensure that your employees feel safe and comfortable doing so? Here is a start:

  1. Holding fewer physical group meetings/training sessions:​ Large meetings may not resume immediately. For one thing, fewer people are likely to want to come. There could be a continuation of video conferencing for a while, even when every attendee is in the office. When people do gather for a meeting, a conference room intended for 12 might be repurposed as a meeting room for six. In lounge areas, chairs could be placed farther apart. Chairs on casters permit people to easily roll seats to a safe distance from colleagues.​
  2. Placing hand sanitizer at building entrances and throughout the office.
  3. Implement new etiquette, such as eliminating handshakes and hugs or other physical contact when greeting colleagues.​
  4. Put limits on visitors. All visitors should arrive to the office on an arranged and preplanned basis to help the company know how many people are in the office at any one time. ​
  5. Determine if your company wants to perform temperature checks for employees and visitors as they arrive at your office — we advise checking with your company’s legal counsel on how to proceed if you do so.​

It might be a confusing time when considering reentry, but listening to and communicating with your employees and fellow managers is the best place to start.

Joe Carrabs is vice president of permanent placement services for Robert Half.

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