As countries, states, and cities discuss the relaxing of stringent coronavirus restrictions, it’s imperative for companies to develop effective plans that ensure their employees’ safety and well-being when they return to work.
To re-open their global campus of over 160 locations while supporting the health and safety of their 50,000 employees, the team at Salesforce has decided to use a phased approach. They will begin by bringing back the employees that are most critical to their office operations, following the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and other health organisations. Though the timings will vary, depending on the various guidelines set forth by the state governments in each office’s location.
Here are some guiding principles that the company plans to follow when re-opening their offices.1. Create a guideline matrix for re-opening
Before opening any offices, the company will weigh the many inputs that need to be evaluated by using a guideline matrix. This includes carefully following government guidance, medical expert advice, and incorporating local leadership feedback; among other crucial factors. This will be reviewed separately for each location, as recommendations can vary greatly across regions and countries.
For Salesforce, it was a priority to build this matrix early on, so that if the virus does resurface in a given location, they have a clear and robust process to help make new decisions about partially or fully closing a location again.2. Prepare with new health and safety measures
To ensure employees’ safety once they return to work, several measures will be implemented such as rapid testing, temperature screening before entry, wearing masks, redesigning the workspace for physical distancing, regular and frequent deep cleaning, systematic reminders about maintaining physical distancing, and other new protocols.3. Set expectations and over-communicate
Crafting a communication plan to alleviate any anxiety or safety concerns employees may have is crucial, as they need to be prepared for the new normal. Using webinars, visual aids, playbooks, onsite signage, and training tools, Salesforce plans to share critical information and set expectations about the new workplace environment before employees get back to work.4. Redesign the office for physical distancing
Workspaces will need to be redesigned to follow the new physical distancing rules, which will include employee work floors, meeting rooms, kitchens, social lounges, coffee bars, building lobbies, elevators, reception areas and more. This means that a typical employee work floor and meeting room may only be able to hold 40-50 percent of the normal capacity. Human Resources departments can support this model by identifying which teams will most benefit from working together.
Salesforce also plans to analyse their data and model out alternating work shifts in order to control the density of employees in the office and on specific floors at any given time. They will also send notifications for specific groups to manage elevator capacity effectively, preventing long queues.5. Build the strongest supply chain you can
Your supply chain has to be re-checked, and in some cases, rebuilt. To re-open effectively, you will need critical items such as cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers or you won’t be able to open your doors. Salesforce realised that they also have to source other products such as temperature readers and face coverings to meet new cleaning and health protocols.6. Invest in deep cleaning like never before
There are excellent guidelines for cleaning protocols available to adopt, but the best way to deep clean and sanitise workspaces is to increase the frequency and the depth of the cleaning services. For example, Salesforce plans to do regular cleaning during the day—wiping down elevator keypads, doorknobs, light switches, table and counter surfaces—followed by deep cleaning in the evenings.
They will also invest into new materials like antimicrobial metals such as copper, brass and bronze, to play a bigger role in their designs going forward. And since the virus is air-borne, they plan to optimise core building systems, such as airflow, to avoid contamination.
Amid the many management challenges, agility and flexibility are the key to building a robust plan for opening your office doors, and being able to close them again, if required. But with thoughtful planning, constant communication, and the ability to manage your key data, we can all look forward to safely re-entering our workspaces and adapting to the new ways of working.