Reimagined, not just re-entry.

Workplace re-entry does not mean everyone goes back to HQ. It means returning to a reimagined workplace. 

There are a number of articles prescribing how your company should re-enter its workspace. There is one common theme. Even with cleaning protocols, desk re-arrangement, and employee safety guidelines, for most re-entry does not mean everyone just plops back down at HQ one day. 

There are many factors to consider before determining who will go back to HQ, how they will go back, and even when they go back. 

The massive work-from-home experiment was for the most part a success. Heck, even the NFL football draft, live from coaches and players living rooms and the commissioners basement, was preferred by many over the highly-produced event.

Despite years of dragging their feet, it is clear many executives are also now on board with employees working remote – not just now, but even after COVID-19 is under some sort of control:

“About 74% of CFOs surveyed by Gartner expect some of their employees who were forced to work from home because of the COVID-19 will continue working remotely after the pandemic ends.” – source 

 “Clearly, we’ve figured out how to operate with much less real estate,” Gorman said. “Can I see a future where part of every week, certainly part of every month, for a lot our employees will be at home? Absolutely.” – source 

According to Gartner: 

  • About 25%of those surveyed expect 10% of their employees will remain remote
  • 17% expect that 20% of employees will remain remote
  • 4% expect half their employees will remain remote
  • 2% expect over half of employees now working from home to do so permanently.

It seems we will continue down a path where some people will work remotely while others will work in HQ. But, what does this look like exactly?

Who goes back to HQ?

The pandemic has affected the way in which many of us work. Some have found themselves to be more productive at home. Even before COVID-19 was in full swing, a survey by Deloitte showed that 94% of employees would benefit from flexible work options. Now that most employees have enjoyed some of these benefits it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Add to this the other pandemic factors, such as kids home from school, public transportation is less desirable, and the mental anxiety many feel going into a work environment. Given all this, employers will need to determine who goes into the office with careful consideration. 

Here are a few things to put some thought around:

  1. Do we look at who comes into HQ at a team or individual level?
  2. Do we take into account where people live and how they get into the office?
  3. Could we offer alternative workspaces that allow people to collaborate in less dense situations?
  4. Should determining presence in the office be done at a corporate level or a department level?
  5. What’s the best way to find out how our employees feel about going back to the office?

When do employees go back to HQ?

A survey of corporate real estate professionals by CoreNet Global found that 84% of real estate professionals were planning on staggering the return of workers to the office, beginning with those who have the greatest need to be office based. – source 

If everyone is not going back to HQ at once, it could be that a phased approach or even a rotating schedule should be put in place to manage when employees are in HQ. As long as there are clear protocols and communication for how and when people will be in the office, this could be a way to achieve de-densification. Be sure to devise a plan that takes into account: 

  1. An analysis of office seating and capacities of public/shared spaces, such as elevators and kitchens, to determine how many people you would want in the office at one time.
  2. How alternating schedules might work for those who work from home and those in HQ. Be sure there is a clear plan for cleaning and safety as the shifts change. 
  3. A deep dive into how teams are performing in remote environments so you can bring back essential functions first. 
  4. What longer-term strategies may look like to allow well-performing teams to continue remote work. 
  5. Working closely with HR to create flexible plans that support employees needs on a case-by-case basis. 

How will employees go back to HQ? 

How companies go about bringing their employees back to HQ will be on a case-by-case basis but a well thought out plan can go a long way to helping employees feel safe.

Before letting employees back into HQ, companies will need to have a clear plan for:

  1. Sanitation of individual and shared spaces.
  2. Employee communication and guidelines for how people should interact throughout the day.
  3. How to handle visitors to HQ
  4. How exactly shared spaces can and will be used.
  5. What personal protection will be required and even provided for employees.
  6. Other things to prepare for re-entry include: signage, HVAC, door opening, capacity and utilization sensors 

While so much still unknown, one thing is clear. Companies are looking for ways to support the de-densification of their HQ as they transition employees back to the office. And, remote working has been forever changed by the massive work-from-home experiment thrust on us all. 

As we look to become more agile so we can accommodate the health and safety of our employees as well as shifting mindsets about the workplace, flexible office solutions provide an alternative to both HQ and working from home. Flexible office spaces are a resource that could help employees to feel safe as they remain productive, collaborate as teams, and meet with clients. See how LiquidSpace provides flexible, on-demand office options, without the long-term commitment. 

Topics: flexible workspace, COVID-19, Re-entry, CRE, WFA Management

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