As we head into a new year, a new survey suggests many people are ready for a physical return to the office, which is easier said than done, given COVID-19 protocols and precautions.
Human resource firms say it can be done safely with everyone's help. Sixty-three percent of workers who participated in a recent survey say "it's time."
“People are ready for a return to the office and 91% say they’re ready to return if the office is at 50% capacity or less, and we learned that there are certain safety measures people are okay with,” said Jason Miller, CEO of Promoleaf, which is an online products distributor that sponsored the survey.
“This is our third or fourth survey since COVID started, all the way from events being canceled and hosting virtual events to weddings being canceled and hosting virtual weddings, and we just ran a survey on remotely hiring employees and on-boarding them and what a remote employee really looks for when they’re hired,” Miller said.
This last survey, which asked people about going back to the office, was an effort to understand what's next for many industries, his included.
“This was kind of the next natural evolution, understanding how people felt about returning to the workplace and in-person meetings, per se, that really affects our industry. Promotional products are a tangible product that you’re giving out to people, and if you’re not meeting, it’s very difficult," Miller said.
“We think about, okay, what is the benefit and what is the risk?” said Eric Mochnacz, senior consultant for Red Clover, an HR Management and consulting firm. “There are some companies who feel like there is a larger risk if they keep employees at home.”
“We help offices make sure they’re compliant with laws, HR policies, best practices and we also help them build and grow their interview process, their performance development process to really set their organization apart in the industry,” Mochnacz added.
He said that, these days, they're helping get the office ready for employees to come back in.
“We had employees identify to us that their ability to return to the office would actually be less stressful than being at home, because they’re at home with their spouse who is also working at home and they’re potentially handling remote learning with their children at home and I also think there’s something about one’s ability to be productive while surrounded by their family,” Mochnacz said.
It's no secret that working from home has its pros and cons. Mochnacz said employers have to figure out what's best for their workforce. Federal and local health guidelines must be followed. Things like limited capacity, reassigned work spaces, signage, and a plan if employees are exposed to the coronavirus or sick.
“And it can be done to the extent that everyone is following policies as it relates to their return to work, and there is a level of personal responsibility that people need to take when they’re outside of the office. And that is one of the bigger and more difficult challenges facing a lot of businesses right now,” Mochnacz said.
“Eighty-eight percent preferred at least weekly testing and they did prefer testing three times a week. So that’s temperature checks, things like that,” Miller said. “With a high frequency of testing and a less crowded office, those seem to be the most key factors in returning to the office.”
It's a sign that it can be done. While these conversations are being had right now, it depends on the field you work in. And for some, there's still a long way to go before everyone's both comfortable and COVID-19 safe in the office.
The CDC has a number of guidelines for office spaces to follow amid the pandemic. Those include face coverings, keeping work spaces 6 feet apart, staggering shifts and reducing the need for employees to share common spaces, such as lunchrooms.