Many Companies Plan to Reopen in Phases

May 19, 2020

Most companies plan to take a gradual, cautious approach to reopening their workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey from the commercial firm CBRE shows. Many companies are following social distancing procedures and readjusting workplaces as they reopen. About half of 203 companies studied across the globe are also adding touchless technology aimed at preventing germ-spread in the workplace.

The CBRE survey, conducted May 4, covered account leaders who oversee 4.2 billion square feet of workspace in offices, industrial and logistics real estate, tech space, data centers, retail, and healthcare that is used by more than 38 million workers.

“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,” says Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of consulting and global lead for CBRE’s COVID-19 response for occupier clients. “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.”

Fifty-nine percent of companies surveyed say they will provide face coverings for their employees. Twenty-eight percent will require face coverings at all times while at the property. Forty-two percent will require masks only at company facilities mandated by local government or health agency guidelines, the survey shows.

In the early phases of reopening, many firms say they plan to limit visitors. Only 21% of companies say they’ll allow visitors to the workplace in the early phases of reopening.

In prepping their spaces for a return, the majority of companies are installing signage, establishing space-use policies and guidelines for social distancing, outlining social distancing zones with floor decals and other reminders, and reconfiguring furniture layouts.

Seventy-two percent of companies will conduct a phased reopening with defined percentages or groups of employees admitted over weeks or months. Fifty-two percent expect to give employees the option to work from home for the foreseeable future. That option, however, did vary considerably among industry sector, the survey shows.

“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,” Ellzey says.