How CFOs Are Ensuring A Safe Return To Work

by Chad Smith on May 21, 2020

Since March, senior business leaders have been living in a state of uncertainty as they consider when it’s appropriate to return to work and how they will keep employees safe.

There’s no roadmap for managing this situation, so we’re all writing the playbook as we go.

PWC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey offers some great insight into how top financial executives are ensuring a safe return to work. Here are some of the best recommendations.

Strategies For Planning A Safe Return To Work

Update Workplace Safety Requirements

After spending several weeks at home, many people are feeling apprehensive about re-entering the workplace — especially as the novel coronavirus continues to circulate. Leaders need to take every possible precaution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their office spaces.

77% of CFOs surveyed said they planned to “change workplace safety measures and requirements” in the wake of COVID-19.

For many, that includes:

  • Sanitizing shared spaces and surfaces several times per day (such as bathrooms, conference rooms, break rooms, kitchen areas, elevators, and equipment like printers)
  • Adding signage to remind employees to frequently wash their hands
  • Requiring employees to stay home for a minimum of two weeks if they’ve been exposed to the virus
  • Requiring employees to stay home if they have a fever or other symptoms of the virus (until they’re tested and/or cleared to return to work by a doctor)
  • Asking employees to wear masks in the office
  • Limiting the number of visitors who can be on site each day

Plan to communicate these changes before employees begin returning to work so everyone can arrive prepared.

Reconfigure Your Floor Plan For Safe Distancing

There’s a good chance at least intermittent physical distancing will remain the norm for the foreseeable future — likely well into 2022, according to a recent study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

We’ve already learned how to distance ourselves when grocery shopping or picking up restaurant take-out. To keep each other safe, we’ll need to extend these practices to the workplace, too.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of CFOs said they’d reconfigure their work sites to promote physical distancing, according to the PwC survey.

This means taking actions like:

  • Spacing desks and workspaces farther apart
  • Repurposing common spaces into workstations to help people spread out
  • Limiting the number of people in shared areas like bathrooms, conference rooms, and kitchen areas at any given time

To make this transition easier for everyone, you’ll need to plan your safe distancing efforts well before employees return to work. Space management software can help you visualize your floor plans and ensure you’re giving everyone plenty of room while also making the best use of your space.

See how Space-Right™, our new safe distancing feature, makes this easy.

Plan A Return To Work In Phases Or Staggered Shifts

Physical distancing isn’t always possible without eliminating workstations. And, even if it is, bringing too many people back at once can make it challenging to abide by distancing measures. Inevitably, people will congregate in groups, putting your teams at an increased risk.

More than half of CFOs (52%) said they’d change shifts or alternate crews to help reduce exposure.

There are a few ways you can go about this:

  • Bring back your workforce gradually, starting with just a small percentage of your employees and working your way up over time
  • Split employees into shifts (for example, ask some employees to return to work on Mondays and Wednesdays, and others on Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • Stagger start times, so you don’t have too many people arriving at once

You can use our new safe distancing feature along with move management software to plan different scenarios and assign the necessary tasks. Then, after employees return to work, you can use sensors to identify your high-traffic areas and update your plans.

If you notice spaces becoming too crowded, you can rearrange the workspace or reduce the daily occupancy.

Make Flexibility Permanent

Whether your company had a work from home policy before COVID-19 or you only recently began allowing remote work, most professionals have grown accustomed to some degree of flexibility.

It may be unrealistic to expect every employee to return to the office five days a week, especially when having a full office could be unsafe. Many employees are also caring for children whose schools and daycares are closed, which could make it difficult to return to work.

If you’re considering making flexible work arrangements a permanent part of your company processes, you’re not alone.

Nearly half of leaders said they anticipated making remote work a permanent option “for roles that can accommodate it,” according to the PwC survey.

There are a few ways you can normalize remote work, such as:

  • Designating “flexible desks” that employees can reserve for the day
  • Making video conferencing standard for all meetings
  • Using project management software to increase transparency and accountability

Evaluate New Tools to Support Safe Workplace Initiatives

While planning your employees’ return to work comes with more than a few headaches, technology is on your side. There are plenty of tools you can use to plan for, implement, and maintain your new way of working in a way that’s as streamlined and simple as possible.

In fact, more than one-fifth of CFOs (22%) said they were evaluating new tools, such as location tracking and contact tracing, to help curb the spread of the virus after allowing employees to return to work — and we expect that number will only grow.

A few tools you should consider include:

Orchestrating A Safe, Smooth Return To Work

Planning a safe return to work is an intimidating prospect and a tremendous responsibility. After all, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s crucial you think through your decisions and make all the necessary preparations before the first employee arrives back on-site.

It’s also important to maintain frequent communication with your workforce. Consider surveying employees to get their thoughts on how they really feel about returning to work, what concerns they have and what you can do to offer support.

Continue to remind everyone of your new workplace policies and prepare to make adjustments as needed.

By considering what other CFOs are doing and adopting technology to make the transition easier, you can create a better, safer workplace for everyone.


Chad Smith

As the VP of Product Strategy, Chad David Smith wears many hats that leverage his 20+ years of experience in the industry. Chad collaborates directly with clients and partners as well as with the iOFFICE client experience, client success, sales, marketing and development teams to create the most innovative and valued solutions for our clients.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5