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  • Writer's pictureJohn R.

The Game Plan for Returning to the Office

After following guidance from the CDC and several state and local authorities and in consultations with several of our clients, we have developed the following office recovery strategy.

Most companies will not need the full staff to return to work in a single day or within the same week.

· In some organizations, there may be staff that are reluctant or are unable to return to the office (e.g., they have children or loved ones they need to care for at home).

· For some entities, there may be staff that eagerly want to return to work.

· Additionally, you may have discovered that certain functions can be successfully performed remotely.

You must have a strategy that addresses all three scenarios and a plan to sequence the staff’s return to the office. In any case, it is critical to gauge employees’ overall readiness to come back to the office.

If you have not done so, create a Recovery Team that will oversee the return to work strategy and phases.

Procedures for accommodating visitors (known or critical vendors, clients, contractors) to the office as well as the timing of on-site group meetings and events should also be taken into consideration.

As a priority, you may consider restricting non-critical visitors during the initial phases of recovery.

To effectively manage the transition, it is important to establish and track a number of key risk indicators (KRIs) that address:

· The overall state of staff health welfare and wellness

· Maintenance and cleanliness of office facilities, desks, elevators, conference rooms etc.

· Provisions for checking health and conducting wellness testing of staff

· Availability and frequency of public transportation

· Technology infrastructure to support remote and on-site staffs

· Availability of critical supply chains (office maintenance staff, food supplies/delivery, public transportation, personal protection equipment etc.)

· The quality of customer support and risk management functions, and the health of revenue recovery.

Remember, as much as the infection rates have dropped and more and more people are tested, until there is a widely available C-19 vaccine, we will still have to live with the possibility of the virus returning.

You should monitor what other companies in your industry, city and state are contemplating and compare their proposed plans to these.

We hope that the following address what may become best practices:

1. Identify/Phase in Critical Support Staff Needed on Site:

· Review business units to identify critical functions/staff skills that are required onsite, and those that can continue to be performed remotely

· Segment staff headcount in those business units that are needed to perform critical functions on site (e.g., senior management, revenue generation or client-facing functions)

· Determine a phased approach to the recovery of business functions (e.g., 20% in month 1, 40% in month 2, 80% in month 3, etc.), or by function (senior management, HR those with private offices or those who cannot perform their functions remotely)

· Develop checklists to monitor key risk indicators, issues and problems

· Implement a tracking and reporting structure to the management team.

2. Gauge the Staff’s Readiness to Return:

· Some staff may have to provide for care of family members before they can fully return to work, and some may need to arrange child care and transportation.

· Consider where to prioritize these staff members in the phased in sequences

· Try to synch the transition with local school and mass transit re-openings.

3. Develop a Schedule and Timeline to Phase the Staff Back:

· Sequence the return of staff members to minimize risks. The initial tranche could include senior management, human resource professionals and those staff with private offices.

· Stagger the return of entire teams or departments, especially if that business unit is housed in one location.

· Consider extending remote work for staff members who can work from home or those with unique skill sets or responsibilities.

· Leverage staff and skills available in other cities or geographic locations where local emergency orders have been lifted, that can perform critical functions, as the staff are phased back to the office.

4. Test and Clean Workspaces and Unused Equipment:

· To ensure the office is ready for returning staff members, check business equipment (desktop PCs printers, copy machines etc.).

· Perform a deep clean of desktops, conference rooms, bathrooms etc.

· Sanitize equipment and high-touch common areas (break rooms, refrigerators, coffee machines)

· Confirm that the office is functional, clean and ready to recall the staff to work.

5. Create New Guidelines for Social Distancing and Office Interactions:

· In concert with HR, establish new policies and procedures to minimize the exposure of the staff in the workplace

· Consider the office layout and the options of changing open seating to accommodate social distancing and/or installing clear partitions between positions

· Decrease the number of seats in conference rooms and open workspace areas

· Restrict the use of non-essential common areas (break rooms and kitchens) and enforce long term and short-term social distancing.

6. Implement/Augment Professional Health Care Screening on Site:

· Contract with health care professional services firm(s) to provide regular, on site health screening of the staff and visitors – or- augment screening capabilities the building management company provides or implements for building tenants

· Conduct regular temperature checks and health care screening

· Track the number of staff and visitors to the office and any infection cases on a regular basis

· Track these numbers and issues and feed into KRI reporting and the management team.

7. Re-Open the Office:

· Limit on site access to critical staff, known or critical vendors, contractors and suppliers or clients during the initial phase(s)

· Assess the implications of public transportation on the staff’s commutation needs

· If possible, stagger arrival times, create staging areas for elevators

· Coordinate your company’s return with the building management company for things like foot traffic, elevator use, health checkpoints in the building/lobby etc.

8. Develop Targets and Milestones to Track Staff Testing/Immunities:

· Develop a plan to regularly test and track staff and visitors

· Identify and track those that test positive for C-19, those that require medical attention, those that are required to self-quarantine etc.

· Track trends, milestones and feed these into KRI reporting and the management team.

9. Have a Fallback Plan to Address Hot Spots or Resurgence of Infections:

· Develop a fallback plan if there is a significant resurgence of infections, either within the firm or in the local city/area

· Determine trigger points that would force the closure of the office and return to a fully remote workforce (e.g., resurgence of infections and hospitalizations in local city or area, surge in staff who test positive for C-19 etc.)

10. Develop an Action Plan and Document Actions, Issues etc.:

· Keep track of all actions taken, tactical adjustments to the overall strategy, lessons learned etc.

· Recap the status of the key risk indicators and distribute to the management team.

11. Re-evaluate the Overall Business Continuity Plan:

· Re-evaluate the overall BCP and update the pandemic plan with lessons learned and any changes that were made or are being considered

· Revisit cybersecurity controls and other key functions which may have been relaxed in the transition to a remote workforce. Re-establish security and controls.

· Document any changes and re-evaluate the overall BCP and response plans while they are fresh.

While this list is not all-inclusive, we believe it’s a good starting point to focus your energy and priorities.

As part of our Business Continuity Management practice, we are counseling our clients about recovery strategies. Feel free to reach out for a consultation on how we can help you.

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