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Businesses favour a phased return to the workplace

Most companies plan to take a gradual, cautious approach to bringing employees back to their workplaces according to a new survey conducted by global real estate advisor, CBRE.

As governments begin to lift restrictions tied to Covid-19, roughly half of the 203 company operations that CBRE studied across the globe are implementing touchless technology to enhance cleanliness. Most are following social-distancing standards. And most will provide their employees with face coverings, though less than a third will require the covering be worn at all times in any company facility unless mandated by local authorities.

CBRE surveyed account leaders in its Global Workplace Solutions business, which manages facilities and real estate projects for large companies. The surveyed account leaders oversee client relationships spanning 4.2 billion square feet of workspace in offices, industrial & logistics real estate, tech space, data centres, retail, and healthcare used by more than 38 million workers.

Karen Ellzey, Executive Managing Director of Consulting and global lead for CBRE’s COVID-19 response for occupier clients said: “Our analysis of our clients’ return-to-work strategies shows that virtually all are engaged in detailed planning to ensure a careful and reasoned approach. Most of these companies have established their own criteria for when to return to the workplace beyond local and state government requirements. And nearly three quarters plan to bring employees back in phases rather than all at once.”

Among the key findings in CBRE’s analysis:

  • Social distancing: Forty-five per cent of the companies will follow guidance from local governments and health agencies on social distancing in the workplace. Another 34 per cent have set their own global standard that may exceed local guidance most typically requiring at least six feet or two metres of separation.
  • Face Coverings: Fifty-nine per cent of companies will provide face coverings for their employees. Twenty-eight per cent of companies plan to require face coverings at all times at any company property. A larger portion – 42 per cent – will require masks only at company facilities where mandated by local government or health-agency guidelines.
  • Visitors: Only 21 per cent of companies will allow visitors to the workplace in the early phases of reopening.
  • Health screening: Forty-five per cent will require off-site self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms by employees before they arrive at the workplace, while 13 per cent will conduct screening of employees on-site at every facility. Of those allowing visitors, 35 per cent will screen visitors on-site.
  • Reopening timeline: Only 20 per cent of companies intend to reopen as soon as government restrictions are lifted. A larger portion – 42 per cent – will do so after their internal standards are met.
  • Reopening approach: Seventy-two per cent of companies will conduct a phased reopening with defined percentages or groups of employees admitted over weeks or months. Meanwhile, 52 per cent expect to give employees the option to work from home for the foreseeable future – although this will vary widely by industry sector and type of operation.
  • Space preparation: Among the most common steps companies have taken to prepare their workplaces include installing signage (82 per cent), establishing space-use policies and guidelines for social distancing (78 per cent), outlining social-distancing zones with floor decals and other reminders (74 per cent), and reconfiguring furniture layouts (61 per cent).

Ellzey added: “With so many essential workers already performing their jobs at commercial properties, there is much that the industry is learning and adapting. At the same time, companies must continually monitor local health conditions as they undertake further reopening efforts. Across the board, we see evidence that companies are taking a thoughtful, measured approach to reopening their work environments in a safe and methodical manner.”

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