Returning to Work: How Facilities Managers will Identify, Plan and Deliver Safe Workplaces

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(Part 1):  Where We Are – The 4 Stages of Pandemic

Like everyone else, facilities managers are working from home and they’re concerned about business continuity. Many haven’t even been able to enter the facilities they are charged with operating since stay-home orders were put in place. SaaS helps enable remote access to business software systems, but not the facilities themselves. Studying the problem of how to return safely to the workplace environment, facilities managers are trying to answer these questions:

  • When can we reopen? What will need to change in order to resume operations safely?
  • How can I help our executives and our people get ready to return?
  • How can I help my organization properly balance employee safety with its mission and objectives about workplace utilization?
  • What communications, protocols, and tools could contribute to productivity by helping to avoid employees becoming unnecessarily distracted with worry about their health?
  • What best practices have we learned and developed that can be applied to business continuity plans so we’re better prepared next time?


Over the last two to three months, global businesses have been working through four stages of response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Stage 1

Businesses reacted quickly to evolving news and guidance about the pandemic, bringing basic COVID-19 hygiene and safety into the workplace by placing hand sanitizer and handwashing signage.

Stage 2

Either because an employee became ill or the government implemented a shut-down order, businesses closed physical facilities and sent employees home to work. Before COVID-19, 13% of employees worked remotely; today 67% work at home. As this shift took place, global workplace utilization crashed.

Stage 3

Currently, businesses are adapting to lock-downs as best they can while pushing business systems and networks to the max. Facilities managers are making plans for how to return to the office once the government gives the all-clear. Now is the time to use workplace management data and analytics to solve the question of how to return to the workplace while safeguarding the health and wellbeing of employees.

Stage 4

In the final stage, businesses will begin to return employees to the workplace and adapt to the new normal in operating conditions. This will involve making better business continuity plans, in the event of other unplanned events.

Facilities managers will be expected to identify, plan and deliver a safe and effective environment when it’s time to return to the workplace. There will be a need to balance multiple important objectives as plans are formulated for each organization — safety first and foremost, and then supporting a productive environment. Key measurements of success will include employee health, real estate utilization, and workforce productivity.

“COVID-19 is going to affect the way that we plan and manage our facilities. Basic planning is going to be affected by taking into account things like social distancing, being able to limit which employees have contact, sanitization, and cleaning. There’s going to be a lot of things that are affected.”
– Michael Gresty, VP of Workplace Analytics, FM:Systems

Download the Safe Space Playbook designed to help you successfully transition to the new “norm” & re-entry to the workplace.

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