When are you going back to the office? Many companies still haven’t decided

empty office desks
When people come back to offices, things will likely be different. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/)

With coronavirus lockdown restrictions easing, businesses are starting to reopen and companies are beginning to call workers back to the office. But a surprising number of companies still don’t have a set return-to-work date.

The Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Virginia, said 45% of its member organizations have not yet decided when to start bringing employees back. SHRM surveyed 1,087 members, including companies across all sectors and all of sizes, from May 13 to May 20.

“About 40% of companies are implementing a phased approach, where segments of the company come back at different times,” Alex Alonso, SHRM’s chief knowledge officer, told WTOP.

He said companies are phasing in employees, in large part, because they are evaluating what’s known about COVID-19 and how it is transmitted.

“They are also trying to account for what parts of their operation really do need to be executed in the workplace,” Alonso said.

Many office workers will continue working from home, even after offices have reopened. SHRM said 68% of organizations “probably” or “definitely” will adopt broader or more flexible work from home policies for all workers, and 29% will probably or definitely allow workers to work from home full time through the rest of 2020.

SHRM said 86% of organizations are implementing or considering the required use of personal protective equipment, such as face masks, and 73% are implementing or considering on-site medical and/or temperature screenings.

Changes to staffing schedules and safety protocols in office settings will not be relaxed anytime soon either, according to SHRM.

“We’re looking at 18 to 24 months before we return to the kind of employment situation we had prior to the pandemic. What is unclear is how much of it will still include the precautions that will be the new normal. This could be something where we see a lot of the precautions for a significant portion of our future workplace,” Alonso said.

Child care will not be generous, in part because of fears of spread of infection. SHRM says 59% of organizations say child care accommodations will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and only 7% are considering or providing on-site child care services.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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