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What Will Re-Entry Look Like? 300 HR Execs' Answers


The possibility of reopening nonessential businesses looms large. In Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, reopening is underway as early as this week. Nationwide, company leaders who have only just gotten their teams acclimatized to working remotely are scrambling to plan for how and when to safely resume “business as usual” — though, moving forward, that may mean something quite different than it did before the coronavirus.

Employees, office tenants, property owners and managers can review some of those possible plans in an April 20 Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. survey of companies across the U.S. More than 300 HR executives from 23 industries, including manufacturing, construction, financial services, technology and real estate, provided preliminary insights on how their companies plan to get back to work.

The findings, while falling short of any one-size-fits-all solution, do seem to confirm a great deal of the speculation that this pandemic will mean "the end of the office as we know it."

Social Distancing And PPE

  • 89% of employers are planning to provide sanitizing products.
  • 86% will maintain social distancing protocols of 6 feet.
  • 85% will regularly deep-clean workstations and work sites.
  • 84% of employers plan to provide some personal protective equipment
  • either to all workers or upon request. 
  • 79% are planning to limit or prohibit gatherings in shared spaces.
  • Nearly 60% are planning to limit or exclude visitors.
  • More than half are planning to provide or require workers to wear masks. 

Monitoring Employee Health

  • 45% are surveying workers to see if they had or have had any risk of exposure. 
  • Two in five employers say they are planning on taking workers’ temperatures upon their return to work, per new guidelines from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about employee-managed temperature checks and symptoms screening.

When An Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19

  • 77% of companies said they will require a two-week quarantine for anyone potentially exposed. 
  • 71% said they will deep-clean the entire office. 
  • 40% said they will return to crisis protocols. 
  • More than one in 10 companies said they would shut down the entire work site if one employee tested positive.

Working From Home

  • More than half will make work-from-home accommodations permanent for some or allow people to work remotely until they feel safe enough to return. 
  • 15% will return to previous work-from-home policies.
  • 9% plan to require all workers to return to the office environment "after the crisis is passed." 

When Are Companies Expecting To Return To The Office?

  • 62% of companies surveyed are committed to keeping their coronavirus crisis plans in place until experts declare it is safe.
  • 24% are planning to maintain their current precautions for one to three months.
  • 7% are planning to keep their current precautions in place for three to six months. 
  • 5% expect the crisis to last through the end of 2020 or into 2021 and to continue under their pandemic operations plan until that time.
  • 2% believed as of mid-April that they could remove precautions in a matter of weeks.

Depending on the outcome of reopening efforts in the aforementioned Southern states, more will be revealed about whether that 2% were right.