2.75 minute read time
May 8, 2020

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Businesses around the world are developing COVID-19 back-to-work plans aimed at keeping their employees safe.

Each market is different, with its own unique challenges. But best practices are starting to be developed by public health experts and countries that have passed the first peak of their outbreak.

At CBRE, we led the move to work from home. Now, we’re putting our resources towards envisioning what it will mean to return to the office.

It’s a process that involves big questions, reliance on expert advice, and a dedication to employee safety.

Here are some of the things to consider when planning for the future.

Listening to Experts

Alignment with public health advice is the first step for any back to work strategy.

While our understanding of COVID-19 is constantly evolving, there is some consensus among trusted sources about how to limit its transmission.

Addressing variations between communities is essential. Local health systems with the capacity to treat, trace and reduce the number of new cases will be key to reopening local economies.

Incorporating instructions from local health authorities into business operations will require an agile approach, especially for businesses with offices in multiple jurisdictions.

That variation in operations and the ongoing need to remain physically distant likely means that some amount of remote work will need to be supported for the foreseeable future.

Whatever the arrangement, employee safety must be the top priority for businesses at every stage of the decision-making process.

What Could Returning to Work During COVID-19 Look Like?

Managing the Path of Travel

The first step in having employees return to work is considering how they will get there.

Public transportation remains a hot spot for COVID-19 transmission, even with fewer people commuting at peak hours. To help keep people safe, landlords may stagger tenant arrivals and companies may rotate staff in to limit density.

Focusing on employee safety when they arrive at their workplace is only one consideration. An ecosystem approach to reopening is needed that acknowledges challenges facing employees from their front doors to their desks.

Safety and the Physical Workplace

Maintaining physical distancing and reducing the risk of transmission is likely a prerequisite to operating during COVID-19.

Companies will need to work with building operators to determine how to manage appropriate distancing in elevators and other high-traffic areas.

A floorplan where employees are asked to remain six feet apart will require a much lower occupancy level than before.

Some companies may consider creating designated paths of travel within the office, to enable employees to move throughout the space without endangering one another.

The provision of personal safety equipment, including masks and hand sanitizer, will also be a consideration.

Personal accountability will be a key component of any successful back to work plan. Businesses may ask employees to closely monitor their health and remain home if they feel ill.

What Could Returning to Work During COVID-19 Look Like?

A Constantly Evolving Plan

Whatever back to work strategy businesses employ, they can only minimize risk, not remove it entirely.

Though solutions will differ from market to market and business to business, reopening offices means constant adaptation and ongoing learning.

At CBRE, we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of employees and clients. Learn more about our COVID-19 response today and stay tuned for more information on our own reopening strategy.

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