If Returning to the Office, Do Companies Have Health and Safety Protocols?

Travel humorist Bill Bryson once said that Americans crave space more than anyone else in the world, so the question now is how do you feel about returning to the office and being arm’s length with your colleagues for eight hours in a day?

It’s a much dreaded question for some who are not taking the virus lightly. Even with vaccinations making their rounds in the US, even the most paranoid know good things come to those who wait.

In a Promoleaf survey of 1,000 workers, about 63% of employees said they would be comfortable returning to the office if they came with enticements — an abundance of precautions and benefits. Glassdoor’s own survey was higher at 72%.

Some like the idea of going back to work, because they are learning that being with their family for days on end has affected their work productivity. If not that, they would like to see benefits extended to childcare to offset costs not incurred when working remotely. 

Still others realized were more specific and pointed out how they cannot be productive at home. Most respondents said they are only under 40% productive at home. Our previous post also pointed out how CEOs worry about how remote workers don’t work well together. 

As for the health protocols, most employees would also like to see their office sanitized and disinfected daily, if not more often than necessary — and with less workers around, if possible. Most of the respondents said they would like to see offices operate at a reduced capacity (50%) and have the option of working in the office less frequently. 

As for checkups, the survey says daily temperature checks for employees is almost a must at 76%, with 59% favoring contact tracing and 54% interested in seeing regular diagnostic testing. The survey goes as far as saying that essential workers such as those in retail stores and restaurants need to be tested daily. 

Companies have reacted swiftly to strategize a more mobile workforce when the coronavirus spread rapidly, but all these health and safety protocols now may slow down those who are taking no-prisoners approach when it comes to safety for their employees.

The Promoleaf respondents placed high importance on the following safety measures, but complete with mandatory training for staffers and cleaners. The items in parentheses are Glassdoor’s survey percentages:

  • Plexiglass dividers
  • Hand sanitizer stations (79% expected by employees in the Glassdoor survey)
  • Social distancing (six feet apart was with 45% of employees)
  • Masks requirements at all times
  • HVAC improvements and filtering
  • Replacement of high-touch communal items with alternatives
  • Encouragement of employees to bring water bottles to avoid cross-contamination

HR in many companies has been quick to set remote work policies. An in-office work policy is needed now, so employees can work freely without worrying too much about their safety. 

This is important because there have been cases in various companies where they neglected to have any safety measure. One company had to lock down their office twice. A few months ago, some of their employees got the virus and all of them had to go home.

A few weeks later, another group of employees got sick and all of them had to work remotely again. In both cases, they didn’t have health protocols, not even hand sanitizers. This proved to be costly for them.

So far, though, it seems 85% of employees surveyed are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with employee communication about the timeline for returning to work. 

Yes, there’s no one-size-fits-all model for employers preparing to reopen their offices, as Glassdoor’s chief people officer Carina Cortez has been quoted as saying but as the maxim goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Offices in northern California will look much different in a post-vaccine world, especially companies that have the resources to redesign their workspaces. Will restrooms be altered  as well? Inside small areas and all the way out, many will need to do the following as everyone should be doing since the beginning of the pandemic:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Avoid close contact with others
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering around others
  4. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  5. Clean and disinfect
  6. Monitor your health

How about narrow hallways where people will find themselves facing each other? Staggering time shifts got 53% of respondents’ nod. 

Of course, there’s also the hybrid work policy if one must really do things drastically. Others can work 3 times a week at the office and 2 times a week at home, which should finally give employees an idea of how to achieve that elusive work-life balance. (Dennis Clemente)