Ask the Expert | Winter 2021

How to return to a shared space after remote work during a global pandemic

By Sue Ostroswki

COVID-19 has introduced tremendous market disruption. Companies have faced declines in revenue, mandated location closures, and severe supply chain disruptions. Business as usual might not be possible, so some companies have begun to envision what their new normal could look like.

This may include reimagining your business contingency plans and implementing strategies that can help build corporate resilience in the long term. For example, you may reinvent how you conduct business, find new suppliers to address supply chain disruptions, pivot into new areas, offer new services, reimagine how services are delivered, or determine new commercial real estate needs.

Many businesses are delaying capital expenditures and refocusing on immediate liquidity. Not only to help ensure that their company can survive, but perhaps there are opportunities in the mergers and acquisitions space to grow while competitors may be in a weaker position.

The decision to return to space

Some companies have had success with transitioning to a remote workforce permanently, which could offer savings in commercial real estate, but require investments in technology, among many other critical business operational and financial changes.

Essential organizations, like manufacturers, logistics companies, healthcare organizations, educational institutions, retailers, and restaurants, may not have as many remote options. Even more, some organizations will eventually want to bring even non-essential office workers back to a shared space too. To do that means figuring out how to do so safely. These business leaders can learn something from the essential businesses that have operated since the start of the pandemic.

Employee Safety Checklist

  1. When employees come back to the workplace, will everyone come back at once or will it be a phased approach? Consider not only space capacity for social distancing, but also timing of work hours. Can you stagger days or hours worked to minimize the number of colleagues in the reception area and elevators?

  2. What supplies need to be purchased to help ensure a healthy workplace? Hand sanitizer stations, additional cleaning supplies, and protective barriers between colleagues or customers are all things that may need to be purchased and installed prior to employee re-entry.

  3. Will you require employees to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine? Will you require masks, gloves, or temperatures to be taken upon entry into your space? Be sure to clearly communicate with employees about these protocols and build a plan to enforce them.

  4. Is there enough space between workstations or should you consider reconfiguring the environment? What changes need to be made in the common spaces like the kitchen, restrooms, and conference rooms? Remember to communicate with employees about these restrictions so they can plan accordingly.

  5. Is there shared equipment like printers, microwaves, or tools that need to have additional precautions?

  6. Would additional signage support your employees and serve as reminders to socially distance, increase hand washing frequency, and use hand sanitizer?

  7. Can you revisit your regular cleaning protocols to help decrease risk of viral spread? Perhaps a weekly cleaning isn’t enough and you can employ twice daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

Document the plan and communicate

Understandably, employees may have anxiety about coming back to the workplace, so clearly communicate the steps you are taking to help keep them safe. Let them—and your customers and suppliers—know that you are committed to their safety.

Express empathy, a need for flexibility, and provide information about the benefits these protocols can offer to their health and wellness. You may also provide resources with credible links to make it easy for employees to do additional research on their own.

Leave the line of communication open so employees can share feedback and offer additional ideas for improvements to the new workplace safety measures.

Prepare your managers to respond to common questions, such as what they should do if someone is not comfortable returning to work, or if someone on the team seems to be sick. Employees may be concerned about using public transportation or have someone in their household at a higher risk of infection, such as a healthcare worker or immuno-compromised elder. Managers need to be ready to address these issues should they arise. Strict broad-stroked rules may not be effective in this situation so consider how fairness impacts your culture as well.

By implementing procedures to address concerns, you can help maximize safety and confidence when you reopen your workplace.

If you have additional questions about reopening your business, contact your relationship manager to strategize ideas and understand the financial impacts.

Make an impact

Learn how Huntington can help make a positive impact in the region. Contact your Huntington relationship manager.
Learn more

The information provided in this document is intended solely for general informational purposes and is provided with the understanding that neither Huntington, its affiliates nor any other party is engaging in rendering financial, legal, technical or other professional advice or services, or endorsing any third-party product or service. Any use of this information should be done only in consultation with a qualified and licensed professional who can take into account all relevant factors and desired outcomes in the context of the facts surrounding your particular circumstances. The information in this document was developed with reasonable care and attention. However, it is possible that some of the information is incomplete, incorrect, or inapplicable to particular circumstances or conditions. NEITHER HUNTINGTON NOR ITS AFFILIATES SHALL HAVE LIABILITY FOR ANY DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES (DIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT OR OTHERWISE) RESULTING FROM USING, RELYING ON OR ACTING UPON INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT EVEN IF HUNTINGTON AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF OR FORESEEN THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, LOSSES, COSTS OR EXPENSES.