May 08, 2020
The Association spoke with employers weighing the barriers they face in returning employees to the workplace, including how they will implement and enforce changes that impact the day-to-day habits of their employees.
Work from home strategies are here to stay: Employers are better equipped than they have been in the past to institute work from home protocols and until a vaccine or drug is available, employers will be hesitant to return employees that can work effectively from home to the workplace. Video conferencing has allowed for more collaborative work among colleagues and many employers have received positive feedback after implementing manager training programs for leading teams remotely.
Offices may require restructuring: The pandemic has exposed some of the disadvantages of an open office space and common shared areas like cafeterias or coffee break rooms. These spaces may need to be restructured in a way that allows for appropriate social distancing before employees can return to the workplace. This restructuring will not only impact the physical workplace but may also alter the workplace culture.
Commuting via public transportation is a major barrier: In large cities like New York City, many employees rely on public transportation to get to work. Mandated sanitation of public transportation vehicles is a crucial step in protecting the health of those who rely on it to commute. However, it may take months for employees to feel comfortable being in such close proximity to others. Some employers are offering reimbursement for use of a personal vehicle or ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft.
Testing poses challenges: Widespread testing is still not feasible at this point. Employers believe their return strategies will require a framework which balances testing and screening, employee wellbeing, physical workplace restructuring, and increased work from home flexibility. Communication in this time will be also be crucial. With so much uncertainty, employers can provide a sense of stability to employees through open communication and the understanding that everyone is navigating this pandemic and its accompanying effects together.