Returning to Work [Part 2]:Where We’re Going – The New Normal

Part 2 of Returning to Work and The New ‘Normal’


In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about the four stages of the COVID-19 pandemic response and listed questions organizations should be asking themselves in their pandemic response plans. In Part 2, we’ll focus on adapting to the future of facilities and dive into what the “new normal” looks like.


Where We’re Going: The New Normal


Until a vaccine or cure can be developed, COVID-19 will continue circulating. Additional waves of the virus could sweep through nations again, causing new non-essential business lock-downs and stay-at-home orders. Morgan Stanley expects the virus to return in one or more additional waves, potentially as soon as fall 2020.

Businesses will need a new level of flexibility as they move forward. Executives may not want to bring all employees back at once—nor may government regulations allow it. Morgan Stanley estimates that 50% of its workforce could be back at their workplaces this summer, likely returning in stages.


We need to focus more on adaptability. How do we adapt for what’s going on now and for the road ahead of us? I think challenging ourselves that we can’t use yesterday’s logic and that we can’t use yesterday’s way of utilization in managing our workplace is an important factor.” 

-Eddy Wagoner, CIO, JLL Technologies


Variable levels of social distancing may be an operating condition for the foreseeable future, so facilities plans and real estate utilization objectives will need to be adjusted accordingly. Facilities will require enhanced cleaning and sanitation. Employee health checks may be needed at entrances. Both employee and consumer behaviors and preferences may be found to have been permanently altered by this experience. Among business finance leaders surveyed, 80% expect COVID-19 to negatively impact revenue and/or profits.



3 Business Trends Will Extend Beyond the Pandemic

Several important business trends emerged or accelerated as a result of the current pandemic and are predicted to extend beyond the current emergency.


1 | Remote Workforce

According to Gartner, remote workers will remain prevalent across many industries. Almost three-quarters of CFOs plan to transition at least 5% of their office workers into permanent, full-time remote employees. One in 25 CFOs will leave 50% of the workforce working from home. This arrangement will also suit employees. Having experienced the convenience of working from home, 50% of employees now believe they would be equally of more productive at home as opposed to the office.


2 | Employee Protection and Wellness

From now on, employers will prioritize employee health and wellbeing in the workplace as a “basic corporate duty of care.” According to JLL, a world leader in commercial real estate services, businesses must now make contingency plans for worker distancing, building health, times when employees and customers will be unable to access corporate facilities, the potential for workforce shortages, periods of increased absenteeism, and additional workplace mitigation procedures.


3 | Data and Analytics

Access to real-time data and analytics is essential for making better and faster decisions. Real-time data available in workplace management solutions will allow facilities management leaders to visualize floor plans, support the remote workforce, manage fixed assets, and schedule cleaning and sanitation—all essential parts of a successful return-to-workplace strategy. Furthermore, as businesses deal with the economic fallout from COVID-19, they will look to preserve capital and cash flow by reducing or deferring spending on facilities and real estate, and workplace analytics can help highlight the best ways to do so.


“As it stands now, with the major shifts happening across all industries due to COVID-19, having the right CRE technologies in place should remain a top priority now more than ever. Technology empowers organizations with the flexibility that’s crucial to navigating these major changes.”

-Eddy Wagoner, CIO, JLL Technologies



U.S. Guidance for Reopening Includes Three Phases for Employers


In the U.S., the White House Coronavirus Task Force has issued guidelines for a three phase approach employers should follow once reopening begins. Throughout all three phases, employers are encouraged to “develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices,” regarding social distancing, protective equipment, temperature checks, testing, isolation, sanitation, and the use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.  Phase-specific recommendations include:


Phase I

Employers are encouraged to continue telework whenever feasible. For companies whose employees must return to work, it is advised to close common areas in the workplace and have workers return to work in phases. Consider accommodations for vulnerable employees (older or with preexisting conditions). Employers should minimize non-essential business travel and make employees self-isolate after travel before returning to work.


Phase II

Employers can resume nonessential business travel but should continue to encourage telework and keep common workplace areas closed.


Phase III

Businesses can resume unrestricted staffing in which vulnerable individuals return to the workplace.


Employers will clearly need to be flexible as they move forward, and each will make their own decisions about their plans and schedule for recalling employees. Already that return is proving to be a gradual and incremental process, conducted in waves and shifts rather than one universal “return to the office” day. Similarly, facilities may be opened in phases to support the progressive re-entry of employees to those buildings. Organizations and employees must be confident that the buildings offer a safe environment that is compliant with regulations.


Download the Safe Space Playbook and Watch the webcast Strategic Planning When Returning to the Workplace designed to help you successfully transition to the new “norm” & re-entry to the workplace.