Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

Reopening at All Costs?

Financial pressure is mounting for organizations to open back up, expand service, and bring their employees back to the workplace. But how do employers feel about reopening before the pandemic is under control? What steps are they taking to ensure their employees and customers alike are safe?

Source: Nattakorn_Maneerat / Shutterstock

These are the questions OperationsInc, an HR consulting company, sought to find out with its recent “Reopening Offices After COVID-19 Closures” survey.

Likelihood of Reopening Despite Risk to Employees

Should they be allowed to, 67% of offices intended to open by July 1. Survey-takers were specifically asked how likely they were to reopen despite the fact that some risk of employee exposure to COVID-19 would be likely. Only 15% said they were unlikely to, and 18% said they were unsure.

Fortunately for employees, only 5% of those surveyed said they intended to mandate employees return to the workplace regardless of their employees’ health or concerns over health and safety. Another 57% said they would allow their employees to continue to work from home. With constantly changing situations like the coronavirus, uncertainty plays a major role; 37% said they were not sure what they would do.

The Future of Remote Work

The survey asked respondents to indicate what percentage of their staff could be in their offices on any given day while taking into account things like office layout and the need to establish social distancing guidelines.

Shockingly, 20% said they could have between 76% and 100% of their staff back in their offices. The largest percentage, 31%, said only between 51% and 75% of their staff could be accommodated, and 16% said up to 25%.

Your Office May Be Relatively Safe, But What About Public Transportation?

If you take every available step to ensure the safety of your workers, you might be able to limit risks to a reasonable low. However, public transportation will always be a wild card. Respondents were asked if their employees have to take buses, subways, trains, and other forms of public transportation to get to work. While 42% do not have employees like that, 54% said at least some of their workers do rely on public transportation.

When respondents who do have employees taking public transportation were asked how they would handle the situation, 61% said they would allow them to work remotely until transportation could be made safe. However, 38% had no plan at all. A disturbing 1% said they would just terminate those employees if they cannot or will not be able to get to the office.

Confidence to Reopen

Never underestimate the confidence of leaders. When asked how confident and comfortable employers were that they possessed the internal skills needed to fully and completely plan and execute the successful reopening of their office, 31% said they were extremely confident. Another 10% said they were somewhat confident. The largest percentage, 55%, said they were not confident.

The survey sought to find out how employers would prefer to establish safety practices for their organization. Nearly all of the respondents (77%) said they would prefer to receive and follow federal and state regulations while maintaining the right to establish company-specific rules and practices.

Final Thoughts

While there are clearly some organizations that are confident they can reopen safely, this report also showed a lot of uncertainty and concern on the part of employees about nearly every aspect of reopening. The pandemic continues to evolve, and the situation continues to change. New science arises regularly, and early-established best practices and beliefs about the coronavirus have shifted; changed; or, in some cases, been entirely wrong.

What does all this add up to? It depends on what your real priority is. If your priority is getting your doors open at all costs, then what else do you need to know? If it’s truly the safety of your employees and customers, maybe it’s OK to take a little longer before your doors swing open.

You can view more complete results here.