American firms are likely to take a gradual and cautious approach as they reopen their workplaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from commercial real estate company CBRE.
Most companies will follow social distancing protocols and readjust their workplaces to ensure they can be implemented. Around half of the 203 companies surveyed will also introduce touchless technologies that aim to prevent the spread of the virus.
CBRE’s survey focused on organizations that oversee a combined 4.2 billion square feet of office, industrial and logistics, retail, data center and healthcare spaces that are used by more than 38 million workers overall.
Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of consulting and global lead for CBRE’s COVID-19 response for occupier clients, said most companies are engaged in “detailed planning to ensure a careful and reasoned approach” to getting back to work.
“Most of these companies have established their own criteria for when to return to the workplace beyond local and state government requirements,” Ellzey said. “And nearly three quarters plan to bring employees back in phases rather than all at once.”
Around 60% of the survey respondents said they will provide face masks or coverings for their employees, while 28% will require these to be worn at all times while workers are on site. Another 42% will only require masks to be worn at facilities mandated by local government or health agency guidelines.
Many companies also plan to limit the number of visitors to their spaces. In fact, just 21% will allow visitors during the early phase of reopening, with the remainder banning them altogether.
As part of their preparations for reopening, most companies plan to install digital signage, establish new policies on how workspaces can be used, and institute guidelines for social distancing. They will also outline social distancing zones with floor decals and other signs, and reconfigure furniture layouts to adhere to those rules.
Seventy-two percent of companies will carry out a phased reopening of their businesses, with only specific groups of employees allowed to return to work initially. Another 52% of firms say they’ll continue to allow employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, if they choose to do so.
“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 said.