Here's What You Need to Know Before Reopening Your Office

Weng Cheong, Contributor, Business Insider
July 15, 2020

As a growing list of states ease up on lockdown restrictions, business leaders are formulating action plans for how they can safely and responsibly bring employees back to work. 

Several companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon have shared their strategies for reopening offices.

But opening the office is only the first step. Leaders also need to have a steady stream of medical equipment and coronavirus tests available for employees

Aduro, a company that supports HR management teams with employee performance and well-being, recently developed a 5-phase plan, or a "work readiness model" for companies to follow when reopening the office. 

"Companies have traditionally had different cultural practices around information sharing and transparency," Sean Bell, chief operating officer at Aduro, told Business Insider in an email. "Much like any new process that impacts a large group of people on a frequent basis, [this model] is highly reliant on consistency, transparency, and accountability around the impact of the process." 

Business Insider reviewed Aduro's report and compiled a list of the most important considerations every employer needs to establish their plan. 

The first step to developing your return-to-work plan is to assess your company's tolerance for risk.

According to federal guidelines, there must be a downward trajectory of documented coronavirus cases within a 14-day period in order for states to start reopening. Leaders can use the same gating criteria to determine their risk tolerance, Aduro said. 

Employers who reopen offices 14 days after the downward trajectory have a moderate tolerance for risk. 

Companies that are eager to have employees return to offices without evidence of fewer cases are "ultra aggressive" on the risk tolerance spectrum. On the contrary, companies that don't allow workers to return until the pandemic is clearly under control, no matter the cost, are considered "ultra conservative," according to Aduro's report. 

Knowing the risk tolerance can help leaders with decision-making. 

Employers can use the work readiness model, or a 5-phase plan companies can follow when reopening their offices, to determine when they're ready to go back.

Aduro's report outlined four things to keep in mind when leaders formulate a reopening plan:  

  • Every company needs its own reopening plan.
  • Every company should be prepared to advance and retreat through multiple stages.
  • Triggers are anything that can influence company policy or decisions, and possible triggers should be discussed and clearly defined. 
  • Every company should focus on employee well-being.

Here's an example of how the work readiness model could be used in an office.

A company that's in Stage 1 is deemed not ready to reopen due to rising number of positive coronavirus cases in the area, limited availability of testing, limited supplies in the office, and insufficient childcare services for employees. 

Leaders might say that only essential workers are allowed in the office, and there can't be more than 10% of the workforce in the building per day, according to Aduro.

Workers who are considered vulnerable with pre-existing medical conditions cannot go to the office, and people who commute to work through public transportation are advised to stay home. 

Essential workers have to wear masks, take temperature checks, healthy surveys, and stay 10 feet away from each other at all times. 

Conference rooms, meeting rooms, and communal areas are off-limits. One person is allowed in the bathroom at a time. The office space would be disinfected every day. 

Companies should also have well-being trackers for all employees to keep tabs on how their workforce is feeling during the pandemic. 

This article was written by Weng Cheong from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.