Three steps to a healthy and safe return to work

In a recent post on CoreNet's The Pulse blog, JLL’s Cynthia Kantor shares the path organizations can take to a safe and healthy post-pandemic workplace.

This article was first published on CoreNet Global’s blog, The Pulse.

After a year of working from home, many knowledge workers are itching to return to in-person work—once they trust their workplace is taking the proper safety precautions into consideration. As vaccine rollouts ramp up across the nation, workplace leaders are moving to make that shared hope a reality, by creating re-entry plans that ensure employee health, safety and well-being.

Yet delivering a safer, smarter and faster return to the office is easier said than done, given appropriately complex CDC guidelines and other best practices employers must navigate before responsibly reopening doors. An effective re-entry plan must incorporate a wide range of vital considerations, from monitoring public health communications and coordinating daily health checks, to upgrading HVAC systems and installing air quality sensors and monitors.

And with the pandemic also shining a light on the importance of mental health, re-entry plans should promote not just physical health, but employees’ mental and social well-being as well. This requires enhancing the physical environment as well as policies and programs to continually bolster a culture of health and well-being.

All these factors give workplace leaders plenty to think about—and an unprecedented opportunity to redefine how their spaces evolve and support health and well-being. The path to a safe and healthy post-pandemic workplace will be different for every organization, yet the following three steps will help facilitate a smoother, simpler journey.

Step 1: Get ahead of the curve on health and safety guidelines

For many months the prospect of reopening offices seemed far off but now, with roughly 195 million vaccines having been administered to date, the U.S. is on track to reach the 75 percent threshold that public health officials have said would signal a return to normalcy. As a result, and based on client surveying, JLL predicts that most offices will reach 75% capacity by the end of 2021.

Which means that now is the time to structure a detailed re-entry plan based on leading health and safety guidelines. It should include everything from how to coordinate phasing-in schedules to support social distancing to improving cleaning regimens and other COVID-safety protocols. And because health, safety and well-being trends have changed so frequently this past year, the plan should be dynamic rather than fixed, serving as a living strategy to be refined as needed.

Forward-looking organizations are also fueling re-entry plans with benchmarking insights. By learning from and sharing information with other firms working through similar challenges, you can analyze where your organization is in relation to others in meeting or exceeding guidelines.

Step 2: Identify health and safety gaps

Depending on your state and industry, you may already have some employees happily working back onsite—and some who are still working from home who are feeling anxious and stressed about coming back to in-person work.

In your phased reopening plan, take time to assess the range of conditions that directly impact all employees’ health and wellbeing, from indoor air quality (IAQ), to cleaning and disinfection, to drinking water quality. This process may uncover bigger needs. For example, is it time to engage in HVAC retro-commissioning? What monitoring and filtration tools would best optimize IAQ? What occupancy strategy will best promote social distancing needs?

Amidst such varied considerations, it can be confusing to determine which health and well-being guidelines will best support all employees, and which “healthy” solutions are right for your organization. An expert assessment can help evaluate current workplace conditions based on actual evidence, and identify gaps and solutions that will best support your post-pandemic workforce.

Step 3: Deploy the right technology

The marketplace is flooded with technology tools promising to solve for COVID-safety and wellness concerns. Some will help you deploy temperature and symptom screenings for daily health checks. Others provide comprehensive IAQ assessment and monitoring to give employees confidence in their workplace environment. Yet others can support complicated in-office seating planning with innovative AI technology and data.

Look for a trusted partner to help identify and connect with the tech-driven solutions that will best support your workplace’s unique needs.

The value of health and well-being initiatives will outlive COVID

An effective reopening plan will help your teams get back to the workplace with maximum ease and minimal frustration. By putting health and wellness first in your organizational strategy, you can ensure your colleagues feel comfortable and confident about coming back to the office. You can also help deepen employee engagement and loyalty in the long run by demonstrably doubling down on organizational commitment to their well-being. What’s more, health and wellness initiatives can also drive value to building owners’ bottom lines.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving a healthy post-pandemic work environment. But by understanding health and safety trends, analyzing actual conditions in your workplace, and uncovering and implementing solutions that fit, you can achieve a healthy return to work.

After all, the question of reopening is not a question of if, but of when, how, and what solutions will best support your organization’s lifeblood—its people.

Want more? Visit our website to explore what the future of work can look like for your organization.